The Evolving Nature of Data Management

The meaning of words and phrases change over time. Take for instance the word ‘awful’, which used to mean ‘worthy of awe’, but has evolved into its inverse, and now largely means ‘bad’. ‘Nice’ used to mean ‘silly’. Fizzle used to mean “silent flatulence.”  This evolution even occurs in technology. The term “data management” has evolved faster than the guppies of Trinidad, which are supposedly really fast evolvers.

The term ‘data management’ crawled out of the primordial technological soup back in the 1980’s as technology moved from sequential processing to random access storage, making the management of data imperative as it was stored in multiple locations.

As time passed, and the quantity and value of the data grew, the term data management evolved into information management, which referred more to the business analysis of the data than the actual physical location of it. The evolution of the term not only halted, but regressed with the popularization of the terms ‘big data’ and ‘data science’, which are defined as fields that looks to extract meaning and value from the underlying data.

So the term data management has come to mean something quite different from its nascent definition. It is no longer about storage, compute and hardware, but seems to be firmly associated with the analytics and the extraction of value and insight from the data itself.  

What I find confusing then is how certain modern “storage” companies have not recognized the evolution of the term, referring to themselves as data management companies in one form or another.  What most of them mean by ‘data management’ is that they backup data, archive the older versions of that backup data, and on occasion restore data from the backup or archive tiers. This obfuscation extends to every industry that touches data in one form or another. This impacts me personally because I work for a data management company called Promethium, and I am consistently explaining to people that we are not a storage company.  We are a company whose mission is to help enterprises find and extract the value of their data in seconds and minutes, not months, so less time is spent locating and making sense of the proverbial data swamp, and more time can be spent extracting value. In essence, we are a data management company.

So let’s evolve with the times. Let’s all agree on this distinction between storage and data management to help clarify and streamline the conversation.  If we can do that, wouldn’t that be truly awful?