The future of data storage: 2016 and beyond

Fuelled by the introduction and popularity of new technologies, the rise in the amount of data created globally spiralled ever upwards in 2015. As the practical realities of storing and managing these vast amounts of data start to hit home, we look ahead to why 2016 is even more likely to be a game changing year in storage and security.

Whether as consumers or in our work lives, each and every one of us creates data, every hour of every day. Three years ago mankind produced enough data in one year to fill 600 billion DVDs. By 2020, the world will be generating 40 zettabytes of data annually: more than 5,200 gigabytes of data for every person on the planet. That’s the equivalent of 1 million photographs or 1500 HD movies each. And it won’t be long – indeed, it could even be as early as this year – before the time comes when the world will start producing more data than we are currently able to store.

Our data needs are growing

While discussions about Big Data and the Internet of Things are not new, they have been brought into focus over the past year or two. As mobile connectivity, sensor technology and cloud computing become more and more embedded into everyday life, both people and businesses need to think more proactively about the data they create and the need to find a suitable home for it all. The need for secure storage models that can provide real-time access to a huge amount of data is increasingly rising up the agenda, and it certainly needs to.

In 2015 we saw and read about a lot of new technological innovations in the data storage sector. From Helium-filled hard drives and more powerful flash accelerator cards, to high performance computing kinetic technology and cloud disaster recovery services, our lexicon of storage options has grown rapidly. And while we’re not short of options – or catchy acronyms to describe them all – the real challenge lies in identifying how best to use each one most effectively for the task at hand.

For example, a family with children wants to save their private data securely, probably just as much as a global enterprise or insurance company does. However, the practicalities of meeting both needs are hardly the same. What is a common factor is that, in both contexts, storage is not an endless resource. So, there definitely needs to be a shift in the way we store and manage data; and all parties involved will need to take a more rounded and strategic approach to how we do it.

The Fourth Revolution

This challenge, and the wider implications of the so called ‘Fourth Revolution,’ was a key talking point at the World Economic Forum in Davos this January. The 2016 forum explored a growing realisation among industry leaders and governments alike that a strategic and collaborative approach is required to how we manage this digital revolution – including the potential vulnerabilities and opportunities it presents. The message from Davos was that while the blurring of the physical, digital and biological spheres with the accelerated proliferation of automation might be daunting, it’s ultimately positive in terms of competitiveness and growth.

A primary everyday result for businesses of increased automation is accelerated data creation and propagation. The reality then is that technological investment must be planned to ensure the reliable management and safeguarding of data is achieved; and that businesses ultimately get the most from the data they create and store. On a business-by-business basis, the key success factor in navigating these waters will be in realising that storage considerations have an essential part to play in functional and cost effective infrastructure planning – they need to be as strategic an imperative as choosing the right CRM system or app development tool. Making the right choice at the right time is a significant step in the direction of future-proofing the business in a fast-changing market.

With all that ahead, it is certain that 2016 will be a game-changing year in the storage industry and I am very interested to see how it develops. We are on the brink of huge change, as we start to find cost-efficient and reliable solutions for all the various parts of our customer spectrum. The challenge of finding and matching these solutions to the businesses and consumers who need them is by no means insignificant – but nor is it insurmountable.

Mark Re, SVP and CTO, Seagate

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