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Parallels Between Tokyo's Evolution and the Future of Data Management

Data services shift the focus from the storage to the data — here are three important parallels to Tokyo.

4 Min Read
Senso-ji temple and Skytree Tower at night, Asakusa, Tokyo

This summer, we took our kids on a family vacation back to Tokyo, a place they had visited six years back before they became teenagers. Interestingly, they felt the same awe this time as they had experienced during their first visit: This vibrant city of contrasts seems to harmoniously juxtapose age-old traditions with flashing modernity. 

Only in Tokyo can you see gray-suited business workers stroll down from multistoried gleaming glass skyscrapers to cool off in the peaceful zen garden of an 800-year-old Buddhist temple nestled comfortably amid these monuments to capitalism. You can see centuries-old Shinto shrines shrouded by the brightly flashing neon-lit manga shops of Akihabara screaming their approval of pop culture in all its glory, and the resolute pagoda of ancient Asakusa perfectly mirrored in the background by an unapologetically modern Tokyo high rise.

What does this city of apparent contrasts teach us about data management and the shift to data services? Just as waves of innovation and shifts in culture have enriched the lives of Tokyo residents, waves of storage evolution can also enrich the value of data. 

Whether it is on-premises storage or the cloud, flash or hard disk, or GPU-driven AI architectures, backup or ransomware protection services, data lakes or AI data pipelines, we know that while architectures shift and evolve over time, the data outlives all of these. Of note here is that just as Tokyo lets its citizens fluidly flow between the familiar comfort of Shintoism, the excitement of digital art and entertainment, and the serenity of Buddhism, the promise of data services is to let data flow across various services without getting locked into a single architecture or single vendor system. 

Related:4 Data Management Best Practices for Developers

Data services is the latest evolution of storage and data management and consists of a range of services typically provided by enterprise IT operations teams or shared services teams, such as: data security, data reduction, data protection, data storage, data analytics, data processing, and unstructured data management.

Data services shift the focus from the storage to the data — and there are three important parallels here to Tokyo:

  • Institutions (storage systems) do not matter: Rather than forcing people to replace the polytheism of the Shinto tradition with the nirvana of Buddhism or the capitalism of modern business, Tokyo lets its people choose the structure that best fits their needs. Similarly, the move to data services means storage does not manage your data and so storage architectures should not block the free movement of data. For example, a company using NAS from a storage vendor tiers cold data to the cloud and then wants to use cloud AI services on that data, but the storage system tiers data as proprietary blocks to prevent direct access. Taking a lesson from Tokyo, if we instead used standards-based file-level data tiering that did not lock the data or force rehydration, then organizations can freely leverage cloud data services on their data, thus maximizing its value.

  • Unfettered mobility is key: Tokyo not only provides freedom of choice, but the city was designed to make it super easy for people to freely flow from one area to another through a myriad of subways, highways, and bullet trains. Storage-agnostic unstructured data management that provides visibility and fast, efficient data movement of your data no matter where it lives is key to leveraging data services.

  • It's all about maximizing value: The most valuable lesson Tokyo teaches us is that by providing flexibility and choice, people can lead more fulfilling lives. Similarly, the choice and flexibility provided by data services can unlock the value of data. You can store the right data in the right place at the right cost, choose the right backup and data protection for your hot and cold data, and easily find and feed the right data to the right AI or ML or analytics service through a data services architecture.

Perhaps the next time you step through the vermillion-colored Inari gates memorializing that even the rich need solace, or you see the prayers written by anime-clad youth on a Tori gate, you too will be reminded of the richness that diversity offers in your profession.

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