Steve Wojtowecz is Vice President of Storage Software Development for a suite of solutions offered by IBM Cloud & Smarter Infrastructure.
Snapchat. Vine. Instagram. Tumblr. While these names might have meant little to most of us just a few years ago, these social networks are growing in adoption and popularity at an exponential pace. As a consequence, they are now some of our richest sources of consumer preferences, trends and styles across numerous demographics and markets.
Their common thread: they are all driven largely by the creation and consuming of videos, photos, audio files and other rich media, otherwise known as unstructured data.
The Rise of Unstructured Data
Unstructured data represents an entirely new set of obstacles to businesses’ already mounting big data challenges. Like its name implies, it’s unorganized, large and unpredictable – making it almost impossible to collect, store and analyze without advanced technologies such as cloud computing and analytics.
Simultaneously, file and object based storage (FOBS) is skyrocketing in criticality as unstructured and enormous structured files continue to explode onto the big data scene. Analyst firm IDC predicts the worldwide FOBS market will continue to gain momentum and reach $38 billion by 2017, signaling the future direction of data storage technology as organizations craft strategies to cope with big data.
While traditional storage, such as block, has been around for a while, it will not be able to keep up. As cloud brings a seemingly infinite amount of computing power and flexibility, and analytics technology crunches data faster and smarter, organizations want a simple way to store the new, data-laden workloads these technologies create, as well as the ability to use rich and user-defined metadata – an area in which block falls short.
Taming the Beast: Managing the Data
FOBS helps to solve these unstructured, big data problems in a few ways:
- Uncorking analytics bottlenecks: Performance slowdowns in crunching unstructured data can often be a costly challenge, and block storage doesn’t exactly help speed analytics along. Object storage, however, can help store data at a relatively low cost and without bound – allowing the flexibility for users to define the object as they like; a highly unique attribute in storage. This opens up the opportunity to better apply advanced analytics, a far-fetched dream when using block.
- Object storage is cloud’s best friend: A cloud-based workload generates object data in and of itself such as scripts and images. In turn, object storage is a necessity when dealing with data extracted from the cloud, allowing it to be managed, protected, and analyzed.
- Harvesting big data when it’s ripe: File-based storage also presents useful tools for dealing with videos, photos and other multi-media rich data. Both file and object storage work well in conjunction with cloud and analytics technologies, and allow organizations to quickly and effectively capture and store data at the peak of its value: immediately after it’s created and is still relevant to consumers. This enables businesses to act on emerging trends and market shifts in near-real time – a feature whose importance cannot be overstated in today’s extremely fickle industries, within which opinions can turn in an instant.
Together, FOBS enables a better understanding of what our growing mountains of unstructured data need, and how to manage their new workloads without an entirely new infrastructure. Using FOBS eliminates the need for costly add-ons, enabling organizations to expand their knowledge and insights into their customers.
With the need to scale to very high capacity and store large numbers of files in the billions, FOBS can better equip organizations to manage data-heavy workloads through cloud and analytics, whether they are from mobile, social or other emerging networks. And giving businesses faster access to and insights from this data means happier customer interactions, intelligence-driven marketing, and better business.
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