From IPv6 to Big Data – Follow Me if You Dare

The customer asks, “When will you support IPv6?”. The vendor responds with a roadmap presentation that shows it somewhere in the next months. When I watch this occur I cannot help but wonder if the vendor or customer really understands the context of this question.

We love reading about cool, cutting edge new technology. The popular press has gushed about everything from Google Glass to PayPal Here to Smart Watches to Nest Protectors to drones. IPv6 is every bit as exciting as those technologies. Sure, we’ve been talking about it for at least 10 years, it is infrastructure, and nobody knows what IP even stands for. In other words, it seems more boring than sexy, but think about what it will enable. Yep, I’m heading down the path of IoT, the Internet of Things.

We will soon have access to information we’ve never even thought about before. Your coffee cup will know that you like to drink 3 cups of coffee before 9:15 am and send a notification to your coffee machine that your second cup is empty and to make sure there is enough for one more. Google’s “Project Jacquard” potentially turns every pair of Levi’s jeans into a touchscreen. Anything in a supply chain could alert you to a potential business outage: a bearing going bad in conveyor belt, the tensile strength of a vehicle frame or the real-time monitoring of a brake pad on an industrial T284 Industrial Mining truck, (http://www.liebherr.ca/EM/en-GB/products_ca-em.wfw/id-20878-0/measure-metric). Consider how this information will change something like a preventative maintenance task.

Biochip transponders, built-in sensors, smart labels, and even the smart grid from your energy supplier – they all will be collecting, analyzing and correlating data for their own uses. From identifying airborne toxins to detecting glucose levels in a diabetic to monitoring air pressure in a tire to tracking barometric changes in a room to sensing and mapping the ground, all of these technologies serve great purpose to the individual industries or even departments. Correlate all this and just imagine what a business could learn.

The healthcare system generates huge quantities of data. Patient health records, diagnostic data, genetic data, DNA sequencing and the government mandate of EMRs are all leading to larger quantities of data. Add wearable devices to this and doctors will have access to mountains of data. (For now, let’s ignore privacy concerns.) The idea that the health industry will have access to millions of people’s health information is intriguing. I would love a proactive healthcare system that keeps me healthy rather than treating me after I’m already sick. Collect data from my Fitbit, Apple watch, and Levi’s jeans. Then, anonymously analyze it on a system with other similar people and provide me with information regarding what I may deal with next. Maybe I can avoid illness or injury by tweaking my diet or exercise. Gone will be the days of contacting your doctor when you feel ill, waiting for an appointment for them to tell you what you already know, and picking up a prescription hours or days later. Check out the Pittsburgh Health Data Alliance where the University of Pittsburgh, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) and Carnegie Mellon University have joined forces to develop a joint infrastructure to mine, correlate and create a system that provides unprecedented access to knowledge. Learn more here.

Going back to the IPv6 question – how do you build infrastructure that supports these new workloads? It’s not just about having lots of data, but also having data sprawl. You’ve got to consider networking, security, performance, and … data protection.

How do you protect data quantities measured in the zettabyte range? There’s no magical technology or technique that makes this work. Any solution begins by understanding the data. The days are gone where we could treat all the data the same and apply a “one-size-fits-all” backup approach. Customers are familiar with segregating data between business units, but the differentiation must now become more granular. In other words, we need to pay closer attention to the metadata. We need more intelligence around the data, a better understanding of how it relates and correlates with other data across the business to provide our customers and partners with better visibility into how best to protect data.

As a vendor, we can we merely provide containers to keep the data in and provide access to copies in the case something is lost? No. Of course, we must continue to provide those services in various ways of consumption, (learn more about consumption models here), but we must also consider how to evolve the technology to enable a more efficient business transition to this new world. The problems don’t change – availability, reliability, recovery, security – but the scope, scale, and control do. The vendors that can apply their expertise to the new world will continue to be relevant. Those that don’t? Well, you don’t want to follow where they’re going.

Steven Weller @stvnwllr

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