A lot of the talk about analytics focuses on its potential to provide huge insights to company managers. But analyst Simon Robinson of 451 Research says that on the more basic level, the global conversation is about big data’s more pedestrian aspects: how do you store it, and how do you transmit it?
With the bird's eye view of an analyst, Simon Robinson has paid a lot of attention in the last 12 years to how companies are collecting and transmitting increasingly enormous amounts of information. Since 2000, Robinson has been with 451 Research, an analyst group focused on enterprise IT innovation. Today he is research vice president, running the Storage and Information Management team. Based in 451 Research's London office, Robinson and his team specialize in identifying emerging trends and technologies that are helping organizations optimize and take advantage of their data and information, and meet ever-evolving governance requirements. (He's on Twitter at @simonrob451.) "Storage is very complex," Robinson says. And indeed, not only does it entail managing capacity and figuring out the best collection and retrieval methods, it also means synching with both the IT and the business teams and paying attention to complex security and privacy issues. In a conversation with Renee Boucher Ferguson, a researcher and editor at MIT Sloan Management Review, Robinson discussed the changing storage landscape in the era of big data and cloud computing. Describe the problems you see the data deluge creating in terms of storage. We're getting to this stage for many organizations — large and small — where finding places to put data cost-effectively, in a way that also meets the business requirements, is becoming an issue. It's certainly a top five issue for most organizations on an IT perspective, and for many it's in their top two or top three. In the past, it was always sufficient just to buy more storage, buy more disc. But we're at the point where two things are happening. First, the capital cost of buying more capacity isn't going down. It continues to grow, along with the operational aspects of managing that capacity and the processes. Storage is very complex, with lots of different skills required. So you've got that on the operational response side. Second, there's an opportunity to really put that data to work in driving some kind of value for the business.