Data explosion an ongoing management issue: IDC

Coping with spiralling volumes of unstructured data will have CIOs fully occupied, analyst firm says

In just three years, the bytes of data generated by digital cameras, mobile phones, businesses IT systems and devices will equal the number of grains of sand on the world’s beaches.

It’s a mind-boggling estimation from analyst firm IDC. But it reflects the proliferation of devices and systems used by consumers and businesses, says Stephen Minton, IDC’s vice president of worldwide IT markets and strategies.

Over the next few years, organisations will face tough decisions on how to store data, find information and comply with regulations, says Minton.

It won’t be an easy task. While 85% of that data is predicted to come from consumers snapping photos, surfing web pages and sending email, about 60% of that consumer data will still cross corporate networks, Minton says. Much of the data is unstructured, meaning it’s not clearly labelled as to content, which makes it more difficult to use.

But technologies that enable deep analysis of data are emerging, and could help business unlock what’s important and improve operations.

The mass of data companies are collecting represents huge business opportunities, “if companies can really get to a point where they can successfully analyse the data going back and forth on their networks”, Minton says.

Companies are “still a long way short of being able to analyse the unstructured data on their networks,” he says. Data is coming from web services such as Flickr, Skype and even Second Life.

The business opportunities are the positive side, but security concerns still abound, as well as regulatory compliance and liability worries.

According to data from the US Computer Emergency Response Team, the number of reported software vulnerabilties declined in 2003 and 2004 but surged in 2005 to around 6,000, an all-time high. “This explosion in the number of applications and devices has created an explosion in the number of security vulnerabilities,” Minton says.

Accordingly, security has remained the top budget priority over the last five or six years, with 60% of companies placing it as the highest one in an IDC survey conducted earlier this year.

IDC predicts revenue from security and vulnerability management software will grow by 20% this year to US$2.27 billion (NZ$3.18 billion). That far outpaces the 6-7% growth expected for software as a whole.

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