Taking a New Approach to Unstructured Data Management

Written by: Steven Hill - Senior Analyst, Applied Infrastructure and Storage Technologies – 451 Research

Enterprise storage has never been easy. Business depends on data—and all things data begin and end at storage—but the way we handle data in general, and unstructured data in particular, hasn’t really evolved at the same pace as other segments of the IT industry. Sure, we’ve made storage substantially faster and higher capacity, but we haven’t dealt with the real problems of storage growth caused by this increased performance and density; much less the challenges of managing data growth that’s now spanning multiple, hybrid storage environments across the world. The truth is, you can’t control what you can’t see; and as a result, a growing number of businesses are paying a great deal of money to store multiple copies of the same data over and over. Or perhaps even worse, keeping multiple versions of that same data without any references between them at all.

This massive data fragmentation between multiple storage platforms can be one of the major sources of unchecked storage growth; and added to that are the new risks of a “keep everything” approach to data management. Privacy-based initiatives like GDPR in the EU and California’s CCPA-2018 require a complete reevaluation of storage policies across many vertical markets to ensure compliance with these new regulations for securing, protecting, delivering, redacting, anonymizing and authenticating the deletion of data containing personally identifiable information (PII) on demand. While this can be a more manageable problem for database information, it’s a far greater challenge for unstructured data such as documents, video and images that make up a growing majority of enterprise data storage. Without some form of identification this data goes “dark” soon after it leaves the direct control of its creator, and initiatives like GDPR don’t make a distinction between structured and unstructured data.

There can be a number of perfectly good reasons for maintaining similar or matching data sets at multiple locations, such as data protection or increased availability. The real challenge lies in being able to maintain policy-based control of that data regardless of physical location, while at the same time making it available to the right people for the right reasons. Documents and media such as images, audio and video are making up a growing percentage of overall business data, and companies have a vested interest in making continued use of that data. But at the same time, there can be serious legal ramifications for not managing all this data properly that could potentially cost companies millions.

The cloud has changed the IT delivery model forever; and with a hybrid infrastructure, business IT is no longer limited by space, power and capital investment. The decisions regarding workload and data placement can now be based on the best combination of business needs, economics, performance and availability rather than by location alone; but with that freedom comes a need to extend data visibility, governance and policy to data wherever it may be. In this context, the problems of data fragmentation across multiple systems are almost inevitable; so, it really comes down to accepting this as a new challenge and adopting next-generation storage management based on an understanding of what our data is, rather than where it is.

Mass data fragmentation is a problem that existed before the cloud, but fortunately the technology needed to fix this is already available. From an unstructured data perspective, we believe this involves embracing a modern approach that can span data silos for backups, archives, file shares, testing and development data sets and object stores on that bridges on-premises, public cloud and at the edge. A platform-based approach can help to give you visibility into your data, wherever that data resides, and more importantly, can help you maintain greater control by reducing the number of data copies, managing storage costs, and ensuring your data stays in compliance and backed up properly. We also think an ideal solution seamlessly blends legacy, file-based storage with the management flexibility and scalability offered by metadata-based object storage. This requires a fundamental shift in the way we’ve addressed unstructured data management in the past; but it’s a change that offers the benefits of greater data availability and storage-level automation and provides a new set of options for controlling and protecting business data that’s both a major business asset and a potential liability if not handled correctly. 
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Has Integrated Automation conquered the land RPA and AI once battled for?

Contributed by Principal Analyst Carl Lehmann 

Much the way Winter came for the Game of Thrones heroes in the new season (we promise this is the only Game of Thrones reference and we will not share any spoilers), there is talk spreading in the tech industry that Integrated Automation has come to displace tools like robotic process automation (RPA). We certainly don’t disagree, in fact, we predicted back in 2017 that RPA companies would likely not survive as stand-alone vendors.

In this report from April 2017, we predicted that RPA vendors that focused only on automating repetitive tasks, while very welcome in many IT departments in the short term, would be less likely to survive as stand-alone vendors compared to more sophisticated platforms that can call upon various machine-learning (ML) technologies to add contextual awareness and guidance of unstructured interactions toward desired outcomes. Even RPA platforms that can automate based on rules, conditional routing and logical operations, and modify behavior based on their learnings were also considered tech that would likely be subsumed into ML platforms of hyperscale CSPs, IT leviathans and tool kits of larger systems integrators, according to our analysts. In our opinion, it was unlikely RPA would last long as a stand-alone product.

Again in August 2017, our analyst team noted a rising trend with BPM software transforming into a process- and content-oriented application development and runtime platform, which we coined as 'digital automation platform' (DAP). DAPs, as referenced in the report, will emerge as uniform development, integration and runtime environments that enable intelligent process automation (IPA) – a managerial discipline focused on intuitive user experiences, contextual awareness and transparent execution. Much like what others are describing as Integrated Automation today, DAP would require RPA capabilities – to create software 'bots' that automate repetitive human activities in business processes – and AI integration – to expose 'next best guess' activities for application developers and users (process stakeholders) and extract insight – in one solution. In particular, RPA was cited to “likely become a core enabling technology in several DAP vendors' offerings.” 

In short, DAPs and Integrated Automation sound less like the death of RPA and similar technologies, and more like the next logical evolution toward accelerating business operations and making them efficient. Both describe feature-rich development platforms for content- and process-oriented applications, and a method to extract knowledge from automated execution to meet the innovation and operational efficiency needs of enterprises. In fact, our most recent research highlighting this evolution (in this spotlight report, now available for public access) covers why we believe the core tools needed to discover and effect how value and advantage are created include next-generation DAPs, RPA technology, hybrid integration platforms (HIPs), and process mining technologies (PMT) platforms. 451 Research clients can access all Market Insight reports on RPA and DAP and beyond in our Research Dashboard. Don’t have access? Apply for a Trial.

Much the way Winter has come for the Game of Thrones heroes in the new season (we promise this is the only Game of Thrones reference and we will not share any spoilers), there is talk spreading in the tech industry that Integrated Automation has come to displace tools like robotic process automation (RPA). We certainly don’t disagree, in fact we predicted back in 2017 that RPA companies would likely not survive as a stand-alone vendors.

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Critical for Black Friday and Cyber Monday: Contextual Commerce is Convenience, Context and Control

Written by: Sheryl Kingstone, Research Vice President & General Manager - VOCUL

The holiday season is right around the corner and so are the notorious shopping holidays of Black Friday and Cyber Monday. According to our Voice of the Connected User Landscape survey, 80% of respondents plan to spend the same as the previous year and the remaining 20% plan to modify their spending. Whether those modifications involve an increase or decrease in spending is difficult to determine based on trends with those respondents being almost evenly split – with 38% expected to spend more than last year and 45% expected to spend less.

With this in mind, we don’t anticipate how much people are spending to be of great interest, but rather where people are buying what they need this holiday season. According to our Global Unified Commerce Forecast, there could be nearly $6 trillion in global digital commerce sales by 2022 up for grabs. That is still a ways away, but digital commerce is still anticipated to dominate holiday spending shopping behavior with 42% of respondents planning to do most of their shopping online rather than in store – a 27% increase in online spending from last year. Additionally, 47% of high-income shoppers will do the majority of their shopping through digital commerce channels.
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IBM acquires Red Hat, but what does that mean?

Key Analyst: Jay Lyman, Principal Analyst, Cloud Native and DevOps

Earlier this week, IBM announced its intent to acquire Red Hat for $33.4 billion, causing quite a buzz across the entire enterprise IT industry. That makes sense, given that the deal represents one of the industry’s biggest software acquisitions to date, IBM’s largest acquisition to date and considering the repercussions for key segments including cloud computing, hybrid cloud, automation and DevOps, containers and Kubernetes.

It feels like the end of an era in addition to the end of the road with Red Hat’s acquisition. This open source software pioneer helped force the enterprise IT industry, including software giants such as Microsoft and VMware, to take open source seriously. IBM acquiring Red Hat marks the beginning of the new age of open source – one populated by established giants and newer open source endeavors such as the dozens of projects that surround and support Kubernetes. That new age is also all about hybrid cloud and cloud-native applications. From a technology M&A standpoint, at $33.4 billion this acquisition marks the largest software transaction we’ve tracked since 2002 – which is impressive and validates the importance and prominence of open source software in the enterprise IT industry.

The deal is also very much about hybrid cloud. According to our Voice of the Enterprise: Cloud Hosting and Managed Services – Budgets and Outlook survey from earlier this year, 58% of respondents cited their organization is pursuing a hybrid strategy. Almost half (46%) of respondents said they expect their businesses to increase vendor spending to spread out more across vendors, either new or existing, as part of their hybrid strategy. IBM and other major public cloud providers like AWS, Microsoft and Google have also broadened their reach in hybrid cloud, but it has been limited mainly to their own clouds integrating with on-premises environments. In IBM’s case, all those public cloud players are already key partners and integrations for Red Hat’s software such as RHEL and OpenShift – expanding IBM’s hybrid cloud reach even further. This deal also follows collaboration and integration that IBM and Red Hat have already accomplished on software such as Linux, OpenStack, and containers and Kubernetes.

Despite how this deal is beneficial for both companies, there is some risk. Upholding Red Hat’s culture could be a challenge during the transition, despite both companies acknowledging its importance. To maintain Red Hat’s strategy and momentum and take full advantage of it, IBM will need to maintain Red Hat’s globally distributed work force with many remote employees rather than to consolidate it. Allowing Red Hat to operate as an independent unit would prove beneficial for everyone.

The deal is also an interesting consolidation of PaaS, given IBM based its former Bluemix PaaS software – later to become its CaaS – on the open source Cloud Foundry software and Red Hat's OpenShift PaaS is based on different open source code. For a deeper analysis on the deal, current clients can check out our deal analysis in our Research Dashboard.
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Introducing 4SIGHT Part 1: Contextual Experience

At our 14th annual Hosting Cloud & Transformation Summit last month, 451 Research CEO Martin McCarthy unveiled 4SIGHT, a new extensive report detailing the major forces of innovation reshaping the digital enterprise landscape. Serving as a framework for our clients to help plan for the future – as well as underpinning our research agenda – the report describes four major categories that will drive the industry over the next decade: Invisible Infrastructure, Pervasive Intelligence, Contextual Experience and Universal Risk. In this post, we provide an overview of our thinking around Contextual Experience.

We define Contextual Experience as the interactions between a customer, worker or citizen and an organization that are augmented by rich sources of real-time information, delivered in the right way at the right time for a friction-free experience.

As technology becomes central to how individuals experience the world around them, it shifts the center of gravity from businesses to individuals in an unprecedented way. Business is being redefined from a transactional relationship between people into a more nuanced, tangled relationship between humans and the automated systems and devices they use to engage with the world. With it, the balance of power between organizations and their customers changes dramatically across virtually all industries. Prices and products are no longer enough to influence decisions. Instead, customers place a higher value on experiences. Employees will also value experiences and will need more motivation than compensation, benefits and an appealing corporate mission statement from their workplace.

With the explosion in new types of physical, digital and blended experiences, the battleground is moving beyond businesses providing ‘omni-channel’ strategies. Users will soon be expecting intelligent, immersive, pervasive and seamless experiences, all personalized to their own changing context.

For example, think about your relationship with your smartphone and how you use it. We found that 80% of online purchases in 2017 were influenced by mobile and that the average person will have more conversations with machine-learning-enabled bots than with other humans each day within a decade. It will behoove organizations to work toward delivering such contextual experiences to their consumers to avoid being passed over in the future.

From an enterprise perspective, successful organizations will adapt their technology stacks and utilize new inputs to create the Liquid Enterprise – enabling them to organize more fluidly around their customers and their workers. Businesses that can quickly and easily marshal and manage human resources to organize responsively around users’ ever-changing requirements will be on top in the future.

In short, technology will become central to how individuals experience the world around them, and enterprises will be expected to cater to the users’ preferred ways of consuming information, engaging the brand and completing work. We are starting to see these changes today, but these developments will increase over the next decade.

There is much more to learn about the long-term effects and predictions within the 4SIGHT report. Current customers can contact their sales rep; otherwise, apply for a trial to learn more.
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