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Four trends that will influence data in 2024

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The data era is in full swing, yet it’s only getting started. Every year brings new developments to the data space. In 2023, AI and cybercrime elevated data’s profile and emphasized the importance of managing this crucial asset. What can we anticipate from the data market this year?

Sithabile Technology Services, a leader in data and cloud management, predicts four trends set to shape 2024’s data market.

More data centers in SA

More companies are relocating their servers to third-party data centers or decommissioning those in favor of cloud alternatives hosted on third-party data centers. Due to rising costs and power issues, many are shifting to improve business resiliency. However, it’s also about growth; cities like Johannesburg and Cape Town are highly competitive data center locations compared to Europe and the US. Data center companies have invested billions in the local market, and another major international submarine cable has made landfall in the country—these developments will begin showing results in 2024.

“Data centers are necessary infrastructure for growing cloud and data markets, and there is a big push to expand Africa’s data center market. South Africa is the main hub of that activity, and we’ll see more signs of that status in 2024,” says Rob Abrams, Chief Technology Officer at Sithabile Technology Services.

Unstructured data management

Organizations have acknowledged the need to proactively manage their data through data management platforms. However, there has been less focus on unstructured data outside official databases and file servers. Unstructured data resides in emails, machines, unofficial shared drives, and many other places. The collaboration culture, remote working, and cloud technologies have inflated this massive data class, creating more compliance and security risks. Now that the enterprise spotlight is on artificial intelligence, companies are starting to examine how to manage and utilize their unstructured data.

“Unstructured data has always been in the wings, but businesses largely ignored it while they focused on other data matters. But as they grow more confident about data management, and due to the growing pressure from cybercrime, compliance, and AI, there is a surge of interest in specifically managing unstructured data,” says Abrams.

Data Processing Units arrive

Data Processing Units (DPUs) are a new type of specialized chip that alleviates a significant load from the computing chips powering data center systems. These chips can handle specialized data tasks, such as transfer, reduction, security, compression, analytics, and encryption, at scale. Data growth and artificial intelligence are increasing interest in DPUs. Nvidia, the world’s most valuable chipmaker, as well as Microsoft and Amazon, are actively developing DPUs for different uses. Very soon, these new chips will be ubiquitous.

“Most companies probably won’t jump into DPUs directly. Except for enterprises with deep pockets, the main adopters are companies developing data-centric technologies such as AI or selling those services into the market. But that also means that while many companies won’t own DPUs in 2024, they will benefit from them,” says Abrams.

HAMR more data onto hard drives

The first magnetic hard drive was released in 1956. Today’s magnetic drives, colloquially known as hard drives, are much more advanced than that first model, maintaining a healthy market share due to their excellent cost-to-storage ratio. Although solid-state flash drives have been narrowing that ratio gap, magnetic hard drives have a new edge: HAMR, or Heat Assisted Magnetic Recording. HAMR is a new technique to write data to a magnetic drive’s platter, opening the door for hard drives with capacities of 40 and 50 terabytes (current drives max out at 20 terabytes). The first test HAMR drives shipped to selected companies in 2023, indicating that 2024 might be when this technology debuts commercially.

“Lately, many people have tried to predict the end of magnetic hard drives, but technologies like HAMR have other plans. HAMR is one of several new techniques to increase storage on hard drives, and it looks set to be the first to arrive. The idea of drives with 50 terabytes of storage will be very appealing to companies struggling with storage. It will continue to expand the relevance of magnetic hard drives,” he concludes.

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