'Businesses now see data lakes as a way of transforming their business'

An interview with Ben Goodman, Head of the Isilon Division, EMC APJ

Ben Goodman, Head of the Isilon Division, EMC APJ, talks about why businesses are going for data lakes and how organizations can derive the maximum value from it while identifying the pockets of opportunity in India for Isilon.


Excerpts from his interview with Sachin Nandkishor Mhashilkar


Why does everyone seem to be excited about data lakes?

If you look at businesses today, there are multiple challenges—new competition, to engage with the customers in a better way and so on. Organizations have realized that lot of the information they need to make their business decisions is already sitting within their organizations and they can derive value from it. Data lakes actually allow customers to centralize all types of information, make better business decisions, start innovating and being more competitive in the market. Businesses now see data lakes are a way of transforming their business.  That explains why we are seeing such hype and focus around data lakes, investing in the analytics platform and starting to use them to drive business innovation. 


What kind of enterprises should go for data lakes - in terms of size, industries, IT maturity?

I think all businesses, large and small, are investing in data lakes. Data lake is a strategy that organizations can embark on, whether it is few applications that are centralized or entire businesses like in a large telco, coming together on a central platform. Data lake holds value in all organizations.


However, we have seen greatest adoption globally from those organizations that have to engage with their costumers the most. The mobile industry, for instance, looks at trends on how their customers move around shopping centers and engage at call dropouts. They see massive value in analytics. In online shopping, like say Amazon, they can get value in terms of insights that help them better how they engage customers, how they give a better experience to help you come back more and more. So any organization having direct interaction with their consumers, which has a risk of losing consumers and also wants to enhance market share, invests heavily in data lakes as a platform and some analytics decision-making tools that provide value.  


With rising threats, especially in a country like India, what are the most essential steps that CISOs and CIOs should adopt to secure critical data?

I think you have got stuff like, forward detection and security in all elements that ensure threats don’t exist in the outside world, within potential employees, within mobility. I think every time we drive innovation in the market, it makes it easier for people to engage with our platforms and applications but bring s in new threats and new risks. A CISO needs to stop thinking about necessarily hardening every application and start thinking about how to manage threats—how do I constantly look to evolve my security approach to look at more things, understand log analytics better, understand my clients better, look for fraud, look for Denial of Service (DoS); those kind of threats on business and how to constantly evolve and how to dynamically change the security approach.


Data lake allows centralizing all the elements of the business, whether it’s Internet banking, internal network, etc. Those kind of things become critical while understanding the evolving nature of threats. So data lake can be used to make great business decisions in terms of new products. It helps businesses ready to deal with new business threats that don’t exist today but can come tomorrow.  


Aren’t efficiency in data management and getting the best out of your data often contradictory objectives?

I think you have got to look at what we are using data lake for. We see statistics from the industry that organizations who leverage analytics and data lake to build their new products, typically want those products to market at 83 per cent more profitability than organizations taking traditional approaches. If you are losing customers today, then the revenue also goes down. Building data lake can help you retain more customers and adds value back to the business. If it’s about stopping customer attrition, then it’s a different value proposition, different to spinning off new businesses. The important thing is about not looking at a generic value of data lake but understanding how it affects each customer, looking at what they are trying to achieve and making sure we build the data lake and the application environment around it that really helps in driving the value. So it’s a new definition of TCO and ROI that gives value back to the organizations.  


Do CIOs look for or multi vendor or single eco system vendor when it comes to data analytics and security?

If you look at the security market, it is the most fragmented industry. There are very few people doing everything and because of the pace at which new cyber threats come up each day, new security measures coming each day which causes new companies to come about. I think ideally what a lot of executives are looking for—and this isn’t just the CIOs or CISOs, this is a CEO/COO, who looks at how to deliver the maximum amount of innovation—is to reduce the maximum number of threats with the minimum number of supplies to do that. It doesn’t need you to buy everything from a single supplier.


It means you have a balance measure between how many niche technology providers help you address the issue through a certain point initiative versus how many large organizations having a portfolio of products. And it is not just the company but how strong really is the ecosystem with technology providers who provide additional innovation on security, additional application transformation etc. It’s about building a platform that allows customers to not only get maximum out of their investments but also facilitate a really strong innovation eco system around new platforms, threat detections, making sure there is great path for businesses to innovate. If you look at what Dell has done for the last 5 or 10 years, is to build a really strong ecosystem in the healthcare space, in the oil and gas space, in the media space to help customers innovate faster. If you look at EMCs investments and acquisitions, it’s about building robust, reliable data centers.


In that overall positioning, where do you see the role and roadmap for EMC Isilon, especially in the Indian context?

We look at three different data lake markets.


First is the centralized data lake market which we call the ‘core’ and this is where organizations centralize their data center content into a single unstructured repository. This has been the ‘core’ for Isilon for the last 10-15 years and continues to be a key area of investment. In that space, we are seeing transformation, such as an all-flash Isilon coming out next year because customer loads are increasing and they are looking into more analytics, more rendering and more hard-formed activities. So evolution in the data center activity is denser and faster. We will see Nitro, an all-flash data center platform, coming out in 2017, which will help customers to innovate against these hard-formed workloads.


At the same time, customers also have remote-site requirements. Many customers are globally dispersed. They might have a couple of large data centers, key remote sites and the level of governance for technology and development capability. With that, we continue to invest in our Isilon SD Edge platform, which is software-defined version of our product to help smaller operations to have the same kind of capability with very low cost of investment and very rapid deployment. Think of an organization that might have a centralized manufacturing technology capability. It might run a small operation in another country that have the need for design schematics. Isilon SD Edge not only allows them to have the same centralized capability but also hosting at remote sites.


Finally, we see a lot of customers moving their workloads to the cloud. It might be for collaboration, professional efficiency, etc. We think this is absolutely fantastic. Customers are now more into hybrid cloud and we absolutely embrace that. So we recently announced ‘cloud pools’ which allows us to extend our Isilon capability out to private on-premise clouds, platforms like EMC-elastic clouds, which have the same capability and extend that onto public cloud. So at the technology-level, these are the kind of things that underpin the cloud life, giving customers a true hybrid cloud, core-edge and cloud experience.


That’s the global direction, the global adoption by customers of all levels. If you think about what India represents, I think India is probably the largest opportunity for us because you have required level of engineering expertise. Many organizations globally build their next-gen applications in India, leverage the knowledge and the expertise in this country which drives innovation. So if you think about globally dispersed data centers, data sets that have a common analytics platform, it really helps India connect with the rest of the world and to large global clients at the technology level. If you then look at what India is driving in terms of innovation, you have got some of the industry leading film production houses, video-effect houses, etc. Not just 4K video, but 24K video, theme parks, the whole transformation in media space. The world’s leading companies that are driving this are based in India. So we are seeing a lot of transformation coming out of India in the film industry, medical research, manufacturing, etc. All of those things that drive the unstructured content, the need for data lake, are the strong industries in India that are leading the world.


The outlook, in my view, is fantastic for India.    

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