How to Succeed with Big Data

Stephen Manley

Stephen Manley

Chief Technology Officer, Core Technologies

In the past year, my Big Data journey has evolved into a successful, revenue-generating, innovation-enabling solution. How did I get here and what recommendations can I offer?

First, properly set expectations for Big Data. One executive asserted, “If you get enough data together in one place, it automatically generates answers to questions you didn’t know to ask.” He believed that a primordial soup of data would simply spring to life. As you invest, emphasize that the goal is to answer questions that had previously been too complex or expensive to answer.

Second, avoid Data Scientists initially. They will be useful later, but not at the outset. There are two types of Data Scientists. The first know how to set up a huge Hadoop or Elasticsearch cluster or a big NoSQL database. The latter know statistics, the ‘R’ programming language, and graph theory. In both cases, they’re a solution in search of a problem.

Third, listen to parts of the company that lack a voice. Big Data reduces the cost or complexity of solving problems. Look for areas where the business has been unwilling or unable to invest. Our journey to success began when a support engineer observed that we could use Big Data to predict within 90 days that a Data Domain would run out of capacity. He was tired of taking support calls about “failed backups” because the backup teams were not trained to monitor storage capacities. He knew EMC could do better, and Big Data allowed us to do it without a huge investment.

Once you have properly set expectations, avoided the pitfalls of gratuitous investment, and have found a critical but underappreciated problem to solve, there are three success factors:

1. Be Open – Too often organizations will create a Big Data Lake, but prevent people from accessing the data. Innovation comes from bringing creative people and data together. Governance is important, but don’t let IT lock everyone out.

2. Revenue vs. Optimization – Many people want to optimize a process (e.g. fewer support calls or faster bug triage), but optimization is difficult to quantify and even harder to justify investment. Instead, focus on ways that Big Data can augment your revenue. At first, we futilely tried to get funding by demonstrating “reduced support case load.” Interest and funding expanded when we tracked the revenue generated by selling additional Data Domain storage and systems to customers who were about to run out of capacity.

3. Generalist vs. Specialist – At the beginning, you don’t need a hyper-optimized Big Data infrastructure. You need somebody who understands the business problem, what data they need, how to access the data, and how to deploy basic Big Data tools. In short, you need a problem-solving generalist who can learn quickly. As the solution expands, hire specialists to optimize each part of the process. At the beginning, though, generalists win.

As with most business/technology transformation, the challenge with Big Data is not one of technology. To succeed with Big Data, manage business expectations, avoid technology hype, and embrace revenue-generating ideas from underfunded areas. If you keep your Big Data Lake open and accessible, you’ll unlock the innovative passion of parts of the company that have been desperate to do more.

Often, starting small – especially when it comes to Big Data – can have the greatest payoff.

For more insight into my Big Data journey and lessons learned, check out The Business Impact of Big Data podcast series.

This post was originally published on our sister blog Reflections, where senior leaders at EMC blog regularly on trends in information technology.

Thoughts from 30,000 Feet: Are You Facing These 3 Common IT Transformation Headwinds?

Mike Koehler

Mike Koehler

President, Professional Services

I spend a lot time in the air traveling to customer meetings around the globe. I hear first-hand about their frustrations and challenges in getting started with IT transformation. They are beyond the point of questioning the need to transform; they are asking, “How do I get started?” And I repeatedly hear a common story around the headwinds they face. So as I contemplated at 30,000 feet what I had just heard from customers, I found myself comparing their headwinds with the headwinds my flight encountered.

Headwinds don’t have the power to stop you dead in your tracks; you power through or navigate around them and eventually make it to your destination, albeit a bit delayed and with some bumps along the way. Here are the top three headwinds I encounter.

Headwind #1:  RESISTANCE

CIOs often face stiff resistance from their engineering organization when moving from a developer of IT services to a broker of services. Many feel threatened and believe they could develop better apps in-house. My response to CIOs:  “Yes, perhaps they could. But what if…” And I paint a vision of reduced costs and increased agility. My advice is to take a fact-based approach, look at the real costs and benefits of IT transformation objectively, and then deal with any resistance.

I’ve found that once you share that vision with developers – specifically, what’s in it for them – they come around. If you are willing to help them build their own next-gen skills, they get excited about their role in the future state.

Headwind #2:  INERTIA

When EMC loses a transformation deal, it’s typically not to the competition. It’s to “doing nothing.” CIOs are often overwhelmed with the enormity of transformation. Among the many challenges to sort through is how to make any progress while all resources are tied up in “keeping the lights on.” They don’t know where or how to start.

A good first step is to gain consensus on desired business outcomes, followed by creating an IT roadmap of achievable building blocks. Prioritize these and identify an initial quick win that can demonstrate the value and show early momentum. With each step toward building an IT-as-a-Service (ITaaS) model, you free up more time and money — resources that can be redeployed to your transformative efforts. In our experience, moving to an ITaaS model has saved companies 20 to 25 percent over legacy IT costs, and has substantially increased their agility to meet their business demands.

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Headwind #3:  MISALIGNMENT

The IT department has an identity issue to overcome, and some of it is fueled by the IT team itself. They often engage in technical conversations with their business partners when they should be engaging in business conversations. The IT leaders and business leaders are often flying on different levels. My advice to IT: change your altitude! Think business outcomes first; then think about how IT can help. Understand what’s important to your business and what digital-age opportunities you can bring to the forefront.

Agreeing upfront on what “good” looks like for your specific business and what business applications will be required to power success takes a lot of turbulence out of transformation. Decisions (like, which apps to replatform or retire, which to move to the cloud, and which to develop yourself or broker from a third party) will be easier to make with an aligned vision. For those who need help gaining alignment or getting started, EMC offers the IT Transformation Workshop (ITTW), facilitated by our subject matter experts; customers have told us the third-party facilitation has made a huge difference.

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Reverse the Headwinds!

I hope this has given you some ideas on how to navigate the headwinds of IT change. And if you need extra help getting started, we’d love to conduct an ITTW with you. Part of the workshop is assessing your organization’s IT maturity level and providing you peer comparisons; this may help you get the attention of your business partners, as well.

To learn more, check out these 15-minute video interviews on IT transformation from theCUBE’s coverage of EMC World 2015:

Here’s to turning your headwinds into tailwinds that accelerate your IT transformation! Please share your experience in getting started and how we could help.

This post was originally published on our sister blog Reflections, where senior leaders at EMC blog regularly on trends in information technology.

Let’s Take a (Cyber) Drive – Improving Federal Data Protection

Barry Morris

Barry Morris

Vice President, EMC Federal Division
Barry Morris, Vice President of EMC’s Federal Division, is responsible for general division management, providing leadership and vision to the Federal team, government contractors and partners, and Federal systems integrators. In this role, he is dedicated to helping agencies redefine IT in a more agile, trusted, and cost-efficient way. Morris brings 30 years of experience driving sales to the Federal government, and expanding coverage into the state and local government, education, and medical markets.

There are many varied cyber security efforts in place to help protect agencies’ data – programs like FISMA, FedRAMP, and the NIST Cybersecurity Framework. Even with these in place, stopping cyber attacks is similar to stopping car accidents. Preventative methods such as seat belts, airbags, and driver improvement courses are in place, yet car accidents are inevitable.

What agencies need is a proactive approach.

To protect themselves in a world where risk is inevitable, Federal agencies are giving serious thought to data protection. According to the 2014 Data Protection Global Index, which surveyed 3,300 respondents in 24 markets around the world, results indicate 64% of organizations experienced at least one instance of unplanned downtime or data loss.

In fact, public sector organizations are far more likely to have suffered disruptions than commercial businesses, with 74% having experienced either downtime or data loss in the previous 12 months.

Compared to any other sector, the public sector experiences more downtime – 37 hours as compared to 25 hours – and the longest recovery time – 12.43 hours as compared to 7.95 hours.

Protect your agency’s data to prevent any further damage – buckle your seatbelts and travel the road to mission resiliency.

Data Protection is Not an Optional Upgrade

Agencies interested in traveling the road to mission resiliency should start with modernizing legacy infrastructures.

Similar to an older, run down car, legacy systems are smothering agencies’ applications – slowing down operations, burning budgets, and in many cases – leaving the door open to added information security risk.

Next-generation architecture begins with the understanding that data protection and data integrity are not add-on features. Instead, they must be viewed as part of the dynamic new infrastructure – running through every element of the architecture.

Start Your Engines With a Unified Data Protection Infrastructure

A unified data protection infrastructure means backup features are directly integrated with applications; and these backup, recovery, and archiving features have a contextual understanding of what an organization is trying to do with an application.

Rationalizing the product set avoids having too many solutions managing the architecture and simplifies the effort.

Putting a single pane of glass in place allows for centralized control, reporting, and alerting – and policy management provides efficient oversight. Organizations must also ensure that they have accurate scalability and capacity planning.

In the end, data protection architecture of the future is platformed or horizontal – not siloed. Learn more in our interactive eBook, and consider the key steps:

  • Create a business resiliency plan – As data grows and cyber threats increase, agencies have realized that advanced security, continuous availability, and integrated backup and recovery are no longer optional – they are vital
  • Update architecture – Developing a modern protection storage architecture is a key step on the road to mission resiliency. It brings together three important components – storage, data source integration, and data management services
  • Embrace hybrid automation and orchestration – Replacing manual processes with a modern protection storage architecture is vital for Federal IT progression because it allows potential for automation and orchestration – saving time, and eliminating human error
  • Modernize service level agreements – SLAs are often treated like guidelines, but organizations can do better by establishing and meeting higher expectations with automated data protection
  • Map to governance and compliance requirements – As data increases, organizations grow. Agencies have clear responsibilities to monitor data access, and this requires a modern architecture
  • Implement data protection-as-a-service – For the user, service delivery is all about ease of use. In the future, service delivery will be delivered in an opt-in, opt-out approach

To learn more about what your agency can do to get on the road to mission resiliency, I invite you to take a look through our interactive eBook. Stay ahead of the traffic – protect your data, protect your reputation.

The Internet of Things, Modern Applications, and Driving New Opportunities for IT

CJ Desai

CJ Desai

President, Emerging Technologies

We have heard time and again that the Digital Universe is huge – and growing exponentially. Last I read, it is expected to be 44 ZB by 2020.

So what has this to do with the Internet of Things (IOT)?

IOT describes the inherent connectivity of devices and products for telemetry, data collection, etc. and is largely responsible for this data growth spurt.

Simply put – sensors numbering in trillions, working with intelligence systems in the billions involving millions of applications will be what will drive data growth for the next five years.

Ubiquitous connectivity is having a very definite effect on how we live our lives on this cloud-enabled planet. For example I jumped into my car late for work the other day. While driving, it occurred to me that I may not have shut my garage door. As soon as I parked, I launched my home security app and remotely closed it. At which point, my Apple watch buzzed to notify me to get active after sitting for an hour in traffic.

Managing devices remotely has become so common place now that we don’t think about the cloud, IOT, or any aspect of the technology when we are using it.

So what is the business opportunity IOT presents? And how does it translate to value?

These are questions that many of our customers struggle with. At EMC we don’t just engineer hardware and software; we also deliver solutions that give customers a competitive edge in their industries. After all, our customers’ success becomes our success.

I believe that the value of data is rapidly changing IT’s role from being a foundation supporting the business, to being an active critical component of business transformation.

Some great examples include:

  • A service provider offering mid-size retail clients near real-time analytics to deliver targeted coupons in their stores based on specific customer profiles
  • An auto insurance provider developing an application that works with a vehicle’s sensors and navigation system to track and analyze driving behavior to notify the driver of impacts on his/her future insurance premium
  • A utility company using sensors on a power plant, grid and meters to analyze the information and develop an application that allows customers to manage and optimize energy costs

IT departments have been transformed through this culture of ubiquitous connectivity, and the ability to leverage IOT highlights the tremendous value that IT provides to the business. The scale of the opportunity is limited only by your imagination.

We talk a lot about “transformation” at EMC, and in my opinion, it’s at the intersection of creativity and analytics where IOT goes from ideas to revenue.

This post was originally published on our sister blog Reflections, where senior leaders at EMC blog regularly on trends in information technology.

Have You Thanked Your CDO Today?

Barry Morris

Barry Morris

Vice President, EMC Federal Division
Barry Morris, Vice President of EMC’s Federal Division, is responsible for general division management, providing leadership and vision to the Federal team, government contractors and partners, and Federal systems integrators. In this role, he is dedicated to helping agencies redefine IT in a more agile, trusted, and cost-efficient way. Morris brings 30 years of experience driving sales to the Federal government, and expanding coverage into the state and local government, education, and medical markets.

What is an organization’s most critical asset?

Data.

Creating, analyzing, storing, and protecting information – and transforming information into actionable intelligence – is vital to every Federal mission.

So who’s taking the lead in redefining how agencies use their data?

Cue the Federal Chief Data Officer, also known as the CDO – an organization’s data trailblazer.

We had the opportunity to join a roundtable discussion with some of the Federal government’s new CDOs. We learned that as a group, their plans include:

  • Taking a holistic view of the organization’s data in order to discover synergies between departments and discuss collaboration between data owners – In most cases, taking a step back to see the bigger picture will allow you to see things you may have missed otherwise. This is especially true for an organization’s data, as data that seems unimportant to one department may make a huge impact in another
  • Standardizing and modernizing data systems to establish a foundation for future applications of data – To reach success, we must work for today and plan for tomorrow. Accounting for, and taking care of, today’s data will lead to a sturdy future foundation, ensuring that an organization can continue to grow
  • Building data policies within their organization to serve its particular mission – Each organization’s mission is unique, so what works for one might not work for another. That’s why tailored approaches to data policies are necessary
  • Encouraging innovation across the agency to discover new ways to leverage data – If agencies never take new approaches, reaching new accomplishments becomes challenging. Organizations must encourage new ways of thinking in order to harness their data’s full potential

Roles and responsibilities vary by agency and mission, but the common goal is to enable efficient use of organizational data. Using data effectively leads to new possibilities, more accurate operations, and joint mission success across Federal agencies. However, the position is not without its obstacles. CDOs are confronted with challenges from limited resources, to cultural barriers, to conflicting priorities.

CDOs need the support of their organization.

So, how do we help them help us? Knowing how to engage with the CDO community is key. Consider a few tips as you build a relationship with your CDO:

  • Become accountable for the quality of your data and your compliance to regulations – If each employee does their part, there is a higher chance of having accurate, valuable data to support agency missions
  • Make “What can we learn from this data?” part of the everyday workflow – The analysis of data is very important. If a lesson is taken from each data set, agencies can derive new intelligence and move toward more educated processes
  • Create a technical and cultural bridge at your agency – Having open communication between employees is critical. If everyone understands how to communicate between departments, the agency can more successfully approach a unified goal
  • Learn how data is a fundamental component of mission success – Check out EMC’s Federation Business Data Lake, fully armed with solutions to bring data, applications, and analytics together to help your agency make the most of data

As we consider the creation of the CDO role and the emerging field of data science, we don’t know what we don’t know.

But, we can be sure – CDOs and data scientists are going to be able to tell us, very soon.

Stay tuned.