Data’s big bang moment: IT no longer supports the business, IT is the business

29 Sep 2014

Intel president Renée James

SAN FRANCISCO – The collision of mobile, social and legacy IT is giving businesses greater insights into the human condition and with the internet of things, IT is every business’ concern, said Intel president Renée James.

James, who earlier this year announced a US$500m investment at Intel’s plant in Leixlip, Co Kildare, as well as plans to turn Dublin into the world’s first internet of things city, told the Oracle OpenWorld 2014 conference that the world is at an inflection point – a big bang moment – in terms of the flood of data that is hitting businesses.

This presents businesses with the challenge to transform digitally, make sense of all of this mostly unstructured data and make use of software-defined networks (SDNs) and hybrid clouds to handle the complexity.

“It’s not about building data centres with zetabytes of data, it is about connecting cloud computing environments together to push the boundaries of data science.

“We are now producing enough data to present greater insights into the human condition. Ninety per cent of data in the world today was produced in the last two years. That data is going to double every two years. By 2020 there will be enough data on Earth as the number of stars in the universe – that’s 44 zetabytes of data.

“There will be 20bn connected devices on earth by 2020. These devices will be providing 27pc of the data on Earth by 2020.

“The internet of things (IoT) today currently accounts for 2pc of the data in the world today. By 2020, the IoT will be providing 10pc of the data in the world.

“The question is not so much about lots of data, it’s about how do we harness that data to create meaningful insights to answer questions that push these limits. Making sense of data is key to its use.”

Early data collection

James said human instinct has always been to gather data, pointing to the ancient Egyptians 3,500 years ago who created an analytical device, the Nile meter, that measured the strength and flow of the Nile river to measure soil quality. The pharaohs would store the data in the form of hieroglyphics on the wall.

“In the IT industry’s history, our first effort was the mainframe and we used the data to automate tasks. Insights came from long sessions poring over data. The arrival of PCs democratised that data. Client/server architecture was the greatest breakthrough in our history prior to cloud. The age of the web made it possible to put data anywhere.

“We are only at the start of a big bang. We have this flood of data, where do we go from here?”

James said the big bang moment – the collision of mobile, social and IT along with the IoT – is placing CIOs in a challenging but empowering position that involves leading the transformation of their business to better serve customers in a personal and insightful way.

“Data no longer supports the business, it is the business. IT professionals are now core to the business. The stakes have never been higher, your IT architecture has to be nimble, quick and efficient. You need to ensure the best security if you want to avoid being on CNN.

“We think that cloud architectures are required that ensure efficiency, better security and clouds that analyse and allow you to manage these data sets.

“It’s about deriving insights and new opportunities from this tremendous influx of data.”

Hybrid clouds + SDNs = nimble IT architecture

James said the key answer from Intel’s perspective is that for IT organisations to make sense of this data comprehensively and in way that is useful for the business is to concentrate on hybrid clouds – a combination of public and private clouds – as well as software-defined networks.

Gartner estimates that half of enterprises will operate in cloud form by 2017, said James. “We think it will end up being about compliance and security.

“The foundation for the hybrid cloud is having a strong private cloud – to make this work you need to improve efficiencies and lower IT costs.

“Through SDNs, resources like memory and infrastructure can be virtualised.

“Security is an important part of your thinking; where is that data going to reside? We at Intel are engineering a unique route of putting trust into servers and asset tags for location information and we are working with Oracle on various security technologies, including the next-generation firewall.”

James said hackers are increasingly targeting virtual machines as part of their attacks and said the new Intel/Oracle technology will be available in the first half of 2015.

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John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years