For years there has been a dialog about turning data into information and the usual reaction is the slight tilt of the head and a glassy gaze from the listener that is akin to a dog’s reaction to a high-pitched whistle. We then go into the definitions of data and information discussing the differences between the two.
EMC is one of the leading storage vendors and they have a smart and pithy tagline – “Where Information Lives”. Information does live within storage systems and they house information, protect it and make it accessible to users and applications. However, storage systems do not make the information useful to the front-line businesses that own them.
Many storage system folks will respond, ” That isn’t true. We have CAS and NAS solutions that make use of information.” This might be true on a limited basis but overall we have failed to bridge the gap between storage infrastructure and information. Once we had high hopes that this would occur, but it is yet to be realized on a mass scale.
The reason we have not achieved this is because it is the job of applications to deal with the use of information. Therefore, information lives on storage systems but the greater use of that information is via applications.
The problem with applications is that there are so many of them and they each generate information that is proprietary. There is no correlation of information. There is no single pool of information. All of our information is stovepiped. As such, we limit the use because our information is bounded and boxed.
I submit that we need information applications that have a universal or federated view of all the information within a company. The information application (IA) would provide users the ability to access data regardless of what application created it. At the heart of the IA would be search and indexing – consider it middleware or the engine – that sits between the IA and the company’s storage. The IA would allow for analysis and cross correlation of information. The IA would provide tools to re-use of data.
Search already is an application providing tools and use of information. However, I am also talking about using search and indexing for deeper integration within existing applications and as an engine for new applications. There will be applications that use the concept of IA as a component and pure IA applications.
This is a new idea and like so many new ideas it will be met with some misunderstanding (we can already do that), with lots of questions (how much will this cost and whose budget does it come out of?), and with hopefully inspiration to take it further (we can build it). Information applications will turn the Information Age into the Useful Information Age.