Companies shouldn’t think of data as ‘an asset to be mined’

26 Jul 2022

Image: © Chaay_tee/Stock.adobe.com

Huawei’s Benoit Hudzia discusses why the data companies collect is only as good as the data management strategy they have in place.

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The phrase ‘data is the new oil’ was first attributed to British mathematician Clive Humby in 2006. Almost two decades later, the sheer volume of data that has been created is nearly insurmountable and harnessing the power of that data has become an art in itself.

Benoit Hudzia, chief AI operations expert at the Huawei Ireland Research Centre, believes we are now entering an era where “data is the new soil for the industrial ecosystem”.

“Today, the internet and smartphones have made data copious, ubiquitous and far more valuable. But companies need to avoid thinking about data as an asset to be mined,” he told SiliconRepublic.com.

“They need to consider it as the raw material you can use to offer value to your customers and build a better relationship. And like how engines are required to change oil into energy, analytics are required to gain insight, extort value and produce business benefits from data.

“We are entering the age where data is not just extracted and processed, but it now needs to be nurtured and enhanced to yield long-term recurring maximum value.”

‘The rapid growth of analytics must be balanced with ever-more effective governance and control’
– BENOIT HUDZIA

Hudzia first cut his teeth on big data and analytics in 2008 while working in the research department at SAP.

“It was an exciting time to be in the industry because SAP had just demonstrated its new database platform, SAP High Performance Analytic Appliance, which allowed organisations to gain instant insight into business operations, so that they can analyse all the data available and quickly react to rapidly changing business conditions.”

Hudzia went on to help build and run private cloud solutions at an Israeli start-up, and then to run public cloud operations for one of the largest custodian banks in the world, before moving to Huawei in 2020.

In his current role, Hudzia helps develop new technology for Huawei big data solutions, with a particular focus on OpenLooKeng, Huawei’s open-source big data platform.

OpenLooKeng is a drop-in engine that enables in-situ analytics on any data anywhere, including geographically remote data sources,” he explained. “It provides a global view of all of data via its SQL 2003 interface with high availability, auto-scaling, built-in caching and indexing support.”

With years of analytics experience under his belt, Hudzia believes data management is now becoming central to the data strategy of any company and that simply collecting data is not enough to extract meaningful insights.

“To leverage data for delivering best practice analytics solutions, organisations must have a coherent strategy and operations for collecting, organising, protecting and storing, so it can be analysed for business decisions,” he said.

“Data plays a critical role in today’s financial, transport and telecommunication system. If these systems are to remain stable and trusted, fair and effective, then the rapid growth of analytics must be balanced with ever-more effective governance and control.

“Mastering these data processing challenges through effective data management in real and virtual worlds will enable organisations to use resources effectively, save time and money, and ultimately be successful in their business.”

Ongoing data challenges

Hudzia said data must be treated as a corporate asset in order to properly leverage its power. This means allowing different business domains to operationalise their own data, backed by a central and self-service data infrastructure.

“However, this decentralisation of property introduces a couple of challenges. Difficulties with managing the multiple data products and their corresponding metadata may very well lead to a mess of spaghetti data pipelines,” he said.

In addition, regulations are increasingly playing a role in analytics and data management, and companies must ensure the way they manage data complies with relevant regulations, such as GDPR in the EU.

“The EU has been at the forefront of this trend with many of the regulations such as Privacy Shield, Schrems II, GDPR, the legal framework on AI, etc,” said Hudzia.

“Moreover, the EU is also trying to realise that you cannot ensure data sovereignty via regulation only. You need to be able to deploy infrastructure and services on native soil. That’s why it is promoting large-scale projects such as GaiaX to ensure the existence of a native compliant European data service ecosystem.”

He added that other countries are also working on data regulations, with the US having recently announced work on the American Data Privacy and Protection Act.

“This flurry of policy and regulation is forcing the larger players to rethink their data and cloud strategy. The consequence for many of them is the need to offer solutions; to offer hyper-local services satisfying regulatory rules, and to satisfy the growing need and requirements of the customer data ecosystem.”

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Jenny Darmody is the deputy editor of Silicon Republic

editorial@siliconrepublic.com