Data is crucial, so build the strategy and platform it deserves

Just over a year ago I was presenting at an event with a range of senior IT people from organisations of all types, towards the end we discussed the importance of data and those in attendance agreed, data was at the core of much of their organisations activities, this led me to ask “how many of you have a specific data strategy?”. Surprisingly, or maybe not, only one of those attending admitted they had anything data focussed, the rest still built their strategies around infrastructure with a focus on servers, networks and storage.

Is that really a problem? In the modern world we operate in yes, without a data focus we run the risk of restricting our ability to exploit our data assets or failing to secure and govern their usage.

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With this in mind, I started to look at how we could change this and start to build strategies that are centred upon our data, not infrastructure and location. It is this concept I had the pleasure to share at two well-attended sessions recently at NetApp’s technical conference INSIGHT and wanted to share the premise more widely.

Why be data focussed?

It’s important that if data is core to our business then we should design our platforms and strategy around it because if we don’t, potentially we will limit our ability to make the most of it. Maybe we are restrained by location with data not stored where needed or maybe our infrastructure limits us, not providing the performance, capacity or scale we need and can’t easily incorporate it into a siloed infrastructure.

To avoid this, we need to ensure that we put our data first and consider our desired outcomes, then build our platform to support those demands.

What does our platform need to be?

Intelligent

A data platform needs to be smart enough to make decisions on how the data placed upon it is used, located and secured. As humans we can no longer keep up with the amount of data we hold and the demands placed upon it, our platform needs to provide us with the intelligence to better manage it.

Secure

Security must be at the core of the design of our data platform it cannot be an afterthought. To do that we must adjust our thinking about security and build it around the data and information we hold not infrastructure or location.

Portable

The data and workloads that sit within our modern platform cannot be placed in a silo, we must build the flexibility and portability that allows us to move our data where and when we need it.

Automated

As the amounts of data and the uses we have for it continues to grow the ability for us to handle it in “traditional” ways continues to diminish, a modern platform must have the ability to act on the insight that it gains and automate how we deal with it, whether that’s the location where it resides, the security or protection we apply to it, or even the capacity and scale of our platform, we can no longer rely solely on the put upon storage admin.

Principals of a modern data platform

While we have discussed what our platform should do, there are also principals we should look to follow.

Not just storage

A platform is something we assemble as a base upon which we deliver something else, in the case of data it is the base upon which we place our data so it can be better utilised to deliver desired outcomes. This is not going to happen if we focus just on the storage element alone, while it is the base level of our platform, it does not constitute all of it.

Consistent data points

We must have this to deliver the flexibility and portability that modern data and workloads demands, we need to have a consistency across all of our potential locations be they on-prem, remote office or the public cloud, maintaining a standard set of services across any kind of deployment type allows us to maintain the enterprise controls, security and management we demand across our entire platform and not be restricted or dictated by hardware or location.

Insight

A modern platform has to provide us with insight into how the data that is held is been used, where, when, why and by who is crucial in allowing us to use our data intelligently, securely and maintain the controls we need.

Open

Our platforms must be open, the modern world in which our data resides increasingly needs us to use automation, management and security tools to manipulate and move our data safely, we need to be able to use modern deployment and management methodologies to fully exploit our data and its platform and without open standards this is difficult.

Be Data Focused

In this article, I’ve tried to outline the importance of a strategy as well as some of the basic functions and overall principals of what a platform should deliver. A platform is not based on a specific storage vendor or a prescriptive set of tools, it is more about changing focus and moving away from building our data platforms around hardware and location and begin to think about how we want to use the data and build a platform to support that.

Now go build the strategy and platform your data deserves.

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