Don’t look now, CMOs, but a huge data shadow is gaining on you, according to a new report by IDC. If you can figure out how to exploit this abundance of big data, then it will be your friend. If you can’t, well, then it could overwhelm you.
IDC’s new “Digital Universe Study” found that the world’s data is doubling every two years, and that there isn’t enough storage to capture all of that data. What the report couldn’t predict, however, is how to effectively use that data as well as how to secure the most sensitive data. That’s where CMOs come in; their challenge is to make sense and constructively use the waves of unstructured data.
“It’s a huge opportunity [for CMOs],” said David Reinsel, group vice president of IDC's storage, semiconductor, GRC infrastructure, and pricing research groups, in an interview with CMO.com. “You don’t even have to know what you’re looking for, but it’s what is going to pay off in the future.” The report, sponsored by storage colossus EMC, frames the growing big-data phenomenon by stating the world’s data is exploding at a rate equivalent to each U.S. citizen tweeting three tweets a minute for 26,976 years.
The so-called “digital shadow”--the amount of information individuals create themselves--continues to gain momentum, according to the report. IDC said the shadow is growing faster every year, even as its creators remain oblivious of it. Individuals writing e-mails and documents, taking pictures, and even downloading music, although substantial, still represent much less than the information being created about them in the digital universe.
“Our digital shadow is made up of information we may deem public, but also data that we would prefer to remain private,” the report states. “Yet it is within this growing mist of data where big data opportunities lie--to help drive more personalized services, manage connectivity more efficiently, or create new businesses.”
Reinsel indicated that younger people who are frequent users of social networking programs like Facebook and Twitter are creating the lion’s share of the digital shadow. Citing also the ubiquity of GPS features, Reinsel noted that online consumers leave a digital trail as they move about in daily lives.
“We want to act in real time--to develop actionable [solutions],” he said, pointing out the familiar use by marketers of linking sales of one item to another possible acquisition. (“People who bought the book you bought also bought another book.”)
While the mass of accumulated data can represent a bonanza for online marketers, some unanticipated problems loom. IDC said that less than one-third of the big data universe has minimal security or protection, and just half of the data that should be protected is, indeed, protected. Although enterprises don't necessarily generate the data, enterprises could have some liability for much of the information in the digital universe. IDC said enterprises are facing the security challenge by developing new practices and tools that identify the data that needs to be secured.
Where’s the cloud in this big data picture?
Not surprisingly, more and more information, including real-time actionable data, is moving to the cloud. IDC predicted that cloud computing solutions will gradually provide enterprises with a key tool for dealing with the complexity of the digital universe, causing big data as an external service to gain over traditional internal infrastructure IT environments. With just 2% of today’s IT spending earmarked for cloud computing, as much as 10% of big data will be maintained in the cloud in future years.
EMC and other storage providers are positioning themselves to take advantage of the big-data phenomenon. “The chaotic volume of information that continues growing relentlessly presents an endless amount of opportunity--driving transformational societal, technological, scientific, and economic changes,” said EMC CMO Jeremy Burton in a statement. “Big data is forcing change in the way businesses manage and extract value from their most important asset--information.”
One issue made clear by the IDC report--its fifth annual report on the digital universe--is that the momentum of the creation of data continues to gather velocity. The study predicts that 1.8 trillion gigabytes (1.8 zettabytes) will be created and replicated this year.