Most people working in technology have become inured to the expectation of permanent, ongoing and ferocious growth in volumes of data pouring into - and out of - their organisations. Forecasters almost seem to vie with each other for the most dramatic growth predictions in a never-ending game of data Top Trumps. For the majority of businesses, the forecasts have been broadly on the money. Not only this, but the growth in data can present truly transformative opportunities.
The Data-Forward Enterprise will steal a march on their competitors, according to Bipul Sinha, Co-Founder and CEO of Cloud Data Management leader Rubrik.
"We actually came to the market with a vision of how the world was going to look. Data is eating the world today. We are already seeing this, and businesses are looking at ways to understand this data rather than drown in it. As data fundamentally transforms the business landscape, organisations who can leverage that data to transform their business will have a huge advantage in the marketplace.
"In order to truly leverage this data, it needs to be powered by metadata, which is really about understanding where data comes from, which application it belongs to, who are the users, and who are active on it. Metadata is the exponent factor - if you have rich, well-managed metadata, you drive exponential data leverage. If businesses understand their metadata and leverage it for compliance, governance, security, in addition to application recovery, they will have a fundamental advantage going into the marketplace."
Whilst Sinha's suggestion that the Data-Forward enterprise will prosper is far from controversial, the reality is more complex than the premise suggests. Data is undoubtedly everywhere but the ability to leverage it is still thinner on the ground than many would like. In order to activate data leverage, most of those enterprises have a number of obstacles to overcome.
First and foremost is the changing nature of infrastructure, with ever more corporate data not residing in corporate datacentres but in the public cloud. And not just the one public cloud either. It may not square fully with the ambitions for global hegemony held by the hyperscalers, but multi-cloud is a huge area of interest for the enterprise...and one that looks likely to stay.
The growth in cloud overall over the next three years is likely to come mainly from organisations pursuing a strategy where they can move workloads seamlessly between clouds, leveraging the best of what each cloud vendor has to offer and extracting maximum value for money.
Unfortunately, the growth of multi-cloud computing is exacerbating one of the largest negative consequences of the whole hybrid cloud model which is the fragmentation of data, as Sinha points out.
"The data lake, as it used to exist, was a great concept because all your data was in one place and you could analyse that data and derive intelligence from it. Cloud and multi-cloud have fundamentally fragmented the applications and data landscape. This fragmentation exposes the business to a number of problems in application recovery and creates a much bigger surface area for cyber-attacks and compliance difficulties.
"As a business your biggest data concerns are likely to be threefold. The first is disaster recovery. Businesses depend on applications being up all the time. The second issue is the prospect of a cyber-attack. How do you manage reputational risk and also real business risk? If data is stolen or lost your business can come to a screeching halt. And finally - applications.
"Everything is translating into applications, and now applications have our personal data and our professional data, every government around the world is setting down regulations about data privacy and who has access to what data. There are huge penalties for breaching these regulations. It is theoretically possible for the senior executive such as the CFO or CEO to end up in jail, but even the most likely outcomes are huge fines and reputational damage."
As Sinha puts it, ‘data is eating the world'. In a multi-cloud world, how do you control and leverage this data to address data concerns?
"Our vision is multi-cloud data management. This is how enterprises deliver data recovery and application availability, compliance and governance in a multi-cloud world. The solution has to be holistic, simple and policy driven, and has to be able to dynamically change according to the business environment. The multi-cloud world is all about the ability to run your application on whatever platform you want because you want to shorten the time to market.
"Data mobility becomes a huge factor. Can you take data that's been historically held in a data centre into the cloud? Can you take the cloud data from cloud to cloud? Cloud specialisation is going to grow, and people are going to run certain applications in certain clouds and other applications in other clouds.
"If you think about this multi-cloud world that we are going to inhabit, data mobility is a fundamental thing which means that your data has to be separated from the infrastructure. And you can only separate data from the infrastructure if you have created metadata powered data. That's the fundamental architectural leverage that Rubrik creates. We help businesses to separate data from infrastructure."
Sinha describes the Rubrik multi- cloud data management as, "the umbrella function that sits across your data centres and across your clouds that gives you fundamental control over your data. It provides visibility, recovery, security and compliance for all your data, wherever it is."
Rubrik has a growing customer base that has achieved the metadata-driven environment that Sinha describes. The biomedical research centre Francis Crick Institute is one such organisation and has been able to utilise Rubrik Sonar, an SaaS application used to discover, classify, and protect sensitive data across data sources and locations, for significant time savings, with Rubrik implementing its data discovery and protection SaaS application Sonar to manage sensitive data and control GDPR compliance.
Francis Crick Institute has achieved significant time savings for queries, getting results in seconds as opposed to hours or even weeks. Rubrik Sonar has provided a macro and micro view of sensitive data and has identified over 50,000 files with at-risk data. Using Sonar's pre-defined templates and analysers to scan for UK PII data, Francis Crick Institute has seen success in identifying locations with sensitive data and automating audit reports without relying on manual processes.