“Data is the new oil. It’s valuable, but if unrefined it cannot really be used. It has to be changed into gas, plastic, chemicals, etc to create a valuable entity that drives profitable activity; so must data be broken down, analysed for it to have value.” Those words of mathematician Clive Humby should be inscribed on every chief executive’s desk, setting out, as they do, two important maxims for the modern business: accurate data is at the heart of everything and technological change is vital.

In particular, organisations must look afresh at the way their underlying infrastructures are constructed. For years, the process has been the same: an annual call from the networking, server or storage vendor to the CIO leading to more the same being delivered.  Of course, there are some changes along the way: a new technology comes on stream; an increase in bandwidth is needed; some new management tools but there are no fundamental changes in the basic set-up.

In the last few years all of that has changed: no longer are CIOs limited to their own infrastructure, the advent of cloud has increased possibilities by allowing for hybrid implementations, permitting the breakout of data from the confines of the corporate datacentre.

But this is merely one of the catalysts for change: the arrival of containerisation has confused matters further, organisations are now looking at the implications of that – the demands on I/O for computing and the issue of managing persistent storage are just some examples – and, to top it all, we’ve seen the emergence of DevOps and a move away from traditional, siloed barriers within enterprises.

Very few people disagree with the idea that data is the new oil but there’s not common agreement in how to make the most of that data. Just this week, we heard from a prominent geologist that fracking in the UK would not release the total reserves of gas  that had been predicted as the geological barriers would not make extracting the gas cost viable. CIOs have to ensure that extracting the data from the various strata within an organisation doesn’t financial cripple the company. And ultimately, they need to leverage this data efficiently if they are to drive business transformation.

 “Organizations that understand how to derive the full value from their data will see their digital transformations drive greater competitive advantage in the shortest amount of time,” said Simon Robinson, research vice president, at 451 Research.

 “To succeed, customers need to change their mindsets on data management, to liberate themselves from data siloes and seek approaches that unite data no matter where it resides.”

Moving to hybrid cloud

Moving to a hybrid cloud is certainly one way of getting the maximum value out of their data: companies don’t have to bear the full capital cost of a private cloud deployment but don’t have the additional cost of paying for a cloud provider (anyone who thinks that cloud is automatically cheaper will get a rude shock when the first bill comes in), nor is likely to be tied to a single cloud provider.

And the smart enterprise will certainly be using a storage provider that can adapt to these changing demands – one that is already taking on board the need to support DevOps departments, or one that is already deploying AI to ensure that its products give more accurate performance statistics.

Most of all, the smart enterprise will realise that problems in the modern corporation will not be solved by technology alone. There needs to be concerted effort from IT staff and lines of business, working together to extract data. The company that operates in silos will be a company that’s set for an uncertain future.