Accenture talks to CBR about hyperscaling hardware and how to manage a data supply chain.
Most companies seem to be advocating software these days, but Accenture is going against the grain, with its CTO declaring, "Hardware is back."
This may seem counter-intuitive with Accenture’s Technology Vision for 2014, which maintains 2013’s message that ‘every business is a digital business’, but to drive that digital data, businesses need a touchpoint.
Hardware has been eclipsed by innovations in software, but there is now a hotbed of new development as demand soars for bigger, faster, more efficient data centres.
"There’s a lot of dramatic advances happening in hardware. Moore’s Law continues and hardware is moving faster than it ever has, including at the hardware level of storage and networking," Paul Daugherty, CTO at Accenture told CBR.
He cited companies that were effectively fusing hardware and software together like SAP HANA, Oracle’s Exadata and IBM’s Pure Technology, which are then highly optimised to work together, creating an opportunity for hyperscale hardware to run applications more effectively.
"So it’s not just all about moving applications to the cloud. We believe hybrid cloud is the future and we will move there over time, but for certain things you do, it’s about finding the right combination of hardware to suit the needs of your application," says Daugherty.
The data supply chain
But Accenture warns in its 2014 Vision, that it’s not enough to simply fill a dataware house. As data technologies have been adopted in a piecemeal fashion, enterprise data has been left vastly underutilised.
Data ecosystems that are comlex and littered with data silos are not effective. Accenture’s research shows that globally, 60% of requests received by CIOs for business analytics could not be filled because they lacked the right data.
"This [statistic] points out the gap that you can’t fulfil over half of a business’s needs because of a lack of data. Companies have historically been thinking about data warehouses that you just put data in, but we think that’s the wrong view," says Daugherty.
"You need to put data into a supply chain when you obtain data from internal and external sources. Then you need to move, improve the quality, clean, correlate, and do analytics on the data to turn it into different forms of information that are more useful to you.
"So technologies like master data management and meta data, data discovery tools which allow you to learn from big data and incorporate external data, will become important components in the data supply chain," says Daugherty.
So once the almighty problem of Big Data has been tackled, Fast Data becomes an issue. But Accenture’s MD digital data and analytics, Nick Millman, says it is all about strategy.
"The key thing is to work out what you are going to do with the data, or at least have a hypothesis about what may be the useful data," says Millman.
"But the advent of big data platforms where you store data on more distributed files systems than the traditional relational database then you can ingest and process more data than you historically could. You can then do some initial investigation to see what data is the most insightful, and then it’s a case of planning out the architecture so you get the business insights at the right time."
With an insurance company for example, if you want to assess whether a claim is valid or fraudulent, it’s much more valuable to know the claim is fraudulent at the time you are paying it out rather than carrying out an investigation two weeks later and then having to recover the money.
From digitally disrupted to digital disrupter
But Millman sympathises with larger organisations who have their data locked up in a disorderly manner.
"The difficulty of starting with a legacy of disjointed systems or a siloed organisation makes it harder to break down the challenges and fix it, rather than a company from the outset that goes digital and utilises data in an effective way makes it easier for them to make progress," he says.
"But what we are seeing is that large organisations are starting to realise what digital can do for them and instead of trying to react to the disrupters, the smaller more nimble organisations in the market, we see a lot of large enterprises starting to fight back and drive value through digital themselves."
This image of becoming businesses becoming ‘digital disrupters’ is another prominent message from Accenture’s 2014 Vision.
Daugherty says: "We believe if big companies take the right steps they can become the disrupter rather than become disrupted, so that’s the message we talk about. Big is the next big thing."