451 Research: Opportunities and chaos ahead – 2014 previews, part 3

By Eric Hanselman; special to InsightaaS.com from 451 Research

Eric Hanselman, chief analyst, 451 Research

InsightaaS perspective: Eric Hanselman - chief analyst for 451 Research, one of the world’s leading sources of insight into cutting edge technologies — has a fascinating perspective on technology. With a purview spanning technology areas that are important to InsightaaS, including cloud, Big Data and analytics, and network and IT infrastructure, Hanselman is able to bring insight to issues shaping practical enterprise IT options and decisions.

In this piece, "Opportunities and chaos ahead - 2014 previews, part 3" — the third and final section of his 2014 outlook series — Hanselman brings a philosophical note to topical IT issues connected to GRC (governance, risk management and compliance). He uses the term "data gravity" to describe the cases and effects of consumerization, and uses another celestial metaphor, Pluto, to evaluate Big Data analytics (in the section entitled "Is Hadoop a planet?"). Elsewhere, references range from Schrödinger's cat (as a means of positioning, the paradox of digital governance in the cloud era) to Gil Scott-Heron (in "the data revolution will not be televised").

Readers of this site's content are aware InsightaaS.com works with 451 Research to highlight occasional thought leadership pieces, and we believe that this piece does an excellent job of illustrating why we are committed to this practice. Hanselman's predictions are a must-read for business and IT leaders seeking context for contemporary IT options.

Note: if you are interested in obtaining a subscription to the 451 Research Data Management & Analytics program, please contact 451 directly, or contact InsightaaS at reportinfo@insightaas.com.

This is the final installment of our previews for 2014. The 451 Research team is considering what we will encounter in our year's transit, and how the forces of mobility, utility, efficiency and data gravity will impact the orbits and interplay of technology and markets in the expanding galaxy of information technology. Our first and second parts addressed infrastructure, cloud and datacenter; today we explore the things to come in information management and social business.

Escaping the black hole of consumerization

Recent years have seen dramatic growth in consumer-focused IT. New communications methods and service offerings have permeated our daily lives, creating new ways to interact and share information. As with many advances in technology, an understanding of the implications and impacts of use have trailed adoption, especially in consumer-focused capabilities. Individuals aren't often tasked with understanding the privacy, compliance or data security consequences of their actions, unlike their corporate counterparts. The combined forces of utility, in the form of a need get a task done, and data gravity, the requirement of the data to do the task, propel users into action before they consider the long-term ramifications. File sync services and BYOD can make this far too simple a step to take. The combined effects can seem like the inescapable draw of a black hole.

The past year has seen enterprises scrambling to deal with the debris from the impact of consumer expectations colliding with corporate mandates. The increasing complexity of dealing with the push to provide 'anywhere, anytime' access to data won't abate in the year ahead, but there is hope for those who can approach this struggle intelligently. Options that provide flexibility and still meet compliance needs should improve and expand as the year rolls out. Wiley buyers will need to counter the pull of the black hole with their own data gravity, making the necessary data available, but on their terms — putting the cloud to work in ways that leverage scale and accessibility, but satisfy GRC mandates.

Digital governance hailed as sleep aid

A discussion of the governance aspects of an IT project can cause eyelids to droop, having an almost narcoleptic effect. IT has been steadily losing control of the various aspects of data management as user-initiated IT efforts slip beyond their grasp, while incurring ever-greater costs. A lack of visibility, coupled with expanding privacy regulations, should squeeze enterprises into taking governance more seriously in 2014. It's an area where there are still only limited choices, and the pressure to do something will cause more than a few to wander into murky implementations as they attempt to more effectively identify risk and manage the costs of mitigation. Trying to determine the degree of compliance will become more difficult as the complexity of deployed applications increases. For some, it may seem like Schrödinger's cat, being both in and out of compliance, depending on the view. Organizations will have to move beyond speculation and build systems that allow them the controls to better understand the state of their compliance efforts, or risk the legal consequences.

Is Hadoop a planet?

As popular as Hadoop has become, there is still confusion about the value that it offers and how to characterize its attributes. Much as the debate has raged about whether Pluto is a planet, a dwarf planet or one more large, icy body in our solar system, there is no satisfactory metaphor for this data platform. The International Astronomical Union has determined the object formerly known as a planet's fate, but Hadoop's classification is still in limbo. The capabilities that it offers take it beyond the various forms of data warehouses. The latter's dependence on structured processes is a clear distinction. The other forms that have been proposed — a data refinery (too linear), a data lake (certainly unstructured) and an enterprise data hub (lacking transformation) — have proven too incomplete to gain acceptance.

In the coming year, greater focus will be applied to the work of establishing a suitable metaphor to characterize Hadoop's value. The force of data gravity will drive users to find maximal leverage in its employment.

The data revolution will not be televised

As there has been great interest in Hadoop, many have swung their view to analytics and its business value in the enterprise. We've seen the impressive achievements of analytical efforts, but they've required significant work on the part of IT teams to manage the data and deliver the results to the business teams that have defined the problem sets that need to be addressed. This requirement has limited the pace at which new projects can be undertaken, and kept the cost high enough that many speculative efforts that might yield new discoveries aren't pursued. There are frameworks that raise analytical work beyond crafting scripts and queries, and visualization tools to better present data. Analysts can craft dashboards and create complex reports with ease.

The greater impact of the data revolution will come when the business analysts can control and manage much more of the analytical process, including data preparation. The year before us will bring tool functionality that will deliver more comprehensive power to business users. The next stage will let them transform, profile and cleanse data sets — tasks that previously required IT support. This will allow the mechanics of the analytical process to fade from view as more users gain the ability to perform full analyses themselves. Both data management companies and business intelligence vendors will offer these capabilities as they work to expand their audience and increase utility.

After the data revolution, there will be sophisticated analysis tools for everyone! With this explosion of new tools, it's tempting to think that IT could step back from its many data tasks, but that invites the process to drift out of the controls that are necessary to meet governance and compliance needs. A truly successful path will blend the IT view of GRC needs with the flexibility to allow users to build the analytics that they dream of, allowing collaboration to satisfy both demands.

Bringing order out of chaos

Across the breadth of topics that we've covered in these previews, there are threads that bind them. Similar forces are at work across these areas. Without careful attention, 2014 could be a year where IT efforts stray into dangerous and difficult areas. The continuing macroeconomic pressures will hamper the extent of new initiatives, so projects will need to be chosen carefully. As we've shown, the situation may be chaotic, but there are opportunities that can be grasped. The 451 team wishes all of our readers a successful and prosperous New Year!

For more information on the 451 Research Data Management & Analytics program, please contact 451 directly, or contact InsightaaS at reportinfo@insightaas.com.