Data management in South Africa has its own unique challenges

Mark Ridley, regional director for Africa, NetApp
Mark Ridley, regional director for Africa, NetApp

The impact of load shedding on an organisation’s data management capabilities is adding a level of uncertainty to boardroom discussions about technology that are already strained by issues of mobility, Big Data, and which cloud option to use.

Even in countries with reliable electricity supply, these trends in technology are forcing organisations into a data management impasse from which only equally new technologies can extricate them.

The sheer volumes of data that organisations must gather, store, move, analyse, and exploit, whether in the cloud, on premise, or in a hybrid model, simply cannot be managed by the traditional approach or the traditional means.

As a consequence, data management is becoming a significant risk factor, from a continuity as well as a governance perspective. It’s evolving into a major business discipline.

In South Africa, it’s even more critical because load shedding introduces an arbitrary factor with which traditional data management systems are not designed to cope.

Yes, if an organisation has a load shedding schedule ahead of time – and if the schedule is adhered to – the necessary adjustments for back up and recovery can be made. But today’s data management isn’t just about backup and recovery.

Data is being moved into and out of the cloud pretty much on the fly. It is also being accessed and worked with by employers in all ranks of a business on a continuous, real-time basis. Disruption to such access has a direct bearing on sales and service capabilities, let alone management of projects and contracts, foreign currency transactions, the supply chain, month end payroll runs, and the production of income statements and balance sheets. Not to mention, of course, data that gets lost and that you don’t even know has been lost just because the electricity went off.

It is essential, therefore, to have systems and processes in place that provide you with a continuous data fabric, rather than silos of information over which you have no consistent, coherent control.

NetApp has coined the phrase data fabric in relation to the solutions with which it is leading the market into data management across the enterprise. But the term goes beyond clever marketing. It defines a fundamental shift in storage technologies towards seamlessness across all data management activities.

While seamlessness is inherent in the evolution of the way people think about technology, it’s not yet inherent in the way technology is created or delivered.

Every technology vendor’s approach is different and, while clouds are being developed progressively more along generally accepted standards, each cloud still has its peculiarities or differentiators in the way it handles data. Individual organisations all have their own strategic reasons for handling their data in a particular way, whether it’s in the cloud or on premise or both.

The best way to ensure that you have control of all the different pockets of your data, especially when load shedding disrupts your operations, is to see data as a fabric spread across all your business activities, holding them all together in a single protective, productive cloth, regardless of vendor and provider variables or any given piece of data’s lifecycle status. Once you view data as a whole fabric, the data management approach you need becomes clear – and you can make executive decisions about data management that will foster business sustainability.

It puts you instantly in charge of a new technology-based business discipline, rather than being at its mercy. In essence, NetApp’s vision of data fabric gives organisations data management strategies for maintaining control of one of their most crucial assets as it moves beyond the walls of the enterprise into the cloud. It also provides choice – equally crucial to sustainability – in IT deployment models. It enables the enterprise to be agile and responsive as the IT landscape shifts, creating consistence and cohesion of data control, integration, security, and management under all circumstances of change. It gives organisations the benefits of cloud elasticity and savings, with the performance, availability, and control of dedicated enterprise storage.

It also puts you in the best possible position to mitigate the impact of load shedding on your data management.

By Mark Ridley, regional director for Africa, NetApp