Where Big Data, Software Defined Still Struggle

January 29, 2015 • Big Data, Software & Security

By Satyam Vaghani

Instead of predicting what will happen in the technology industry for the rest of this year, I’m taking a different approach — pointing out what won’t happen. As I look into my crystal ball, here are my UNpredictions for the rest of 2015 as well as some tips for success:

1. Sexy AND substance will still elude most enterprise software products. Web 2.0 has forced enterprises to make their User Interfaces (UIs) sexy to compete with software-as-a-service offerings. Today, companies look to Google and Facebook for standards as to how UI should look and feel to users, and enterprise software makers are following suit by placing more importance on the visual impact of UI. However, this often comes at the expense of functionality. I predict that in 2015, enterprise software products will overvalue colorfulness and “pop” in UI by leveraging the cutting edge nature of HTML and JavaScript, while focusing less on the actual function and benefit that the platform behind the UI brings.

Advice for 2015: Don’t be swayed by form over function. Look for enterprise software solutions that don’t just look sexy, but act sexy too.

2. Big data still won’t be big knowledge. While several companies have taken on the arduous task of gathering big data and storing it, most haven’t figured out how to make use of this unique and valuable information in a way that allows them to draw worthwhile conclusions. We’ve all heard vendors claim their ability to render many billion data points per second. But the question is: What will they do with the data once it has been processed? What is the point of collecting massive pools of data if it then sits untapped indefinitely in a warehouse? While many technology companies are working to solve this problem, there is no widely applicable and easily adoptable solution that drives big knowledge from big data today. I predict that the ability to draw interesting conclusions is going to continue to stay very complicated and beyond the reach of most companies in 2015. 

Advice for 2015:  Data is only as good as your ability to use it.  Look beyond collection and storage to make sure you can actually use big data before making investments in that space. 

3. While “software-defined” and “cloud” provide enormous value, implementing widespread infrastructure solutions based on these paradigms won’t be easy in 2015. In the future,everyone will be able to build an Amazon-like cloud and/or software defined data center (SDDC). Getting to that point however will depend on our ability to share knowledge and collaborate as a community. A big hurdle for us today is that end users have to rediscover way too much when it comes to building highly integrated infrastructure solutions out of multiple foundational software and hardware components. As new architectures create radically different paradigms, simply knowing about one technology isn’t enough to apply to others. And as new products are delivered to market, what is not clear is how companies should be operationalizing that product for their own particular environment and in conjunction with other moving parts already in place.

The answer lies in solving problems as a community and making that knowledge available to everyone. Knowledge sharing is getting much better in the age of social media, which has benefitted companies like Amazon, Google and Facebook. However, more information sharing needs to take place in the enterprise space to build complete solutions without a lot of heavy lifting.

Advice for 2015: Learn from your peers, instead of trying to reinvent the wheel when moving to cloud and software defined data centers in 2015. And document your empirical experiences so you can give back to the community more than what you took from it.

4. If you ship hardware, you are limiting the true power of software. The most interesting technologies as of late are in software, especially in the storage space. This isn’t changing anytime soon, which is why so many companies invest in building software value on top of “commodity” hardware. While the underlying hardware becomes less significant in this model, this is still not “software-defined storage.” That is because the customer has to buy the vendors’ hardware to access their software. Secondly, the power of this software is limited to making the hardware functional. For example, do “software defined” disk arrays do anything more than make iSCSI and NFS better? True software solutions work on any computer in any data center, and change the basic assumptions about how a business process can leverage IT infrastructure. Virtulization was a great example.  In 2015, there will be many vendors claiming to be software companies that are building the software defined data center, but at the end of the day only a few really can claim this distinction.

Advice for 2015: If you want the true value of software defined storage, look for solutions that are transformative – i.e. solutions that challenge your core assumptions, instead of solutions that re-skin old concepts and remain inside your traditional “comfort zone.”

Satyam Vaghani is co-founder and CTO of PernixData.


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