Did you see this interesting item of news in The Wall St Journal? It says that Cisco believes “many companies don’t know enough about what is going on in their data centres” – and that in the words of the tech giant’s CEO, “We’ve lost visibility into data centers at a very fundamental level”? (see here).
Another data point: Mary Meeker, one of the world’s most influential tech trend spotter, has released her 2016 ‘chart of charts,’ her annual summation of the most important aspects of the technology revolution. Among her biggest findings: Planet Earth generates 2.5 quintillion bytes of new data every day – and a quintillion is one followed by 18 zeros. That means global data growth is growing at a 50% compound annual growth rate, while storage costs are going down by about 20% per year (see here).
So we have more and more data being generated, every day, and as storage is cheaper we’re happy to see that happen. And, of course, the cloud is effectively an infinite resource. So let’s simply keep collecting everything. What can go wrong?
It’s already going wrong. That’s what Cisco is talking about. We’re drowning in information, and putting it in the cloud is on one level the worst thing we could do.
Especially when it comes to deleting data.
The value of information changes over time
Why does that matter? Not all data should live forever, after all; quite the contrary, there is plenty that, for compliance reasons, need to be deleted and at set times.
It’s not a phrase we hear that much of now, but that’s what Information Lifecycle Management (ILM) is all about, defined by Gartner as “an approach to data and storage management that recognises that the value of information changes over time and that it must be managed accordingly…ILM seeks to classify data according to its business value and establish policies to migrate and store data on the appropriate storage tier and, ultimately, remove it altogether” (see here).
ILM may not be very fashionable, but it really matters. It certainly matters in the on-premise world. And it absolutely matters in the cloud – though not all enterprises have appreciated this fact yet. That’s because the seeming inexhaustibility of cloud as a storage device tempts you to relax the information hygiene disciplines you used to be so careful about.
These are mainly around the correct way to delete data. What’s the heart of the matter here? Criticality – how important it is to keep the data but also how important it is to delete it, in a way provable to regulators. When the next 2.5 quintillion data is delivered tomorrow, each and every corporation, public sector organisation and brand in the world needs to be asking, How important is the longevity of this data? How long does HMRC say it should be kept? Is it citizen and patient data? HR data? Pension data?
Patently, different data has different levels of criticality when it comes to the business rules around how long it should be kept. That was hard to establish when we only had our own servers or data centres to think about – but the cloud makes all this so much harder.
In the second part of this discussion about why ILM really matters, I’m going to explain why – and what you should be looking to do to address it.