How businesses are using data for competitive advantage

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Over the next three years, the world is expected to generate more data than what was created in the past three decades. Data is an invaluable asset today, and it is extremely important for enterprises to evaluate how data can be stored, analysed and processed in the most cost-effective manner. This assumes greater significance in the current era where digital initiatives have increased significantly. With data being the new oil, and the fuel for driving the digital economy, the critical importance of efficient storage has increased considerably.

Understanding the context of this changing landscape, Express Computer partnered with industry leader, Western Digital, to host a technology thought leaders roundtable, to discuss, deliberate and share best practices on how data can be used for competitive advantage. Leaders who participated in this roundtable included: Nitin Mishra, SVP-Products and Services, NTT Netmagic; Rajesh Awasthi, Global Head of Cloud and Managed Hosting Services, Tata Communications; Anil Nama, CIO, CtrlS; Nikhil Rathi, CEO, Web Werks India and Jaganathan Chelliah, Director – Marketing, Western Digital India. The discussion was moderated by Srikanth RP, Editor, Express Computer and CRN.

The future of data in a post-Covid world

Nitin Mishra, SVP-Products and Services, NTT Netmagic

With data requirements increasing exponentially, enterprises have tried to cope with the unprecedented impact of the pandemic by increasingly adopting emerging technologies and classifying data according to its importance. “Storage today has become specialized for different requirements. Depending on whether the data is structured or unstructured, we use different mediums of data according to the type of data,” said Nitin Mishra.

Anil Nama, CIO, CtrlS

With huge data volumes, the demand for aggregate storage or low cost storage has grown exponentially. Anil Nama mentioned that a new market they are seeing is coming out between erstwhile performance storage and large throughput storages (software defined storage). With low cost of storage, more and more companies are looking at analyzing large volumes of data. AI and ML engines are helping customers analyse the type of content being generated by their people. There is a lot of restructuring happening around technology, culture and people, irrespective of the vertical. “This is what is making us look at the future. We want to put these aggregate and semi aggregate kind of storages at our data centres while we continue to retain performance systems in the central data center,” said Nama.

Finding the true value of unstructured data

Rajesh Awasthi, Global Head of Cloud and Managed Hosting Services, Tata Communications

Today, it is estimated that more than 85 per cent of data is unstructured data. This data is buried deep inside e-mails, presentations, audio files or transcripts. Traditionally, unstructured data was difficult to analyse, but today, with AI and ML algorithms, it is now possible to extract insights from unstructured data. Object storage has emerged as one of the best alternatives for handling unstructured data. Among storage mediums, flash storage has emerged as an effective storage medium. “We are seeing increasing adoption of flash-based storage systems, as there is predictive performance at an affordable cost,” stated Rajesh Awasthi.

Nikhil Rathi, CEO, Web Werks India

The Covid-19 pandemic has also accelerated the adoption of cloud. “During these times, we have seen a huge uptick. Even on-premise customers are using backups across geographies and making multiple copies. Now they are paranoid, and they are open to the idea of having multiple copies. There has been sky rocketing demand for storage for both structured and unstructured data. There is a paradigm shift in the thought process and people are more than ready to spend. We are building capabilities with our partners like Western Digital,” said Nikhil Rathi.

Getting ready for the anything-as-a-service era

Jaganathan Chelliah, Director – Marketing, Western Digital India

As a leader in enterprise storage, Western Digital has a complete view of the storage ecosystem. Jaganathan Chelliah concurred with the views of fellow panellists, and explained how digital consumption of the consumers has been impacted by the changes in the digital ecosystem.

He stated, “Anything as a service is a mindset change that is happening globally and more importantly in India at the consumer level. The other aspect is in the huge SMB landscape we are seeing in India and similar countries like India. We are finding the SMBs are rushing to adopt technology, they want simple and easy to implement technology. Digital transformation is also happening in enterprise and the government. There is a mad rush from the enterprise space to “cloudify” everything. They are trying to get on to the digital bandwagon so as to stay relevant in the new context. The underlying factor, whether at the consumer level, SMB level or enterprise level is cloud. We see a very positive momentum towards data creation, data consumption and in an effective and planned manner. Unstructured data need to be synthesised so that there is a meaningful outcome to take decisions. These are exciting times for the data centre ecosystem and more importantly for CSPs. From a Western Digital perspective, we are looking at it very positively, and are working closely with our customers. Our intent is to provide the right building blocks from a storage perspective.”

Giving his views on conserving capital while continuing to serve growing data needs, Anil Nama said that when it comes to on-prem model, there are limitations of capacity and costs. “In a storage-as-a-service model, there are economies of scale that come into play. This is extremely beneficial for companies as they can use pay-as-you grow models to scale appropriately.”

This is advantageous for data center companies as they can bring in economies of scale. “We can put together storage at an extremely competitive price point. We save money for them not only on the existing storage but also help them scale cost effectively,” explained Rathi.

As data storage needs grow quickly, the need of the hour is innovation. Jaganathan Chelliah explained why innovation was crucial. “As a company which provides the building blocks for storage for data center players and cloud service providers, our constant focus is how we can reduce the TCO for our customers. We focus on metrics such as power consumption, efficiency in terms of manageability and serviceability.”

A software defined world
Data centers are increasingly becoming software defined, and every CSP is looking at exploring the full potential of software defined data centers. “We saw the benefits of software defined data centres when virtualisation became pervasive. We give that as an option to our customers if they have a predictive workload and want a definitive performance. The option is of enterprise grade software defined storage. Some of the benefits are coming in because of vendors like Western Digital who are focusing on making the software defined storage system performance oriented,” explained Awasthi, as he elaborated on the benefits of software defined data centers.

Mishra averred that at NTT also they are seeing a similar trend. Elaborating further, he said, “One of the key aspects of software defined storage is that we can scale it out and performance also keeps going up. Infact, we have moved our storage system to software defined storage. I really think this is the way forward in terms of digital adoption. It has been around for some time, but in the last two years it has become mainstream and going forward it will become one of the most adopted technologies in storage.”

Some other important topics that were discussed included best practices for managing data migration from onsite to the cloud, and exciting new technologies in the space of data storage infrastructure like NVMe, Flash, Composable Infrastructure, etc.

Jaganathan Chelliah gave a small overview of technologies and innovations that Western Digital was bringing to the market. “We are excited about the potential of NVMe. We have products that use NVMe and help enterprises deliver fast performance with low latency. This is crucial for applications that need to perform real-time analysis with optimum performance and low power consumption. We are also extremely positive on the potential of Composable Infrastructure. This is a new architectural approach that uses NVMe to significantly improve performance in the data center. Besides dynamic provisioning, enterprises can also gain from lower CapEX and OpEX by reducing resource over-provisioning.”

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Cloud service providerData centerstorageWestern Digital
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