Data management: watch out for leaks

There has been a popular idea that data is the “new oil” due to its ever-increasing value. In fact, data has surpassed the value of oil and could now be compared to water – invaluable and essential to everything we do.

Data, whether in verbal, analog or digital form, has informed human progress since the dawn of time. As it proliferates and our collective knowledge grows accordingly, humans could use it to achieve unprecedented progress, solve the world’s most pressing problems and, of course, profit from it.

The value of data is beyond money. It enables everything we do in life – communicate, transact, engage and explore.

In the world of data, just as we have seen with water, those who own it or control access to it have the upper hand. The challenge facing the world today is that unless it is carefully managed and governed, it could end up failing to realize its potential, or worse, being controlled by a handful of profiteers.

Cybercrime and cyberwars are already happening for data control. It is not inconceivable that even bigger wars could be waged over who controls the data domain.

With pools of data stored and consumed around the world in varying amounts and types, modern data giants, such as Alphabet (Google), Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Microsoft, increasingly enjoy a monopoly in data storage and management services. This is especially true in the larger distributed data “oceans” which, in size and complexity, far dwarf the local on-premises data pools and lakes of commercial organizations.

Even small pools of data in organizations’ private domains are moving to the cloud to simplify data management, and companies are now trading server capacity for lakes and oceans of data.

The value of data is beyond money. It enables everything we do in life – communicate, transact, engage and explore.

To date, these developments have been largely beneficial. However, they raise questions about what could happen when all of the world’s data resides under the control of a handful of organizations. As the world depends on data as one of its most critical resources, those who control it must be regulated.

Anti-trust regulators are now beginning to rear their heads in an effort to control how data giants do business in the future. Indeed, be it giants or a plethora of smaller players, whoever controls and manages data must be carefully governed, given the growing value of data and the impacts if corruption, theft or detention.

Water engineers and plumbers

If data is like water, then authorities become the water regulators and engineers of the digital world, specifying certain standards for water supply and treatment.

Data scientists – creators, acquirers, engineers, managers, analysts, scientists and users of data – become the experts and the plumbers of water treatment plants. These “plumbers” are the main data custodians, who design, implement and maintain storage systems, pipes, pumps, tanks, valves and controls.

As with water, the protection, distribution and use of this valuable data resource must be actively managed, to avoid blockages and/or spills that could lead to risk and loss of value. The tools and plumbing required to deliver and maintain data lakes and oceans in the cloud are complex and require careful planning and expertise to deploy and manage.

Those who control data lakes and oceans must ensure that data does not stagnate, become contaminated, or flood uncontrollably. Fundamentally, they must also allow equitable access to this vital resource.

These plumbers must have the forecasting and data management skills to ensure the most economical and safest flows to consumers. It is common to have both on-premises and cloud (or hybrid) data experts on data management and governance teams in most organizations.

When access and scaling of capacity goes unregulated, it becomes necessary for anti-trust regulators to step in to restrict or unbundle those who control data flows to and from the giants.

This situation has presented a capacity unbundling opportunity for organizations that have invested in server and storage capacity by offering their data capacity on giant grids, thereby limiting data monopoly while benefiting from the cloud.

Whether a handful of giants control global data resources or control is decentralized to pockets across the world, those who control valuable data resources, including plumbers, must do so ethically, ensuring the access to all who need it.

And to support this, the toolsets they use must seamlessly support environments to enable safe, protected, and consistent plumbing.

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