Data boom requires storage overhaul, industry experts say

Enterprises will soon need an executive focused on the risks and rewards of handling digital information.

Exploding amounts of digital information and an ongoing transition to a so-called "information economy" will necessitate a new, more holistic approach to storage, speakers at the Storage Networking World conference said this week.

Just as businesses employ a CFO to make money, save money, and stay out of legal trouble, enterprises will need an executive focused on the risks and rewards of handling digital information, said Chuck Hollis, global marketing chief technology officer at EMC.

A good CFO leverages a company's economic portfolio as an asset, and "I'm starting to see more and more CIOs that see their job the same way, but around information," Hollis said.

Hollis was one of numerous speakers at the conference in Dallas this week, hosted by Computerworld and the Storage Networking Industry Association.

Information is fast becoming the world's "single most valuable asset," Hollis said. As such, it's important to oversee the entire information portfolio, understand where it's being stored, how it's being used, and to stay out of trouble by complying with all security and data retention regulations. Hollis also predicted that consumers are going to demand ever more detail about their personal information and where it's being stored, and will want as much control over that information as they have over their personal finances.

"I think the next five years are going to be more interesting than the last 20 years put together," Hollis said. "We're becoming an information economy."

More than 369 exabytes of information have been created since the beginning of 2008, more than double the amount in all of 2006, according to EMC's Digital Footprint Calculator.

Data creation is growing by 60 percent each year, in good economic times and bad, Hollis noted. Another speaker, Executive Vice President Madge Meyer of State Street Corporation in Boston, said her organization acquires 40TB of new information each month.

The burden is falling heavily on storage administrators, particularly when it comes to securing all this information, said IT industry consultant Richard Austin.

"The information that has become the crown jewels of the modern enterprise is completely coming under the control and responsibility [of storage professionals]," he said.

Even as storage costs go down on a per-byte basis, businesses are spending more on storage each year because of data growth and power consumption. Diane Bryant, vice president and CIO of Intel, said her company predicts it will double its storage spending by 2012.

"It's daunting," Bryant said. That type of growth is "not something we have the ability to maintain or support. This is unsustainable."

Increasing complexity of devices, electronic forms of collaboration, the proliferation of the Web as a business tool, and all types of regulations are contributing to the amount of information that enterprises must store, Bryant said.

Intel is creating information lifecycle management policies for all of its data, describing how quickly it must be accessed, how long it must be retained and when it should be deleted. Virtualization and thin provisioning, the latter of which prevents over-allocation of storage, is also in the works, Bryant said.

Intel is further trying to cut costs by using tiers of storage, because not all applications need ultra-fast access to information. Solid-state disk, for example, is devoted to the applications requiring the highest performance and reliability, while optical tape is set aside for bulk storage, she said.

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