Charles Foley is SVP of Talon.
Today, more than ever, information is a critical resource. Not only are the daily operations of most companies data driven, but the insights derived from big data analytics can uncover entirely new business opportunities that otherwise would be overlooked. That’s why the amount of data corporations generate and consume is growing at exponential rates.
Yet for many companies, it’s basically impossible to get a comprehensive view of their data assets. That’s because information is scattered across the organization. Some, perhaps the majority, may be in the main corporate data center. But a lot of critical information resides in remote locations, or even on the desktop or laptop computers of individual employees.
In many cases this fragmentation is the result of what’s called “shadow IT,” a practice where individual employees, or even whole departments or remote locations (ROBOs) take the responsibility for meeting their IT needs into their own hands. Rather than relying on a centralized IT department, they make their own arrangements. That may mean that each ROBO location has its own servers and storage units, and does its own data backups. Or workers may decide on their own to use a cloud storage service like Dropbox, or even to store critical company data on a USB memory stick they keep in a desk drawer.
Even when the data is contained within a corporate or remote data center, information produced or used by different applications may be siloed, restricted to servers and storage units that are physically dedicated to specific workloads, and inaccessible to others.
This information fragmentation, whether due to shadow IT or to the data silos that so easily arise when different business units each develop IT solutions to meet their own particular needs, can have a severe impact on an organization’s ability to take full advantage of its data resources.
Why Data Fragmentation Is a Critical Issue
Corporate data seems to follow an IT version of the second law of thermodynamics – unless deliberately constrained to do otherwise, data fragmentation within an organization’s IT infrastructure will automatically increase.
For example, as a company grows and sets up remote locations, it’s natural for each site to take steps to secure the IT services required to meet its own peculiar needs. The result is often that the organization’s ROBOs each install and manage their own network, server, and data storage resources. Under those circumstances, securely sharing data with other locations, or with the home office, so that it is available across the organization in near real time can be a difficult, costly, and often unreliable process.
When that process fails (or is not in place at all), critical information remains segregated in its own enclave, inaccessible by others in the company who may urgently need it. This can have a negative impact on decision-making at every level of the organization since leaders have access to only limited portions of the available information. As David Rae, CEO of Allied Global, a call-center services company that had to deal with its own data silos says, "We were probably making more decisions based on intuition or gut feeling than solid facts.”
Other issues caused by data fragmentation include:
- Data integrity exposures: When users in different locations each make their own changes to what is supposed to be a common data set, how are those updates propagated throughout the organization, and which of the differing local copies of that data is the authoritative version?
- Data insecurity: Each time a user or location makes their own non-standard (and usually far from expert) provisions for data storage and backup, the potential for information to be lost or compromised is increased.
- Inefficient use of resources: The server and storage resources associated with siloed data are typically underutilized, as each installation must overprovision to ensure it can always meet local capacity demands. The result is that across the organization, more CapEx and OpEx spending than would otherwise be required must be devoted to supporting the IT infrastructure.
- Inefficient use of staff: When business-critical information is fragmented, some employee (or IT managed services vendor) must devote time and attention to supporting each island of data.
How Software-Defined Storage Eliminates Data Fragmentation
The key to minimizing information fragmentation is consolidating the organization’s data into a single centralized instance. Data need no longer be stored locally in ROBOs or in some shadow IT solution. Instead, all users, wherever located, are given concurrent access to the same centrally located data repository. The entire process is managed through the use of Software-Defined Storage.
Opinions expressed in the article above do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Data Center Knowledge and Penton.