Am I alone in thinking that it would be really cool to put a value on all the data that a company owns and add it to the balance sheet? Then, when a company is valued it isn’t just intangibles like “brand value” that is considered but also an absolute figure for the value of the data that can be reported? It is a simple enough concept. Recipes, financial documents, technical blueprints, competitor analysis documents are all examples of content that may have massive intrinsic value to a suitor, should a valuation be required (for example in a M&A situation) or to an investor attempting to get a true that value of a company.
Actually it is a thought that I have been having for about a decade, on and off. Yes, a simple concept but one which would be extremely difficult to expedite. Ten years ago I started working on some early data classification technology which tried to bring together storage, content management and automation software to do this level of analysis. “Putting content in context” was how I used to describe it back then. It never really took off – very complex and rather manual in the end.
So I was rather intrigued then to see something called “File Analysis software” appearing at the start of its hype cycle in the latest Gartner Hype Cycle for Storage technologies 2013 which was published last week. At five bucks short of $2,000 you’ve got to be pretty interested in storage to buy the report, but with 74 pages of analysis of all the important storage technologies today, from the emerging through to the plateaued, it is actually worth its weight in solid state disks.
Having worked in this part of the industry for many years, there are technologies which I assumed were well through their trough of disillusionment and merrily proceeding up their slopes of enlightenment. I guess I get early exposure of some of these and am therefore surprised when I see them much earlier in their adoption lifecycle than I expected.
So it was that I see File Analysis Software at the start of the hype cycle. Gartner believe this is software that is an emerging technology but one with a “high benefit” rating should it reach maturity. These tools are capable of analyzing and classifying metadata and providing context for that data, allowing decisions to be made for a smorgasbord of outcomes. They can even analyze the very content itself and create metadata based on it, allowing even more flexibility to take action.
Why might you want to do this? Well certainly for compliance reasons – to find out who has access to the data and who has accessed it over a defined period of time, to understand what security profiles and policies apply to this piece of content. You might want to know how the piece of data relates to other pieces of data. You might want to know how many copies there are of a particular piece of unstructured content and where those copies reside. You might want to de-duplicate that data, charge for its stewardship or recommend its removal.
Essentially it seems to me that this File Analysis software is actually the recasting of data classification technologies from my past with a lot more sophistication and a lot more chance of being successful. It may be that its time has come and it will soon find itself catapulting up the hype cycle. Why? Well today there is a lot more opportunity to take advantage of significant new technologies that can help analyze vast quantities of data, tag it, relate it and then value it. Parallel processing of vast quantities of data, low latency and high bandwidth storage systems, in-memory databases and big data analytics are all technology innovations which can integrate with these file analysis technologies.
As the leader in storage efficiency, NetApp knows a thing or two about how to manage vast quantities of data and we will be keeping a close eye on these technologies. NetApp storage systems deliver the highest combined performance, density and energy efficiency required to convert the data sets to top-line revenue gains and bottom-line savings. Combining these platforms with some of the new file analysis software might very well accelerate the day when a company can put a dollar figure on the value of all the data that it holds and declare it on its balance sheet.
Then perhaps I can stop thinking about it and maybe one day we will see “Data $5bn” on the balance sheet under “assets”.