The Emerging Data Age: Experts Weigh Challenges, Possibilities

  • Data Age 2025 Panel June 2017 Luczo and panel on screen

As the venerable tech writer Walt Mossberg said in his last-ever column The Disappearing Computer, “Tech was once always in your way. Soon, it will be almost invisible.” His point was simple – people are becoming more aware of the fact that our devices are valuable only because of the data they enable us to create and access.

On June 5, Seagate convened a panel of data experts in San Francisco to discuss the implications this shift in awareness holds for companies, their customers and society at large, and how we are now at the beginning of a new Data Age defined by new possibilities and discoveries not previously attainable.

Moderated by ZDNet writer Stephanie Condon, the panel included Seagate’s CEO Steve Luczo; Dave Reinsel, senior vice president of Research at IDC; Miguel Alvarado, VP of Data and Analytics at Vevo; Kushagra Vaid, General Manager and Distinguished Engineer, Azure Hardware Infrastructure, Microsoft; Akhil Gupta, VP of Infrastructure at Dropbox; Bob Pishu, senior economist at INRIX; and Brooks Moore, producer at the Emmy award-winning production company Bonnemaison.

Here are three key takeaways from the discussion, which covered both data in the cloud, and data created by devices on the edge of the network, such as PCs, phones, camera, connected cars, and wearables.

Key Takeaway #1: We’ll see a dramatic shift to real-time (and life critical) data.

Data is ever more essential to critical elements of our society and economy — from infrastructure to education, banking, medical devices, autonomous cars and more. Huge improvements in connectivity require parallel leaps in real-time and mobile data access and the ability to leverage that data.

  • Bob Pishue, Senior Economist, INRIX: “There is a currently a rise of life-critical data. In the next decade, it will have an impact in automotive and infrastructure. For example, when there is an automobile accident a black box in the car captures details about the crash and data is mined later. However, as real-time analytics come on board, these problem areas can be identified almost immediately, enabling us to look at the data immediately rather than later.
  • Brooks Moore, Television Producer, Bonnemaison: “Mobile/real-time data has a lot of impact in the entertainment industry. For example, Netflix and Amazon are collecting data on consumers viewing habits, helping them in their development of programming. This will exponentially grow moving forward and happen in real-time.”
  • Miguel Alvarado, VP, Data and Analytics, Vevo: “When we started building our platform at Vevo, we definitely took real-time data into consideration. From our perspective, the key is to think about it from the ground up — consumers aren’t patient. Because viewers expect smart recommendations, we are looking at customer usage patterns and want to analyze the content and why people like specific content.” Deep learning is about hitting the ground to understand how we deliver the right content to the right people. It used to be a luxury, now it’s status quo.”

Key Takeaway #2: Data security will be even more critical – more challenging to deliver.

Data Age 2025 June 2017 Panelist Akhil Gupta speaking

More data means more vulnerability. What does this mean for organizations as the gap increases between the amount of data that should be secured and the amount that actually is?

  • Dave Reinsel, Analyst, IDC: “As we begin to capture data from all different sources and applications, we start to think about security first. We need to deal with tough government issues. Over time, we’ll see the benefits this data enables, for example, in mission critical areas like healthcare. But we have to have to have a security-first mindset.”
  • Kushagra Vaid, General Manager and Distinguished Engineer, Azure Hardware Infrastructure, Microsoft: “The industry needs to self-regulate and ensure it takes the right steps to protect consumer privacy. If the government needs to step in to ensure customer protections, similar to what we have seen in the European Union, it has the potential to slow down progress.”
  • Akhil Gupta, VP Infrastructure, Dropbox: “Consumers have assumed privacy is something the business takes care of. In the coming years, there will be much more clarity on standards and how companies can use data. Security will become a huge focus for every business out there.”

Key Takeaway #3: We must prioritize what data to save because we can’t afford to save it all.

This explosion in the amount, variety, and importance of data created will pose new challenges for business and individuals. How must organizations prepare and act to excel during this period of huge data growth?

  • Steve Luczo, CEO, Seagate: “At the technology level, our job isn’t different than it has been in the last 35 years — driving areal density to make storage affordable. We need to drive down the cost, so that we continue offering larger capacity in smaller devices. If there are 3.5 to 5 billion people connected, including 100 billion connected devices, how do we deliver these storage solutions? It’s a question of how much can you afford to store?”
  • Miguel Alvarado, VP, Data and Analytics, Vevo: “We are data rich and knowledge poor. Collecting a lot of data is easy, but we must identify what really matters and use it to learn about customers.”
  • Kushagra Vaid, General Manager and Distinguished Engineer, Azure Hardware Infrastructure, Microsoft: “In an environment where there’s a lot of focus on machine learning and artificial intelligence, what data do we want to store and use? You never know what data is useful until it’s too late. It can be a tricky problem. On one hand, you assume it’s all important and save it all. On the other hand, you think of costs, margins and execution and you can’t store it all. If there are objectives that the business is pursuing as far as product lines, then you want to store it. But other data, not tied to a business segment, can be ignored for now at the expense of losing it. There’s no one-size-fits-all answer.”

The panelists agreed the Data Age 2025 will create more opportunities, more efficiencies, and more advances in life-critical applications than we can imagine today. In the meantime, companies and technology providers must continue to drive advances in storage and prioritize the data that’s more important to their business and customers.

“What we really want to do is be predictive,” says Luczo. “If we can take all this unstructured data and apply it to artificial intelligence and machine learning, as well as amazing human input, you can begin to solve some of the real challenges around safety, around healthcare, around environmental damage, such as habitat loss, things that really matter.”

To hear more of the panelists’ perspectives and how businesses can prepare for and adapt to the Data Age 2025, view the video:


About the Author:

John Paulsen
John Paulsen is a "Data for Good" advocate, with nearly 20 years in the data storage industry. He's helped launch many industry-firsts including HAMR technology, 10K-rpm and 15K-rpm hard drives, drives designed specifically for video and for gaming, Serial ATA drives, fluid dynamic HDD motors, 60TB SSDs, and MACH.2 multi-actuator technology.