Take Control of Managing Your Data To Flourish in The New Economy

By Azrin Abd Shukor, Country Manager, NetApp Malaysia & Brunei

Pre-empting that it would become the currency that fuels economic growth, the World Economic Forum started identifying data as an asset class in 2011. A decade later, data has reinforced its value, with majority of data-driven businesses reaping critical advantages during the current crisis. As more data is generated, artificial intelligence (AI) enables enterprises to tier data as needed, helping them make more informed decisions. It is therefore no surprise that the push to “become even more data-driven” is a prominent fixture in economic recovery plans. The Malaysian government has helped empower and boost competitiveness amongst small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in 2020 including enhancing their access to financing amidst the Covid-19 pandemic.

For companies that are looking to leverage data to build back better, much has been said about the need for strong capabilities in analytics, and rightfully so. However, the core tenet of ‘data management’ is equally important, but underemphasised.

Good data management fundamentally results in a user being able to access the right data at the right time in the right place. And to do so requires organisations to treat data like prudent individuals would handle their finances.

1. Bring together assets to increase ‘net worth’

The Malaysian Investment Development Authority (MIDA) and Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) have set up a Digital Investment Office (DIO) to facilitate digital investments in Malaysia. The DIO is a fully-digital collaborative platform to create awareness on digital investments in the country while also strengthening the coordination among all Investment Promotion Agencies (IPAs) in promoting and attracting new investments in this fast-evolution segment.

Malaysia must help pave the way to support the new wave of digital transformation, particularly now that the Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated the digital economy’s growth and created opportunities for a handful of new digital businesses. The DIO will create a unique value proposition for upcoming digital initiatives in the country, therefore, data silos may hinder the best of these initiatives, in primary areas including content creation, data collection and insight and organizational efficiency.

These include unstructured files and datasets stuck in employees’ PCs and smartphones, servers and all-flash arrays in office premises, data centres, and public clouds like AWS, Microsoft Azure, or Google Cloud. The baseline process for weaving these together should include acquiring organisational buy-in, discovering where data is stored, having distributed data ‘storage units’ connected and working as a single system, governing how data is being used, and ensuring adherence to cybersecurity protocols.

To overcome limited time and in-house skills, leaders like AstraZeneca have turned to automated software capabilities to ensure its data stores are interwoven and delivering value. The company’s Covid-19 vaccine production efforts were accelerated by its ability to consolidate data from two billion doses being simultaneously deployed across the globe. Crucial to this was its creation of a software-driven data fabric across its data centres and multiple clouds.

2. ‘Stash or withdraw’ based on your current need

Once an enterprise has developed the tapestry that connects disparate sources of information, it must start treating the data within these sources like bank notes.

We treat and use RM100 and RM2 bills differently based on their value. When you are about to purchase a bigger ticket item, you would ensure that the right amount is in your wallet. Any amount of cash that is not planned for immediate use is stored elsewhere for safekeeping.

In a similar way, not all data is equally valuable. For data that is being accessed in the immediate term – also known as ‘hot data’ – businesses can consider keeping them ‘nearby’. ‘Cold data’ that is not being used should then be stashed away till when it is needed again.

There are two reasons for this. Firstly, businesses will inevitably generate more and more data. A healthcare provider’s data volumes, for example, already grows by as much as one terabyte per day. Secondly, just like how it is impossible to stuff your life savings into your wallet, all-flash arrays in office premises allow users to access data quicker but have limited capacity. Like a savings account, the cloud is a more sensible place to store most of your data, with software fulfilling the ‘ATM function’ of dispersing information wherever and whenever needed. This capability, also known as tiering technology, automatically identifies inactive data and moves it into cloud storage units for the price of a cup of coffee.

Here are two real world examples of how the above is playing out. In healthcare, patient records will not be frequently used after they are discharged but must be saved for future visits and to meet compliance regulations. Tiering technology moves that data offsite to the cloud until it needs to be ported back again.

In media companies, production teams need immediate access to video, text, audio, and graphics files to create daily news items. The benefit of keeping hot data onsite, instead of waiting for it to be downloaded over the internet from the cloud, is clear. Once the news cycle is over, continuing to store cold data in onsite all-flash arrays becomes the equivalent of using an Aston Martin as a school bus. There is insufficient room to fit everyone, and it is more performant and expensive than it needs to be for that task. Once again, the data associated with those news items are moved to the cloud.

Data must be processed effectively and flow seamlessly through a fabric-like infrastructure if it is to fulfil its promise as the currency of our new economy. Even though managing this asset class is no easy feat, today’s advanced technologies are able to aid enterprises to navigate around these complexities. These innovations are making it easier than ever to harness the data they need to explore new market opportunities, enhance efficiency, boost innovation and bolster organisational competitiveness.

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