Key Criteria for Evaluating Unstructured Data Management

How to Take Advantage of the Exponential Data Growth

Table of Contents

  1. Summary
  2. About the Key Criteria Report
  3. Unstructured Data Management Primer
  4. Evaluation Criteria
  5. Metrics
  6. Table Stakes
  7. Key Criteria
  8. Critical Features: Impact Analysis
  9. Near-Term Game-Changing Technology
  10. Conclusion

1. Summary

Exponential data growth is no longer news, with unstructured data outpacing structured data growth by several orders of magnitude now. Everything is contributing to it, and human-generated data is now only a small amount of the total data generated globally. It is now machine-generated data that is growing the most, thanks to the increasing number and quality of sensors, compute power, parallelism, and so on. This is data that, in most cases, needs to be stored for long periods of time, or forever.

Managing storage capacity with efficiency has become easier and reasonably less expensive thanks to scale-out storage systems for files and objects. At the same time, the cloud offers the opportunity even to expand the number of options available in terms of performance, capacity, and cold data archiving. In the last ten years, we have moved from storing data locally, mostly on-premises, to storing it in several repositories that present different characteristics and access methods. This is an accelerating trend, multi-cloud IT strategies are becoming quite common, and data is now created and consumed at the edge as well. It all depends on the business, application, and user requirements. Furthermore, as we recently discussed in a recent report (Key Criteria for Evaluating Hybrid Cloud Data Protection), finding a solution to protect data across several infrastructures and environments is still quite challenging.

Moreover, in this multi-cloud scenario, new demanding regulations like GDPR require a different approach. Data protection and management processes are crucial to comply with ever-changing business requirements, laws, and organization policies.

We are finally coming to a point where storing data safely and for a long time does not actually bring any benefit to an organization, and it can quickly become a liability. On the contrary, with the right processes and tools, it is now possible to take control of data and exploit its hidden value, transforming it from a liability to an asset. Examples of this transformation are now common across all industries, with enterprises of all sizes reusing old data for new purposes thanks to technologies and computing power that weren’t available a few years ago.

With the right unstructured data management solutions, it is possible to understand what data is actually stored in the storage systems, no matter how complex and dispersed it is, and build a strategy to intervene on costs while increasing the return on investment for data storage.

Depending on the approach chosen by the user, there are several potential benefits in building and developing a data management strategy for unstructured data, including better security and compliance, improved services for end-users, cost reduction, and data reusability.

Report Methodology

A Key Criteria report analyzes the most important features of a technology category to help the reader understand how they impact an enterprise and its IT organization. Features are grouped into three categories:

  1. Table Stakes
  2. Key Criteria
  3. Near-term game-changing technology

The goal is to help organizations assess capabilities and build a mid-to-long-term infrastructure strategy. In a mature technology, the solutions are divided into three target market categories: enterprise, high-performance, and specialized solutions. In a mature market, these differ in their characteristics and how they can be integrated with existing infrastructures. That said, the assessment is more dependent on the specific user’s needs and not solely on the organization’s vertical.

Table Stakes

Table stakes are system characteristics and features that are important when choosing the right solution. They include architectural choices that depend on the size of the organization, its requirements, the expected growth over time, and the types of workloads. Table stakes are mature, and the implementation of these features will not add any business advantage nor significantly change the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) or Return on Investment (ROI) of the infrastructure.

Key Criteria

Key Criteria features really differentiate one solution from another. Depending on real user needs, they have a positive impact on one or more of the metrics mentioned. Therefore, implementation details are essential to understanding the benefits relative to the infrastructure, processes, or business. 
Following table stakes and Key Criteria, aspects like architectural design and implementation regain importance and need to be analyzed in great detail. In some cases, the features described in the Key Criteria section are the core solution, and the rest of the system is designed around them. This could be an important benefit for organizations that see them as a real practical advantage, but it also poses some risks in the long term. In fact, over time, the differentiation introduced by a feature becomes less relevant and falls into the ‘table stakes’ group, while new system capabilities introduce new benefits or address new needs, with a positive impact on the metrics like efficiency, manageability, flexibility and so on.

Key Criteria brings several benefits to organizations of all sizes with different business needs. It is organized to give the reader a brief description of the specific functionality or technology, its benefits in general terms, and what to expect from a good implementation. In order to give a complete picture, we also include examples of the most interesting implementation currently available in the market.

Critical Impact of Features on the Metrics

Technology, functionality, and architecture designs that have demonstrated their value are adopted by other vendors, become a standard, and lose their status as a differentiator. Initially, the implementation of these Key Criteria was crucial for delivering real value, perhaps with some trade-offs. The most important metrics for the evaluation of a technology solution include:

    • Architecture
    • Scalability
    • Flexibility
    • Performance
    • Manageability and ease of use
    • Total Cost of Ownership

This section provides the impact individual features have on the metrics at the moment of report publication. Each feature is scored from 1 to 5, with a score of five having the most impact on an enterprise. This is not absolute and should always be verified with the organization’s requirements and use case. Strategic decisions can then be based on the impact each metric can have on the infrastructure, system management, and IT processes already in place with particular emphasis on ROI and TCO.

Near-Term Game-Changing Technology

In this report section, we analyze the most interesting technologies on the horizon over the next 12 to 18 months. Some are already present in some form but usually as part of niche products or for addressing very specific use cases. In either case, at this stage, the implementations available are not mature enough to be grouped in key criteria. Yet when implemented correctly and efficiently, this technology can really make a difference to the metrics.

Over time, game-changing features become key criteria, and the cycle repeats. Therefore, to get the best ROI, it is important to check on what vendors are offering today and what they plan to release in the near future.

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