Why digital transformation success hinges on effective data management

BrandPost By IBM
Dec 17, 2020
Digital TransformationIT Leadership

Digital transformation can improve business resilience, but it needs storage that’s up to the task

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Credit: Getty Images

Enterprises and their IT teams have faced some incredible challenges through the last twelve months. Even the most cautious and conservative companies have had to learn to adapt at speed; to rework or rebuild their infrastructure to meet circumstances that nobody foresaw. But while you might expect a more difficult social and economic climate to pause plans for transformation or the hybrid cloud, the opposite is true. Recent research from Gartner found that 69% of boards of directors are actively accelerating their digital business initiatives, and planning to increase their spend on IT and technology by an average of 6.9%. For Gartner, increasing the pace of transformation is less an option than an imperative.

‘Organisations have to change now’ says Gartner chief of research, Chris Howard. ‘There is no option to continue on as they have.’ Howard argues that it’s crucial that organisations make ‘better-informed and faster decisions, focusing on automation, real-time risk assessment and mitigation, continuous value delivery and agile strategy making. And they need to be doing it now.’

Forward-thinking organisations are doing exactly that. WaterAid, an international NGO focused on water, sanitation and hygiene, was driven by the Covid 19 pandemic to accelerate its work on data-driven transformation and shift from physical processes to digital wherever possible. The University of Sheffield’s Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) – at the forefront of the fourth industrial revolution and digital manufacturing – found the pandemic only increased the demand on its data resources, accelerating work to enhance their resilience and performance.

Of course, modernising your IT estate while continuing to manage day-to-day operations is a big ask, with storage posing particular challenges. Existing business data needs to be held and secured, yet also made accessible to a more remote and distributed workforce. Enterprises need new storage architectures that can deliver the capacity, flexibility and performance to handle new data sources at the edge and in the cloud. Storage needs to change to match the pace of transformation, but vendor lock-in and legacy technologies form constraints. Organisations face a struggle in managing an increasingly complex storage estate without consistent management tools.

Most of all, in an era of uncertainty, resilience, security and business continuity must be paramount. Storage platforms need to be agile and scalable enough to meet evolving data requirements, yet highly secure. They need to provide backup that’s simple, transparent and robust, so that businesses can roll with whatever challenges the next year has to offer and recover rapidly from cyber-attacks. And if this can happen in a way that reduces their operating costs and management burdens, all the better.

The technology is already here. In the words of Eric Burgener, research vice president for the Infrastructure Systems, Platforms and Technologies Group at IDC, ‘new technologies like persistent memory, storage-class memory, NVMe over Fabrics and quad-level cell flash media technology are being combined with software innovation to create the storage infrastructure needed to enable successful digital transformation.’ What enterprise needs is a coherent platform to pull it all together.

IBM has built such a platform, simplifying its storage portfolio into a highly-flexible platform stretching from entry-level to the high-end, that can match the enterprise’s changing storage requirements as it evolves. It provides high-performance storage where it is needed, and cost-effective capacity where speed isn’t critical. It secures and protects business data across systems, containers and the hybrid cloud.

For example, IBM’s FlashSystem storage, provides the capacity and performance enterprises need within a single, optimised storage pool, with a simplified management platform that makes it easier to scale from the datacentre through to public cloud. delivering flash performance and higher capacities at a lower cost. Meanwhile, in-line compression maximises capacity and provides headroom for future growth. Using virtualisation, enterprises can unify their entire storage pool, using smart tiering to move data automatically between different storage classes. This flexibility, along with thin provisioning and space efficient snapshots, gives firms scope for robust data protection at a lower overall cost.

This all resolves directly into real-world business benefits. Just look at the UK’s Met Office, which found that FlashSystem compression enabled them to save approximately £200,000 on storage infrastructure without any compromise on performance. Moving to IBM’s storage platform has enabled AMRC to meet the data requirements of new manufacturing processes and rapidly prototype new AI models, while still working with its existing systems for long-term data storage and retention. It’s also helped WaterAid remove performance bottlenecks and reduce its core data processing times by 40%.

Beyond FlashSystem storage, IBM’s portfolio works to proactively detect attacks or potential issues, protect business data and enable a rapid recovery.  By working across on-premise systems and the hybrid cloud, it delivers a simplified, software-defined storage platform that gives organisations the performance they need for transformation projects around big data analytics and cutting-edge AI, without losing out on flexibility, security, visibility and cost controls.

The result? A storage portfolio that accelerates business transformation while providing secure and resilient storage for an era of uncertainty – and that does so in a cost-effective way.

You can find out more through an IBM and CIO webcast, which goes into more detail on how IBM storage technology has helped AMRC and WaterAid transform to meet the challenges of the last twelve months and make the most of the opportunities of tomorrow. You can view the Webcast here