Digital sustainability in the Middle East: Prepare for Big Data with Open Hybrid Cloud

By Gerald Sternagl, EMEA Business Unit Manager Storage at Red Hat

Gerald Sternagl, EMEA Business Unit Manager Storage at Red HatBig data is an IT issue that has risen out of the basement of IT system support and into boardroom consciousness. The C-suite is starting to ask about big data, but without fully understanding its value. Despite the uncertainty, many businesses in the Middle East are looking at how they can benefit from big data, and organisations that generate and collect lots of information with the aim of deriving value from it are starting to invest in systems that enable the large-scale storage and analysis of data.

Research carried out in March 2013 by IT analyst firm IDC forecasts immense growth in the area, with the market expected to reach $16.9 billion in 2015 up from $3.2 billion in 2010. The growth will come from businesses seeking to gain a competitive edge by leveraging the intelligence generated by analytics and from businesses that are complying with regulations on data storage. Whatever the motives for embracing big data, it is important to bear in mind that IT thinking has to extend beyond simply buying more and more storage. The big data playing field is already crowded and companies will need to carefully assess the myriad options on the market before making an investment.

Storage that scales
Big data requires big storage, and a major portion of investments will occur in storage infrastructure in order to deliver a platform from which meaningful information can be derived in an insightful manner. As more companies wish to create business value out of their vast amounts of stored information, whether derived from sales figures or social media data, the need for big data storage solutions will grow, as traditional on-site storage solutions such as NAS or SAN fail to scale or deliver the required agility. Big data solutions are not static; they are dynamic platforms that fulfil both current and future storage requirements.

The need for dynamism is exactly why big data technology is suited to a cloud-based architecture, and why it is becoming an increasingly popular model. Different data sets can be replicated, separated and located anywhere in the world, simplifying the task of scaling infrastructure up or down. Companies no longer need to build and maintain their own infrastructure, reducing costs during periods when workloads are smaller.

Open Hybrid Cloud
Big data can reside in a private cloud, a public cloud or a combination of the two, a hybrid cloud. Private clouds are viewed by some as prohibitively expensive; they require much larger onsite capital investments in terms of IT and personnel. Public clouds on the other hand, which are purchased from a managed service provider, offer lower upfront costs but do carry with them the risk of vendor lock-in since they often rely on proprietary storage systems and APIs.

To avoid this lock-in, businesses should look to a storage solution that’s flexible and can be used in a variety of environments, including on-premise, virtualized and cloud and that offers multiple access options.

Big data can provide serious value for companies that are looking for ways to improve their business or customer service, and open hybrid cloud is a promising technology for organisations that want to work on big data now or in the future. Whether or not a company takes a decision to embrace big data, we can be sure of one thing: the quantity of data that companies are generating and collecting will continue to grow.

Act now
The requirement for a cloud-inspired scale-out storage system based on industry-standard hardware and open source software is therefore relevant for every organisation. Companies not looking to take steps now to switch to a robust and scalable data storage platform are likely to encounter problems in the future with managing data. In addition, efforts to derive benefit from big data are likely to be hindered in the future by economical and logistical challenges.

Open hybrid cloud is paving the way as an affordable and sustainable platform, enabling organisations to build their storage platform with their existing systems and to flexibly expand later down the road, prepared for what lies ahead.