Whether your health tracker is recording your latest run or your connected car is talking to the manufacturer about its performance, data is being created. This shows how even the smallest of tasks can create so much data and is one of the reasons for the data explosion we are currently experiencing. In fact, recent research found that by 2025 as much as 180 Zettabytes will have been created – but what does this mean for the business world?

Organizations are already collating and storing large sets of data. However, in order to truly make the most of it, they need to know which parts of that data are useful and how they can use it to make informed business decisions. Intelligence is power but only if you have the power to use that intelligence properly. That’s not as easy as it sounds when organizations are confronted with the challenge of storing enormous amounts of data while trying to utilize it effectively.

Hard drives
– Thinkstock / zentilia

Data comes into its own 

It’s no surprise that data has moved higher up the agenda for many, as more people in an organization start to appreciate its true value, from the IT administrators to the marketing team – even up to the CEO. But what can organizations do to extract the most intelligence from their data and what can the IT team do to make the process as smooth and hassle-free as possible?

Many businesses have a wide range of storage systems from traditional vendors but no single tool set that can work across the entire environment. Instead, they have to rely on a number of disparate tools that cannot interact with each other and report in very different ways. This not only causes problems when it comes to trying to aggregate the data being collected, but it can also be very costly.

Subsequently, delivering this data in a meaningful way so that it can be used effectively can be a time-consuming and overwhelming process. Migrating data between storage systems is no easy feat, and as organizations embark on their journey to establishing their own cloud infrastructure, the need to simplify that process has become even more imperative.

A more flexible approach is required to allow organizations to choose the most appropriate storage platform that meets their pricing and performance level needs, whether on-premise, in the cloud or both. This requires the creation of a unified storage pool, usually by virtualizing the storage to deliver better utilization of resources, eliminate silos and re-capture stranded or under-used storage resources.

A unified storage pool, such as software-defined storage, enables organizations to abstract the provisioning of storage, regardless of vendor, type (flash, disk) or location (local, remote, multi-location). This also dramatically simplifies the complexities of shared storage environments by using a centralized GUI. A single pane of glass delivers a common interface to deploy data services in a simple, consistent manner, regardless of the underlying storage type, vendor or location.

Be intelligent by analyzing data patterns

By abstracting the provisioning of storage, organizations can begin to analyze and monitor their storage environment much more effectively. A software-defined approach ensures they get holistic, accurate views across the entire storage pool. Unified analytics with user definable views, reports and smart rules enable IT organizations to see what they need to see, tailored to their business and environment. They can predict capacity, understand consumption rates and plan accordingly.

The introduction of virtualized resources has dramatically increased the number of elements that need to be monitored, tracked and addressed. IT administrators need to proactively adjust resources to maximize performance, maintain uptime and manage costs. A built-in, heterogeneous analytics engine can provide them with the information they need to take intelligent action based on user-defined priorities, thresholds and policies.

Data replication, no need to pay more

One of the unintended consequences of migrating, backing up and optimizing data in a heterogeneous storage environment is an increase in the cost of the data itself. Aside from the expense of storing extra copies of the data, organizations are also forced to pay extra licensing costs for the second, third or additional copies of their data.

As a consequence, many businesses pay too much for their storage. They often have to guess what they need and frequently over-specify their requirements or pay for multiple licences to use a product they already own in different applications or environments.

One solution is a “pay once” model where customers only pay for the primary instance of their data. This prevents them paying additional licences for data they rarely or never use and gives them a much clearer picture of their storage costs.

In a time where organizations are seeking the flexibility to access and use data across multiple platforms and applications, archaic licensing practices are an unnecessary obstacle to their objective of getting the most out of their data.

Be intelligent with the cloud

The pay once model is also far more attuned to the world of visualization and software-defined IT. By decoupling software from the underlying hardware, software-defined has enabled organizations to avoid the dangers of proprietary vendor lock-in where the interlocking of software and hardware ensnares them in a costly and complex environment – and traps them into an upgrade cycle dictated by the vendor.

In a software-defined model, most of the features are provided by the software so the underlying hardware requirement is becoming increasingly commoditized. This makes it particularly relevant to organizations busy developing their cloud strategies.

Virtualizing storage infrastructures with software-defined storage is a smart approach to tackling the cloud. This is because it enables intelligent abstraction which provides organizations with the capability for intelligent predictive analytics, allowing them to make informed decisions and take proactive rather than reactive actions. Intelligence is at the center of organizations but it is software-defined storage that is powering the future of data storage.

Gary Quinn is CEO at FalconStor