If you were to ask any CEO across EMEA what their business priorities are, it’s likely they would highlight a mixture of the following; delivering a better service to customers, providing a more efficient operating model, and remaining profitable. 

Then you add in trying to minimize the disruption to business that the current climate is bringing, and you have yourself a very complex business environment. In order to meet their priorities effectively, they will have probably adopted one or more of the same technologies; IoT and Edge, blockchain or Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning (AI & ML). And what’s the one thing connecting all of those technologies together? Data.

Each one of those technologies listed above is either collecting, storing or processing data, and all are working to derive value from it. So whether they know it or not, every organisation is competing in the data game. To compete successfully, organisations need to extract value from their data. 

This includes all the data they have today, but more importantly, the data they will possess in the immediate and long term future. However, many don’t have the right strategies in place to make the most of their data or have the technology in place to leverage it to its full capabilities.

The rush to the cloud

Many businesses are looking to cloud services to provide them with the level of agility, speed and efficiency that is needed to meet demand. This is because when a business operates with its data sitting in a legacy data center and a business unit comes to IT asking for a new project, IT is bound by the rules and restrictions of that data center. IT depends on how quickly the data center can give them access to available machines, get them plugged in and running etc. This results in delays of days, if not months, to get going with a new project. 

This is where the allure of the cloud comes in. You can go to a cloud provider with a credit card, and they will be able to spin up machines and data and get you up and running quickly. Organisations recognize they need this kind of speed and agility to stay ahead and innovate.

While the cloud allows businesses to spin up quickly, test and maybe even fail, then tear it all down and then try again, it is not a one size fits all solution. For many businesses, they will need to implement some form of hybrid solution, with some mission-critical systems still needing to remain in legacy data centers, creating silos of data sitting across various systems. Then there are the security implications of using a public cloud, as well as the disconnection of data when you create these silos of data sat across legacy systems, private and public cloud.

The race to AI and ML

Another issue that often crops up is businesses hearing about the power of AI & ML in transforming business processes and instantly wanting to implement it within their organisation. The problem here is that in order to get to the point of being able to use ML or AI effectively, there’s a whole number of things businesses have to do with their data first. 

Businesses can’t just jump to the top of the pyramid and all of a sudden do predictive modelling — extracting value is a journey. First and foremost, businesses have to get the basics right, like accurately collecting and processing the data, along with analytics and applying business intelligence, in a way that allows engineers to apply some kind of basic algorithm on it, before going for the big insights that ML and AI can deliver.

The role of an Enterprise Data Cloud

In order to extract value from data and stop these silos, businesses need to implement technologies that will support them on their data journey. This is where an Enterprise Data Cloud (EDC) comes into play. Essentially, an EDC is a hybrid & multi cloud platform that uses analytics at every stage of the data lifecycle to help organisations extract the true value from their data. It can be defined by four key pillars:

The ability to run analytics in any cloud

An EDC is optimised for both hybrid and multi-cloud environments and delivers the same data management capabilities across bare metal, private and public clouds. This means businesses have flexibility and choice over where they host their data and don’t have to be dictated to by their cloud provider.

Supporting a business wherever it is in its data lifecycle

Whether that’s right at the beginning when a business is trying to understand what data they have and how they can look inside it to pull value, right through the spectrum to AI and ML, an EDC can be used by any business, no matter how far into their data journey they are.

Single and consistent security and governance

In the world we find ourselves living in, it’s simply not okay to not know where your data is and who has access to it. An EDC provides organisations with consistent data security, governance and control that will safeguard data privacy, regulatory compliance, and prevents cybersecurity threats across different environments.

Based on open source technology

This is one of the most important features of an EDC because open source technology has an extremely fast rate of innovation. Rather than a private company owning a software stack and investing R&D to develop it, the open source community drives change, drives innovation, and drives feature functionality at a rate that you can’t do anywhere else.

Answering the business needs

The need for an EDC comes from a business recognition that it has to do something better with the data it has and will have in order to provide better service to its customers or improve internal processes. It is also the recognition that for most companies, regardless of all the benefits of a public cloud, not everything can be done in this one environment. 

Some of its data and legacy systems will need to be in the data center, and a business will need a form of hybrid system. This is a need an EDC can answer, as it provides a unified point of control, to manage IT infrastructure, data and analytic workloads, from one centralized platform, regardless of where the data lives.

Businesses that ensure their data works the hardest for them, providing them with a complete picture of their products, their customers and their needs are the ones that will see the highest ROI from an EDC. After all, data is the most important asset to a business, but if organisations aren’t using it in the smartest way possible, it’s value becomes worthless. With an EDC, businesses can maximize the value from their data and transform it into clear, actionable insights.

  • Paul MacKay, EMEA Cloud Lead at Cloudera.

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