Outlook 2022: “Data Architectures Need to go Beyond Capture and Storage to Data Transformation”

Khwaja Saifuddin, the Senior Sales Director for the Middle East at Western Digital, says that it is key for companies to create a robust, solutions-based data infrastructure that meets the needs of their business

How was 2021 for the industry and your company?
For consumers, particularly gamers, we have seen the burgeoning shift of gaming from device locations to the cloud. TV and film streaming services have set new expectations for gaming as well. Netflix has even entered the cloud gaming market, launching Netflix Games in late 2021 across all mobile devices. The data centre plays a key role, both in terms of enabling online gaming and storing the live-streaming game-play content.

The shift to cloud gaming looks only to accelerate, and companies such as Xbox and Netflix will be forced to virtualise data centres to remain profitable in this new gaming climate.  Over the years, Western Digital has supported many of the world’s top gaming consoles and playing arenas through our WD_BLACK range, prioritizing elevated gaming experiences with purpose-built devices that provide gamers with the tools and equipment they need to perform their best.

This year we continued to strengthen our partnerships with regional players like Yalla Esports, who help not only us gain the insights needed to continuously develop our product and deliver unrivalled experiences to our customers but also support the region’s flourishing gaming scene with ideas and content.   

What sort of opportunities did 2022 bring along?
The biggest opportunity came around the new hybrid way of working. As businesses moved and are currently moving into the hybrid world with hybrid tiers, hybrid clouds, and hybrid solutions we have had an incredible opportunity to enhance flexible business environments. At the center of this change is the evolving need for data.

With the growth in data and growing performance demands, unprecedented cost efficiencies have become an essential requirement.  It’s, therefore, crucial to understand storage usage and how to manage both legacy and new systems on-premise and in the cloud. The good news is that businesses have a broader choice than ever to construct varying performance and capacity capabilities to meet exact workloads and ensure flexibility as infrastructure evolves to meet new demands.  

Creating a robust, solutions-based data infrastructure that meets the needs of your business is key because data architectures need to go beyond simple data capture and storage to data transformation and creating business value, in a ‘value creation’ approach. No matter the technology, storage should, first and foremost, support the business strategy and tactical needs of the organization. 

Did you face any challenges in 2021?
The pandemic has certainly had a lasting impact on the way we work and address business. As a company that has built its reputation for being a digital-first solutions provider, we were already ahead in many regards in terms of our infrastructure. We had the necessary network capabilities to continue day-to-day operations. However, we all faced challenges with that loss of human interaction. In its early days, we were challenged to find ways to work individually but still as a team.  

Technology helped us to overcome most of the major difficulties caused by physical distance. Through video, we were able to maintain our social connection and engage with one another. While it’s difficult to replace face time, we found video interactions helped maintain team morale and communication channels. Now this way of working is well integrated into our day-to-day business. 

What promises does 2022 bring along?
Within the gaming field, the coming year will start to see the rise of non-fungible tokens (NFTs). EA has even publicly stated that NFTs are part of the future of the games industry. These tokens are unique data units stored on blockchains, which prove that products are genuine and allow gamers to commercialise personalised downloadable content, from weapons to cheat codes to packs.

NFTs are based on a distributed storage architecture, allowing ownership to be validated and exchanged. As enterprises and individuals investigate the potential of NFTs, storage requirements are going to have to equally be considered.  

Do you see opportunities in the regional markets with new markets opening up?
Western Digital understands that the next few years will be an exciting time for smart technology providers in the Middle East. The market is growing, and consumers are excited about what’s coming next.  As various technologies continue to evolve so will data storage needs.

We are prepared to support the growing digital needs of companies and consumers with specialized storage solutions in order to create optimum value from IoT data, which must be considered when building out the wider data infrastructure.  We will continue to prioritize the implementation of the right storage infrastructure and technology and subsequent education on them to help consumers to feel that their information is more secure and remove doubt around these technologies.   

According to you, which technologies will be in demand in 2022?
In 2022, we will see a surge in organisations working to make their data centres more sustainable. With energy-reduction goals, businesses will invest time and money into utilising existing centres in the most efficient way rather than building new data centres.  There will be an increasing appetite to transition to higher capacity drives as fewer high-capacity drives is more energy-efficient than multiple low-capacity drives.

Additionally, it increases storage density per rack and can reduce the number of racks needed to achieve the required capacity, further lowering overall power consumption and TCO.  JBOD solutions can be used to reduce power consumption by intelligently spinning each drive at its maximum performance, thanks to the ability to isolate them from vibration and channelling the airflow to maintain optimal operating temperatures, which would otherwise impact performance and require additional expensive cooling.

Businesses will also increasingly prioritise data centres and operations which run with air cooling or on renewable energy: as of mid-2021, Western Digital’s facilities in Northern California run on 100% renewable energy. 

What will be your key focus areas for 2022? 
As a leader in data infrastructure, we are driving the innovation needed to help customers capture, preserve, access and transform an ever-increasing diversity of data. Everywhere data lives, from advanced data centers to mobile sensors to personal devices, our industry-leading solutions deliver the possibilities of data.

As the market leader, we have a responsibility to our consumers to stay ahead of the competition and ensure access to our product range. And we do this through strategic collaborations, innovations and actively listening to our customers.  

What milestones have you set for 2022?
It is our intention to continue to engage and actively listen to our customer base to better understand their preferences. Through open communication, we can ensure our R&D team can create storage solutions to meet the latest challenges and deliver the best product for our customers’ storage needs.  

What would you like to do differently in 2022, when compared with 2021?
We’ve all reached a point where we are looking for better things in 2022. On a human scale, we want to go back to face-to-face interactions and physical meetings and re-establish the human connection which has always been an integral part of our day-to-day.

Meanwhile, we will still continue to make conscious decisions that benefit our environment and the future of our planet; and by bringing a balance of both we can foster growth and overcome the challenges of the past few years and look forward, together.  

Do you plan to enter new markets or add new products/applications to your portfolio in 2022? 
We’ve recently launched the new SanDisk Professional brand, which offers products engineered specifically for professional creators. The new fleet of professional-grade products — which includes a new CFexpress card, an enterprise-grade RAID storage device, an ultra-fast reader series, and a new four-bay reader docking station — will give these professionals both flexibility and the confidence to be creative.   

For business, we’ve continued to grow our Ultrastar portfolio which offers higher capacity hard drives to help lower CapEx by reducing supporting hardware and system-level costs when compared to lower capacity drives. The Ultrastar DC HC500-series is designed for public and private cloud environments where storage density and cost-efficient infrastructure is critical. As business environments continue to evolve, Ultrastar is the ultimate asset for data storage.

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Chris Fernando

Chris N. Fernando is an experienced media professional with over two decades of journalistic experience. He is the Editor of Arabian Reseller magazine, the authoritative guide to the regional IT industry. Follow him on Twitter (@chris508) and Instagram (@chris2508).

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