Business Management

Q&A: The time is now for Big Data

Rick Theiler, Vice President, Asia Pacific, CommVault Systems, elaborates on Big Data trends in Singapore and the region.

Big data is one of the most hyped terms today. Is it still a promise or has its time come?

I would argue that big data has been with us in Asia Pacific for a long time already, but what has now changed is the way companies are able to create a genuine business differential to their competitors through the effective management and analysis of that big data.

Industry analysts estimate the amount of data produced globally more than doubles every two years - 1.8 trillion gigabytes in 500 quadrillion "files". Across all industry sectors and even within the small and medium businesses sector in Singapore our customers are experiencing data growth of between 30 percent and 50 percent in the next 18 months. That is not gigabyte volume increases, but for companies of that scale, managing such growth still represents a massive challenge - especially when trying to use that data to establish a competitive advantage.

CommVault has long recognised that this scale of data growth and generation would occur and that growth will continue at similar rates for the foreseeable future. This is why we developed a single platform, fully scalable solution enabling our customers to protect, manage and access "all things data" while delivering greater business insight.

When managed properly, big data can provide organisations with the intelligence to run their business more effectively, to mobilise their workforce through secured remote access, and the ability to gain customer insight through advanced data analytics. We have many customers in the Asia Pacific region, like the Stock Exchange of Thailand, for example, utilising additional business insight from effective management of unstructured data assets like email or social media or video. Being able to easily track and retrieve this data means more advanced analysis can be applied with quicker legislative compliance responsiveness.

The ability to generate, manage and store more data only has value if it enables a company to extract more insight and improve business performance in a way that would not have been possible before. The fact that more and more companies can now achieve this means the time of big data is now!

What kind of action do you see on the ground in terms of big data technology deployments?

Organisations are now focused on gaining new insights and intelligence from the huge amounts of data they are both capturing from external sources and generating internally.

One example of where our customers are doing this on the ground right now in Singapore is at The National Institute of Education. They needed to increase the volume of the information being gathered quarterly for the internal Customer Satisfaction Survey. The survey feedback is used to identify trends, requirements and improvements to the future state of IT service provision at the institute.

The survey is now able to consolidate feedback from multiple channels including video, audio, and social media content as part of the process, and the amount of raw data able to be incorporated has grown significantly. Obviously larger volumes of data in multiple different forms, requires different data management technologies and processes to be implemented, but this has also significantly increased the overall participation and feedback levels.

Enabling more ways for students to provide feedback through large multimedia files obviously means a 'Big Data' management deployment has been required, but the result has been that more value can be derived from the results and more effective policies implemented for the future.

Another regional example that we have seen, on a slightly different scale, is the Stock Exchange of Thailand (SET), which was the world's fifth best performing stock exchange in 2012.

SET recognised that the larger the volume of electronic trade information they could store, would mean a greater level of granularity could be applied to their reporting, and a wider variety of service applications could be made available to their customers. In their business, the difference between success and failure is the ability to identify trends and patterns, and to predict future activity effectively. That means the deeper the granularity of data they can identify, manage and access, the better business decisions the stock exchange can make.

This is a big data technology implementation in the truest sense, as SET is now able to directly realise relevant business details from previously un-integrated, unstructured datasets. Voice, Video and new media all present new ways for SET to extend their market understanding, while also being able to better track potential rogue traders for compliance and legislative purposes.

I met with Thirapun Sanpakit, Senior Vice President, Group Head, IT Operations at SET at our Simpana Version 10 launch in Bangkok a few weeks ago, and he told me that, "being able to utilise raw data, such as trading transactions and analysis of price feeds, provide insights in terms of investment behaviour and surveillance, which directly supports the Stock Exchange of Thailand's wider business strategy." That is big data delivering business value, and we are seeing numerous other examples on the ground with our other customers in APAC.

Can you give us some sense of that action in the Asia Pacific region? How does the adoption differ from other markets, especially the West?

According to results from a Forrester report released in January 2013, strong activity in big data management adoption has been seen across all verticals in this region, and we have certainly seen this reflected within our customer base.

One vertical that is driving big data management adoption more visibly in APAC than others is Government. The Singapore Government for instance will soon be launching a platform for Data Federation which will look to manage the huge amounts of information generated and stored by government organisations, while providing insight that Ministries can directly use to provide smarter, more efficient and effective services. Some of our other major government customers like the Australian Federal Department of Treasury, are looking to implement similar initiatives to increase efficiency and auditing transparency.

Compliance is an interesting driver for data management purchases in certain APAC markets. The Singapore Government's implementation of the Personal Data Protection Act (PDPA) in January 2013, aims to safeguard consumers' personal data against misuse by regulating the proper management and processing of personal data, for example.

This is perhaps the biggest direct example of where compliance legislation will impact organisations that market to any individual citizen. This legislation places new responsibilities on any organisation that has ownership of personal contact details of any kind and drives the need for greater data and information management to ensure compliance. Similar processes are already in place in New Zealand, and Japan - perhaps more so than in some Western Markets.

Whether it is compliance, cloud, mobility, or social business technologies that drive business to assess their data management, businesses in both APAC and the West need to understand that data will always be central to gaining insights and supporting decisions to innovate and enhancing service delivery. This means technology alone is not enough. A combination of tools, methodologies and information management styles and sources need to be adopted, and that is certainly a globally consistent factor.

How do trends in the Singapore market differ from those of other markets across the world?

We see that Singaporean companies are facing data growth in line with or above the global averages of 40-50 percent year-on-year, and in many ways, the adoption and the maturity of the market in Singapore is consistent with the developed markets elsewhere in the world. We also see that service level agreements in Singapore are strict, and the country's CIOs are more actively seeking an approach that can enable the meeting of these requirements than in other markets.

The Singapore Government, perhaps more so than other countries, however, is looking to implement cloud solutions, through Managed Service Providers (MSP) to ensure the efficiency and most importantly scalability of this approach. They are looking for the capability to integrate business intelligence (BI) solutions from as wide a variety of vendors as possible, and the MSP community. At the other end of the scale, we are also seeing these types of providers increasingly delivering data management (with the associated compliance and efficiency benefits) to the SMB market - especially in markets like Singapore and Malaysia.

These developments are definitely consistent with what we see elsewhere in the world - hence the specific multi-tenancy, and specific management reporting changes we have implemented to support MSPs in our new Simpana v10 release.

You are going to open your APAC HQ in Singapore. Why did you choose Singapore as your HQ?

We have always had a very strong local presence in Singapore, but in June 2013, we formalised our Singapore office as the APAC HQ. There were a number of reasons for that decision. From a sales perspective, Singaporean enterprises are really starting to come to grips with the business value of optimal information management and data storage. The ASEAN market as a whole also represents a huge opportunity for us to expand our customer base and Singapore is the perfect location to base our headquarters.

Singapore is increasingly being viewed as an off-shore data centre hub for the region. Recent natural disasters in Thailand, Japan and Australia/New Zealand mean that enterprises are looking to move primary/production data environments to Singapore, creating massive opportunities for CommVault, and making Singapore a very logical location.

CommVault is also acutely focused on working with the growing MSP sector, and APAC has one of the largest market opportunities in that space anywhere in the world. There are a lot of developments in our most recent version of the Simpana data management platform, specifically to support this sector, and a majority of our cloud solution capability has been developed by individuals based in this region. We are making further investments in that team in Singapore.

Perhaps above all, we have been and will continue to invest in workforce and infrastructure based in Singapore as it is a great environment for business to thrive, with a diverse and well educated community.

How is CommVault helping CIOs in Singapore and in other parts of the APAC region?

CIOs are under increasing pressure to deliver more with less. With IT infrastructure becoming more complex, and corporate data growing rapidly, CIOs are under pressure to not only 'store' vast quantities of content, but also manage it in such a way that it is easily accessible, and protected. In solving these strategic problems, CIOs have an opportunity to lay the foundation for a massively scalable modern information infrastructure that will help the enterprise protect and manage more information more efficiently. As well as that we are also able to deliver game-changing insights and intelligence on all data stored across the organisation.

CommVault is helping CIOs do this by creating a platform that securely and efficiently stores all business data in a single, virtual repository - called ContentStore -- and makes this rich content resource available to authorised users, across any mobile device that individual may need to use.

A single platform converges and collects all snapshot, backup and archive data while the same policy management interface eliminates unnecessary copies of data within the ContentStore. Whether data copies are used for disaster recovery or archived for regulatory compliance, information within the ContentStore is secure, deduplicated and application aware for when the organisation needs the CIO and his IT team to get it.

What are your company's plans in the next 2-3 years?

CommVault is an exciting place to be at this point in time. Our excellent fourth quarter results were highlighted by record revenues, non-GAAP EBIT and operating cash flows. Compared to last year, CommVault experienced 23 percent growth in software revenue and that is largely due to record software enterprise deals, where the transactions are worth more than US$100,000.

With strong demand for our products both in APAC and globally, we are well positioned going into fiscal 2014. We are particularly excited about the recent introduction of our new Simpana 10 software, which has taken innovation in the market to a whole new level by radically changing the way companies manage data for their mobile workforce, improve operational efficiencies and extract value from their data for better decision making.

Our CEO Bob Hammer has made many public references to our plans to be a $1billion revenue business within the next three years, and I am confident that APAC will play a very strong part in that. We are continuing the expansion of our headcount in region, across all of the 19 APAC countries that we currently service customers in, and are continuing to expand our customer support, research and development and other support capabilities across the region.


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