Solving The "Bigger Data" Challenge

Created: 19 Dec 2013
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Information is – slowly – moving outside the database. And it’s everywhere. Businesses want to get their hands on all the data that really matters, wherever it resides, because that is the strategy that will ensure they stay ahead of the game.

More and more, they are seeing both structured and unstructured data as their life blood, wherever, and in whatever format, that data presents itself. No matter whether it is ‘System centric’ (ie, it’s in the database) or ‘Information centric’ (it’s ‘out there’ somewhere), it has vast potential value, if it is harnessed and employed properly. Hence organisations are working to develop and deploy big data alongside their established business intelligence structure: that is where their future success lies.

The business opportunities that will assure their survival, growth and future well-being are locked within the flood of data that swirls around us. If they can relate details from across all of their digital information assets, they can create and make use of new views of their business – for example:

  • The building trade analysing security CCTV footage of site activity to understand how best to manage delivery of supplies (not to mention workforce productivity)
  • Telcos (now CSPs, of course) that push you emails and texts, based on your real-time location (or sell it to third parties, who send you ads for the shopping centre you just entered)
  • The pharmaceutical industry being able to track the spread and mutation of disease, based on patient records and visits to hospitals and doctors.

The dangers

Exploiting these swelling data streams has become the quest. However, it’s one that’s also fraught with danger – where every such occasion for advancement presents an equal threat. For each time IT plugs together disparate information sources and discovers new opportunities, they also create new information management challenges. Technology wise, what they are seeking to do may well be possible, but, corporate and compliance wise, are you even allowed to use the information in the ways they propose?

In pursuit of this larger world view, businesses have to venture outside of their familiar ‘comfort capsules’ (where they dealt primarily with siloed data) into the vast, dark space that lies beyond. And it is a journey into the unknown that raises huge security and compliance questions. To such an extent, I know of several organisations that have shied clear of getting such projects started; or abandoned them along the way, as the challenge of protecting sensitive data that’s not within their immediate control has made the task seem beyond resolution. The upshot is that organisations can find themselves embroiled in a vicious circle where, with each new possibility that arises, the management headaches that come with it just get bigger.

What they are seeking now is the right ‘key’ to enable them to access and control that data – while keeping themselves, and all who engage with them, safe and secure. That means making certain the key they employ is one that only they, and those they entrust, have access to, so they are protected at all times, irrespective of where the information they seek actually resides. It is from this stance alone that they can truly unlock the value of ‘bigger data’ and use the information to their competitive advantage.

The way forward

At Symantec, we’ve been talking about this shift from ‘System centric’ to ‘Information centric’ for some time now with our customers. The outcome is that businesses are really starting to get their heads around the reality of what this means, while recognising they are going to have to:

  • Create scale-out repositories
  • Understand how the contents of those repositories can be used and exploited
  • Only allow access based on parameters such as Identity and location
  • Think about the protection of information, rather than infrastructure and systems

As with so many businesses, our customers are not only starting to recognise the new, wider potential and value in their information, but also how to exploit it fully, without fear of compromise or their systems being breached. To that end, Symantec 4.0 is structured to enable businesses to tap into and take advantage of that data in ways they are only just beginning to think about. Our focus will centre on three critical areas for information management:

  • Information Fabric: helping customers understand what information they have across all aspects of structured and unstructured data. Who is using it, how are they using it, is it protected correctly etc. 
  • Unified Security: realising the benefits of intelligent management and unified security in today's complex IT infrastructures. Providing real time analysis and understanding of an organisations ever changing information risk landscape
  • Universal Identity: creating a universally accepted identity system across all platforms, helping businesses and users to manage their online identities

We believe this powerful new triumvirate will firmly embrace and meet the many security needs of business in the ‘Bigger Data’ age.

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