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Where Is My Data & Why Should I Care?

Ashwin Krishnan

Imagine the days of yore, when we had the 35mm camera and actual film that needed to be loaded carefully without light exposure and even more circumspection when it came to deciding which photo to take or not given the limited 24 or 36 capacity in each roll.

Fast forward to today, a super high-end lens with each generation of smartphone, seemingly unlimited capacity -- both on the phone and the ubiquitous cloud extension -- makes clicking away at anything and everything, including HD video, a mindless activity. But this also presents some challenges. For instance, keeping track of photos; classifying them based on faces, location, scenery, etc. but software is getting better and better at it -- so the ability to produce and consume is keeping pace.

(This is a true story. A friend of mine wanted to delete every single photo of her ex after her divorce and she could do so without breaking a sweat -- imagine that!)

Now what has all this to do with the enterprise data center? The parallels are striking.

The analog camera, 35 mm lens and the prudence when it came to taking snaps are analogous to the hardware data center of the past. Purchasing servers, routers and applications were all deliberate decisions and the IT operator knew exactly the count, location and purpose of each device. Fast forward to today: The smartphone camera with ubiquitous storage is the enterprise software defined data center (SDDC) -- virtual machines, containers, snapshots, cloud backup, multiple disaster recovery sites. Most of these can be spun up in seconds (spun down as well), and cost of compute, storage and networking is all way down, which allows unimaginable expansion at incremental cost.

But this is also turning out to be a huge headache for enterprises. Unlike the consumer photo recognition software, the ability to precisely know what each VM, container and backup snapshot contains is becoming challenging. And while getting rid of an ex's photo may have given my friend wicked pleasure, the IT owners have much bigger challenges where this could have significant business impacts. How so? One word -- compliance.

I could cite a dozen or more compliance mandates where this is applicable, but I will choose just one that is looming ahead -- GDPR or General Data Protection Regulation, an EU mandate that impacts all enterprises based in EU, whether doing business with EU states or working with partners and/or customers in EU, which is essentially every organization on the planet.

One stipulation of GDPR states that upon request, an individual's data needs to be completely erased from the provider's infrastructure -- period -- and proof of the same needs to be provided. This brings data characterization for enterprise resources in the data center (and in the cloud) into focus like never before.

But it isn't just data characterization. It also requires actual enforcement actions like encryption or data shredding -- the need of the hour. For every technology, there comes a time when it becomes common parlance. Encryption got there when WhatsApp and Facebook started encrypting sessions by default. Now it is time for data characterization and contextual enforcement thanks to sweeping compliance mandates like GDPR with actual teeth to impose penalties.

So, solutions that can identify with precision what a VM, container or backup snapshot contains are music to the weary CIO's ears. This gives them much needed hope that even as the unmitigated sprawl of software infrastructure resources -- both in private data centers and in the cloud -- continues unabated, at least they will have a handle on characterizing these workloads and take appropriate enforcement actions should the need ever arise. As in the case of my friend when the need arose to expunge all photos with her ex in it, voila -- it was done!

— Ashwin Krishnan, SVP, Products & Strategy, HyTrust

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