It's information, not storage

At a time when hardware designs are rapidly outstripping expectations, touting a ware’s capacity and capabilities no longer cut it for corporate clients. Instead, businesses want to know what the technology does for their organization on the whole.

Storage is no longer about selling hardware, and for good reasons, said Robert Terdeman, EMC’s chief data warehouse architect.

“Why would anybody buy a server? I don’t get this,” said Terdeman. “Why would you buy a piece of hardware that you know would be obsolete in less than six months?”

At a time when hardware designs are rapidly outstripping corporate expectations, touting a ware’s capacity and capabilities no longer cut it for corporate clients. Instead, businesses want to know what the technology does for their organization on the whole.

Terdeman was en route to several major cities in Asia Pacific to speak at a series of seminars on the role of technology in a company and the information architecture that a successful enterprise should have.

A key point in Terdeman’s presentation is the need for companies to manage strategic information.

“Enterprises that win are those who understand information and have a real enterprise architecture,” said Terdeman at a stopover in Singapore.

A case in point was Citibank’s misadventure during the 80’s in the US mortgage market. Mortgage rates in the country had been fluctuating so wildly that at one point, rates were changing as frequently as five times a day. Citibank, which had the largest share of the mortgage market in the US, went from doing 2000 – 3000 mortgages a day to 20 a day.

According to Terdeman, that experience had forced the organization to rethink its information strategy and reorganize its information structure.

To have strategic information built into an organization’s information architecture, however, is not a simple task. It will require the integration of information from all the significant components of a business process, including marketing data, resource data and logistical data.

“The focus is not on speed and feed, the focus is on what you are doing as a business,” said Terdeman. “Can you do back up? Can you do your upgrade? Do you have enough reserve capacity? Can you keep all the data on two sites?”

The types of information that such an information architecture will have to manage will be varied as well. Terdeman identified four core media on which data can be stored: alphanumeric (or traditional) data, BLOB (or Binary objects) which includes PDF and JPEG files, streaming media including MPG and video, and telemetry, a combination of the previous three in one single signal.

The enterprise information architecture will have to manage all four types of media, and it will have to do this over multiple layers of technology and across different delivery channels. The ultimate justification, said Terdeman is in its ability to “support and execute strategic business plans.”

“The value comes not in buying the storage boxes, the value comes in buying the switching, couple with the storage, couple with the backup, couple with the software that allows you to move it, that builds the information superhighway between your applications,” said Terdeman.

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