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Innovation powered by data, enabled by a modern datacenter

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Every organization, whatever its size, regardless of the industry it operates in, sits on a huge mountain of actionable data. In the future, the inflow of information from sensors and connected devices will only grow further. Which companies will be the leaders in their industry in ten years from now, will be defined by the way they use this data to provide competitive advantage to themselves, their partners and their customers.

For some time now, the volume of data produced has doubled every two years, and the digital universe is set to multiply tenfold between 2013 and 2020. According to researchers at IDC, in the year 2020, no less than 44 trillion gigabytes will need to be captured, stored and managed. And that’s probably a conservative estimate. It’s hard to imagine what the data deluge will look like in 2030, when the number of connected devices will have grown further, from the 32 billion connected devices in 2020 to over eight times as many (200 billion) in 2030.

At the same time, the pace of technology is revving up as well, still powered by Moore’s Law, stating that the performance of computers doubles roughly every two years. This affects every device containing processors, so that means networking equipment and storage too. Combine the growth in data points that can be processed and the skyrocketing power of computers, and we will be able to achieve ever-greater things thanks to technology than we are currently capable of. Technology is the driver of economic and social progress. To cite just one example: analyzing a human genome takes roughly 24 hours and costs a thousand euros. In twenty years from now, thanks to falling prices of compute power, scientists will achieve the same in less than an hour and at a cost of around one euro.

Making money from wind

Another example. Recently I met one of our customers, a Danish company that specializes in wind energy: Vestas Wind Systems A/S. Vestas operates over 50,000 wind turbines globally, which gives them a 20% market share. From the start of the company, they knew data was fundamental in their operations, offering them both a competitive advantage and a way of helping their customers, whose wind turbines Vestas operates. These customers see a windmill as an investment from which they expect a high return.

Working closely with the global meteorological community, Vestas acquired masses of data, thereby allowing them to render the weather on the entire planet back to the year 2000. With 35,000 measuring stations in the world, they were able to find major patterns in weather conditions. This helps Vestas and their customers in several ways. Firstly, they are able to shorten the time to market. To test the opportunity of a new wind turbine park, the normal way is to erect a 150-meter tower, put sensors on top and measure the weather for two years. Thanks to the data Vestas possesses, they can simply simulate the weather conditions on that particular spot and decide if putting a turbine park there is an investment worth making. This speeds up decision-making from two years to five minutes.

Secondly, based on real-time data collected from the turbines themselves, Vestas can help improve the yield of entire turbine parks and fleets. Each windmill is equipped with 150 sensors, and collectively, all devices bring 50 million simultaneous information streams to Vestas. Exploiting that information, decisions can be made on how much wind each tower should take to leave an optimal amount of wind for the next ones in the row. Using real-time data makes a tremendous difference, Anders Rhod Gregersen, chief scientist at Vestas told me:

Using historical data to make decisions is like steering a car based on what you see in the rearview mirror. Using real-time data allows you not only to see the road in front of you, but even take a peek at what lies beyond the next hill.”

Digital transformation

Granted, the wind energy market is a unique industry, but I am convinced every organization should find inspiration in the Vestas example. The continued existence of a company is dependent on whether it is able to develop a digital business model. One of the comments that I frequently hear, is that many of these new uses of technology come from business rather than from IT. Business leaders have a great insight into what technological advances can be used to their advantage.

This is reflected in a recent survey conducted by Vanson Bourne on behalf of EMC. Out of 4,000 business leaders polled across 16 countries, 52% acknowledge that they have experienced significant disruption in their industries as a result of digital technologies. Almost half of the respondents admit to not knowing what their industry will look like in three years’ time. Six out of ten say that they have witnessed new competitive entrants in their markets as a result of digital initiatives and 56% cite customer demand as the driving force behind the need to digitally transform.

The modern datacenter

There’s an interesting reversal of trends going on in the IT department: whereas companies previously had the tradition of buying packaged software which they ran on an infrastructure they built themselves, currently smart enterprises are doing just the opposite: they are buying packaged equipment, which we call converged infrastructure, on top of which they now build smart, cloud-native apps. These consumer-grade mobile applications and embedded software are transforming their products, their services and the way they engage with the world.

To not miss this trend, enterprises need to leverage a modern datacenter using converged platforms based on technologies such as flash, scale-out, software-defined and cloud-enabled systems. Using pre-built and pre-tested infrastructure, IT staff can now focus on what really matters: providing optimal services) to the business and optimizing IT production for business consumption.

Is the modern datacenter the end point of digital transformation? Quite the contrary, there is no end point for transformation, it is as constant as human creativity and innovation. In fact, the modern datacenter is just the beginning of the journey, and all paradigms will continue to evolve dramatically.

Jacques Boschung, EMC

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