Welcome to the age of insight

HPE CEO Antonio Neri talked at the company’s recent shindig of the need to give customers insights into their data, but just how easy will that be?

Anyone old enough to remember the “data deluge”? It seems like an age ago now, although it has probably been only two years or so since we were being warned of floods of data heading our way that threatened to overwhelm many businesses. Those were the days of “throwing storage at the problem”.

But what no one realised at the time was that the tidal wave of data wasn’t as bad as it was being painted. In fact, what was happening was that businesses storing ever-increasing amounts of data were not being deluged by it – they were, in fact, becoming data rich.

Last month, as reported on this site, HPE CEO Antonio Neri told journalists that the world was moving from the “information era” of data-rich customers to the “age of insight”.

The even better news for all those data-rich customers was that they were destined to become even richer because data was being generated at an amazing pace, and that pace is unstoppable”.

There was just one hitch. They needed to find a way to unlock all that wealth they were accumulating so they could make use of it.

The good news is that IT companies like HPE are now putting forward products and services that help customers to improve insights into their ever-increasing volumes of data.

You have to admit, it’s very good of IT companies to help customers get value out of the data that the technology they bought from IT companies has had such a hand in generating and storing.

Curmudgeons might ask whether it would have been better to reduce the volumes of data at an earlier stage by developing technology that could define and dispose of unimportant or worthless data before it had to be stored.

The immediate retort might be along the lines of: “Who decides what data is valuable and what isn’t? Who is to say that something which appears insignificant now might generate valuable insights further into the future?”

Having lots of data doesn’t necessarily make your company richer – having good data does

That’s fair comment, but it’s beyond dispute that some data is valuable and some isn’t. Having lots of data doesn’t necessarily make your company richer. Having good data does.

This makes the process of defining how “data rich” you are slightly problematic. It turns out that it’s not about how much data you “have”, so even as the pace of data generation becomes unstoppable, it might not make you any data richer.

In fact, it could make you poorer if more of that data is of limited or no value but you still have to store it, because it means your company will be spending more to keep the data, but working harder to find the good stuff.

No wonder IT companies are bringing forward technologies that are designed to help customers glean insights from those growing amounts of data.

There is a parallel here with the ever-growing problem of e-waste being generated by the IT industry. While much of the emphasis and energy is on recycle and reuse, little is being done about the most important factor in the growing proliferation of devices: consumption.

The simplest way to cut e-waste, but the one that is mentioned least, is to reduce the consumption of devices and scale back manufacturing cycles. The same applies to data. The less we generate at the start of the process, the less we have to deal with further down the track.

You don’t have to be data rich to arrive at the insight that we have a terrible habit of letting things get to the point where we have to deal with their after-effects rather than addressing them at source before they can become a problem.

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