STORAGE

  • 04/15/2015
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Staying Ahead Of The Data Deluge

Data is core to Nielsen's business. Here's how the company is transforming its IT environment to tackle the data explosion.

Nielsen has been in the business of consumer insights and data analytics for over 90 years.  From day one, our challenge has been to make sure we can collect, transfer, store, analyze and report on that data all of the time to help our clients innovate.

Nielsen’s IT organization is like most when it comes to establishing the core mission. We always merge two fundamental imperatives to determine our strategy:

  • The business imperative: Support, accelerate and simplify the Nielsen business drivers.
  • The IT imperative: Do more with less.

Business drivers

For Nielsen, data is the big business driver and staying ahead of data growth is a constant challenge. Data grows rapidly and data sources change frequently.  Where the next data explosion will come from shouldn’t matter.  We don’t necessarily need to know that.  All we need to know is that there’s going to be a lot more data, from multiple sources, and it’s going to have to move a lot faster.  As long as we have the right foundation for that data growth and agility, then we can handle it.

In order for Nielsen infrastructure to move at the speed of business we have to continuously innovate and adjust.  Over the past several years, we have been on the journey of consolidation and virtualization. That was the foundation we laid. Now, on top of that, we’re ready for what’s next, whether that's convergence, hyperconvergence, or software-defined data centers.

Frameworks & foundations

My team focuses on strategy and architecture --  frameworks and foundations. That’s the starting point for building the roadmap that takes us two, three and five years down the road. No matter how we decide to achieve that intersection of objectives, it has to be something that we can expand on as we move through the long-term plan.

It’s about anticipating change and being ready for it, in whatever forms it comes. That way, it doesn’t matter to us if growth comes from a new delivery channel or data from wearables or whatever it might be. Our infrastructure can shift shape so when disruptions come; we are not in an endless continuum of rip and replace or starting over -- we adjust.

That means that we don’t focus on implementing bleeding-edge hardware technology, but rather those technologies that lay on top of the foundations we built when it’s time to refresh and grow our infrastructure.  Cutting-edge, expandable building blocks for growth.  We course correct and shift rather than having to start over.  We implement flexible, adaptable and expandable infrastructure, including leveraging hybrid-cloud capabilities.

Priorities

We set priorities that are always based on those points of intersection of business and technology imperatives. We look at everything based on where IT can provide the most business benefits in the coming year, and get smaller doing it.  

A good example is our data-storage environment. With the consolidation strategy in place, when it came time to do a standard storage refresh, we used that as an opportunity to refresh existing frames with a newer, different technology allowing us to continue consolidation. It was a perfect intersection.  We brought in new innovation, allowing us to handle more data, faster, with less equipment and reduce costs. 

We spent less dollars for refresh, but enabled more capacity, newer technology and faster business delivery (what we call cycle-time reductions) while at the same time reducing our yearly operating costs and our overall physical footprint.

Planning 

Plans aren’t built in an IT vacuum. Carving out long-term strategic plans is a collaborative process. Lines of business leaders, executive leadership, operational teams, application and engineering enterprise architects and others, including infrastructure, all play critical roles in defining that long-term direction.

It’s our job to continually translate that into our annual operational plan. For infrastructure, that breaks down into a series of specific objectives:  consolidate storage, virtualize systems, refresh network infrastructure, reduce overall size and increase capacity -- modernize and simplify.

We have essentially started the journey of transforming infrastructure from a hardware-based organization to a software-based organization.  The planning though, hard as it is, is the easy part. When it really gets tough is when we get down to the nuts and bolts of making a strategy happen. I’ll discuss that in a future blog post.

Attend Alex Patent's live session, How Nielsen Meets the Demands of Data-Driven Business, one of the dozens of learning opportunities at Interop Las Vegas this spring. Don't miss out! Register now for Interop, April 27 to May 1, and receive $200 off.


Comments

agile

Being nimble and able to adjust to rapid changes is key for IT organizations today. I look forward to hearing more details from Alex on how Nielsen achieves this.

Re: agile

Well said @Marcia. A process, framework or business strategy can be a great enabler for an organization and it can also be a great limiter. But, if the strategy itself has the aim to be nimble and flexible then, the organization can reach new heights. 

Re: agile

That's a good point Brian. If the strategy isn't carefully constructed to adapt to change, then it can simply wind up hamstringing an organization.