CES 2018: To Win the Future, Master the Datasphere

Why we must learn to master the Datasphere

The enormous complexity of our data-driven world is dependent on a complex data infrastructure connecting the cloud, data centers, local devices and the Edge.

Blockchain transactions, weather and climate forecasting, wearable medical devices, AI-enabled farming, automated vehicles — the vastness of the world’s data means data centers are being redefined at a breakneck pace to adapt to explosive data growth. Core and hyperscale data centers continue to grow in numbers at an accelerated rate, as Edge data centers begin to meet demand in the form of regional, mobile, micro and even orbital data centers in order to be closer to where data originates at devices, endpoints, and the IoT.

The data infrastructure is expected to evolve quickly to meet the demands of the Datasphere, which is expected to grow to 163 zettabytes by the year 2025 — a tenfold increase from the 16 zettabytes of 2016. From autonomous cars to industrial robots to smart home devices and beyond, data centers are the backbone that hold all of our industries and interests together. They have changed the way we live, learn, communicate, think, and feel about the world around us.

Many companies and entrepreneurs we meet with at CES confirm they’re expanding the ways they use data to serve everyone from consumers to local governments to large customers in huge industries like healthcare. Many are exploring how the Edge will play a role and how their cloud requirements are changing. They’re exploring the question: “How is the structure of data management evolving today to support our partners’ and customers’ changing needs?”

At CES this week in our Datasphere Station and Edge Arena experience zones we’re sharing ideas about this evolving infrastructure — from endpoint through IoT, Edge, data center and cloud. Watch this short video for a few thoughts from Seagate CEO Dave Mosley and Seagate VP of Systems Ken Claffey on mastering the Datasphere — and below, dig into our execs’ discussion about what the rise of the Data Age means for your business, and for humanity.


How the Data Age evolved — and where we go next

When the tech era began, very few individuals believed the internet would reach mass scale in their lifetime. Centralized mainframes (1960-1980) were more powerful than anyone could have fathomed. Nearly 10 million connected terminals processed all the data created by human effort worldwide. But then the game changed. The era of the personal computer (PC) was born, and client server systems (1980-2005) became a standard household item. PCs performed some local processing, but almost 2 billion PCs worldwide had a connection to a remote server that did the majority of the processing.

And then the game changed again. PCs began to fit in our pockets as the mobile/cloud computing revolution (2005-2020) opened up an entirely new world of possibilities for everyone to make, store, and transfer data with breakneck speed. While on the go, it became easier and easier to take photos and videos, make calls, write emails, read books, listen to music, play games, organize our lives, and share our experiences. This personalization of consumption ushered in the Data Age.

Mainframes and PCs remain in widespread use, but the dominant endpoints have become personal mobile devices and the cloud. Information has become the new currency, and has created a surge in technological innovation and economic application. Today, we see a world filled with billions of pocket-sized devices sending trillions of data-loaded messages. Currently, there are around 7 billion connected smartphones worldwide.

“We’ve seen massive efficiency gains in the past 40 years because of technology. Big gains came as a result of client-server revolution,” says Seagate CEO Dave Mosley. “Now, the mobile/cloud revolution is interesting because it’s still fairly new — smart phones are only 10 years old. I don’t think mobile/cloud has been used to its full effect yet — largely it’s being used for information at the edge and entertainment. I think the future can get yet more wild, especially when you can improve the connectivity from the mobile device to the cloud.”

“I think we’ll start to see applications enabling people to remotely become more deeply involved from their mobile device into a greater work stream,” he suggests. “My personal feeling is that we’re still on the front end of that. For example, the opportunity for you to get the best surgeon in the world, and not the one that happens to be local at your hospital. Or the opportunity for a farmer to understand a problem they’re facing based on the data set, versus just trying to figure things out themselves. Those kinds of things introduce efficiencies we’ve never seen before.”

The rise of Edge Computing

Trillions of devices are connected to the internet. These devices aren’t all personal. They are drones, driverless freight vehicles, and traffic surveillance cameras in addition to all manner of sensors that register energy, temperature, vibrations, touch, and other biometric measures. Each device generates massive amounts of unstructured data that must be processed at the Edge (near the device itself) for reasons related to security, cost savings, and scale.

More and more, these devices are communicating information to each other. This device connectivity is commonly referred to as the Internet of Things (IoT). Sending all of this data to the cloud for processing isn’t always practical or efficient for trillions of IoT connected devices. For instance, a driverless car generates about 10GB per mile, and must harness that data at or near the Edge to react in real-time.

According to IDC, at least 45 percent of IoT-created data will be stored, processed, analyzed, and acted upon at or near the Edge of the network by 2019. The rise of Edge computing becomes a key enabler to the Data Age, fueled by trillions of powerful devices that run complex applications.

A Data Age revolution — what will it mean for humanity?

So now with the Data Age emerging, humanity is unlocking the potential of data. What will this mean for improving individual human lives, boosting business productivity and developing solutions to society’s shared goals?

“If you look at technology revolutions through history,” says Matt Rutledge, Seagate senior vice president of Business Marketing, “we had the explosion of communications with the Printing Revolution which brought about the modern period of human history — it made possible the Renaissance, the Age of Enlightenment, the scientific revolution which enabled our knowledge-based economy and widespread education. Then the Industrial Revolution had its impact, increasing specialization and knowledge-based work and improving health, lifespan and quality of life. Then we had the Internet revolution with massive connectivity and information sharing.”

“And now we’re in the Data Age — and to enable progress in the Data Age, we need to master the Datasphere,” Rutledge continues. “Now consider the exponential increase in data points and data analysis, with ubiquitous sensors delivering data, and AI helping analyze it. If you think about it, until recent technology, sensing and processing really could only happen in the human brain. We’re now beginning to outsource the sensing and processing of data.”

“Information has always been power,” agrees Mosley. “It’s important that as a society we begin to make some thoughtful decisions together. In the future, will there be more dissemination of information? Will information be more autonomous? Are we going to democratize the future, or are we going to centralize? In any case, I do think that by a lot of different measures the efficiency gains will be huge — and we’re still on the front end of that.”

“Humankind thrives based on the dissemination of information — from the first printing press all the way through to the Internet,” proposes Ken Claffey, Seagate vice president and general manager, Systems. “So what will the impact of the Data Age be?”

“The potential it holds for mankind is the dissemination of information: taking the data out of the data center, and putting it in the hands of the people,” he says. “Think about that — that’s analogous to taking the book that was only available as one copy in a library, and publishing it on the web.”

“If we were to zoom into the future,” muses Rutledge, “I think people are going to look back at this point in time and say: that’s when the world really started to change in terms of how humans and data interacted, and what it meant for them in terms of how they spend their time and what they can accomplish with their lives.”

What will the data revolution mean for your business?

What businesses will become more data-centered? Every one of them, according to Mosley.

“There is no business that’s not going to be transformed by data,” Mosley pronounces. “For example, some people know I have an interest in farming. I’ve met with companies who say farms are basically going to become clean rooms. In a very real sense a farm can be thought of as a factory, and their success is all about yield and optimization and lowering your cost, along with issues like growing organically and reducing water use, for which you can now say: ‘I know how to solve that with technology.’ We already have farm equipment companies producing combines that talk to space, and that’s pretty high-tech. But I would say even that is still the front end of what we’re about to see as far as efficiency gains.”

“I think mastering the Datasphere will mean more jobs, more entrepreneurial opportunities,” he says.

“So far, tech has often been very device-focused: let’s make Swiss Army knives and go sell them. PCs, smart phones, SSDs, connected home devices — we hear phrases like ‘were making things that can go lots of places,’” Mosley considers.

“But the Data Age gives us the chance to erase old boundaries and change the entire playing field, bringing more opportunity,” he concludes. “I think in the next 10 years there will be applications that are available to everyone in the cloud, so that now a startup can go gang those applications together, along with infrastructure and local hardware, to go solve a specific issue. You’ll see a lot of entrepreneurs seeing these efficiencies as opportunities, and innovating.”

Seagate Datasphere Station at CES 2018

Seagate’s Datasphere Station at CES 2018

How are tech leaders advancing the infrastructure to unlock data’s potential?

Creating, transferring, storing and accessing data quickly and reliably is critical to unlocking the potential of everything — from data created in the field, to data powering self-driving cars, AI personal assistants or virtual and mixed reality experiences. From the mundane to life-critical data, the hyperscale data center is quickly becoming a hub for the majority of the world’s data, while data centers are also evolving rapidly and splintering into many different forms, as the Edge begins to take shape. Edge computing is becoming a critical advantage in most industries for a variety of reasons.

First, it provides organizations with a proven way to harness data even when manufacturing equipment and other smart devices are offline. Second, it’s complementary to cloud infrastructure. Most businesses will use a combination of both local and cloud analysis to quickly and concisely process all manner of data.

Third, Edge computing provides huge opportunities for resource savings. For example, a report by the International Institute for Sustainable Development and Columbia University concluded that algorithm-driven driverless technology can contribute to a 20 percent increase in output, a 15 percent decrease in fuel consumption, and an 8 percent decrease in maintenance costs.

Finally, Edge computing can convert the communication protocols used by legacy devices into a language that modern smart devices and the cloud can understand. This can facilitate a seamless deployment of new ideas, models and applications, often with minimal new investment needed.

Make the opportunity seamless

“It’s important for the technology companies to make things seamless. To the extent that you can make it easier for people to use, they can go integrate data more powerfully into the solutions they develop for their customers,” says Mosley. “As the Data Age develops beyond mobile/cloud as we discussed earlier, there are a lot of opportunities for that — in the entrepreneurial space, you won’t have to be a technical expert in the IT architecture or all the different layers of devices.”

“What’s going to happen next? We’ll have people who are healthcare experts, or we’ll have people who are farming experts, or whatever their specialty is,” he proposes. “They’ll go look at the technology and ask ‘How can I easily use this; how can I easily gang this technology together for the solution that I need?’”

At Seagate, we’re constantly pursuing innovative ways to address our customer needs so they can gain a competitive edge in whichever field they play. So much data is being generated that without continued advances in data center, cloud and Edge computing hard drives, SSDs and storage systems, the Datasphere would cave in on itself. Seagate offers solutions such as Exos 12TB enterprise hard drives, Nytro 5000 NVMe SSDs and the latest Seagate Systems like our 5U84 enclosure that packs up to 1PB of raw storage capacity into a single chassis.

Seagate enterprise storage solutions are making the lives of data center professionals infinitely easier and far superior by providing them with products that offer smart security paradigms, blazing responsiveness, massive capacities, and clever power management in order to actually solve their biggest financial and performance hurdles. We’re developing the future through technology leadership that is influenced by our collaboration with customers and partners. Our products are crucial to the basis of competition as more and more businesses, individuals, and applications harness living data to make real-time decisions.

Seagate Nytro at CES 2018

Seagate Nytro at CES 2018


About the Author:

John Paulsen