5G, IoT, and the data explosion — a storage problem?

By 2023, that there will be around 31.4 billion connected devices. Where will companies store the data before they crunch and harness it?
17 August 2018

There’s data everywhere in a world with billions of connected devices. Source: Shutterstock

We live in a world where smart devices, smart appliances, and smart solutions make our home and workplace smarter. Connected cars and factories embedded with sensors too are a reality.

However, with 5G coming in, a lot more devices will ‘come online’. By 2023, Ericsson estimates that there will be around 31.4 billion connected devices, almost double the 2017 figure of 17.5 billion – credit for which goes to 5G.

As a result, businesses will have a lot more repositories to work with, and a lot more data to collect, store, analyze, and turn into insights.

In an exclusive conversation with TechHQ, IBM Fellow Andy Walls explained why the upcoming ‘data explosion’ poses a challenge to storage, and how businesses must start thinking about their data.

“Data brings an incredible opportunity to businesses. The challenge is that clients see their data storage needs grow by about 40 percent every year. Their budgets, unfortunately, don’t grow too much,” explained Walls.

The biggest concern for businesses is how handling the ocean of data that they’re getting their hands on. In coming months, with 5G rolling out, the problem is expected to exponentially increase.

How businesses can get smart about data

Well, it seems like storing the data isn’t that big of a challenge.

“When I started out, a couple hundred megabytes of memory looked like a CPU tower. Today, a petabyte of data can fit in the palm of my hands,” explained Walls.

Clearly, the physical storage of data isn’t likely to be a problem. Especially with cloud solutions, software-defined storage, and several other innovation solutions on offer.

Being the CTO and Chief Architect of IBM Flash Systems, Walls is able to explain to clients that buying storage is an investment, one that they cannot run away from without harming their business. And it’s something clients understand as well – because they see the value in creating a good data infrastructure for their business.

However, investing in data storage solves only one aspect of tomorrow’s data problem.

What tomorrow’s businesses really need

To prepare for tomorrow, businesses need more than just the capacity to store. They need the ability to analyze data in real-time, and they need the intelligence to provision and manage their data stores autonomously.

“When you have a lot of storage, you’re going to get a lot of requests to provision and maintain the storage. As a result, you’ll need a lot of data administrators. But that’s not very practical. It’s why companies need to be able to deploy AI solutions that autonomously provision for data, and manage their storage – efficiently,” suggested Walls.

And that’s just the first step. In the future, storage will get more and more intelligent. You could even have GPUs on the storage units, running AI apps, checking the data that comes in, making sure it’s all free from malware and other cyberthreats.

There’s no fixed answer. Tomorrow’s going to be exciting. But if companies want to make the most of the data that comes out of smart cities and the billions of new connected devices, they’re going to have to start thinking about their data storage solutions and infrastructure now.