The data explosion

Craig Mullins looks at what is fueling the massive explosion in data in enterprise environments.

This tip originally appeared on TechTarget's Expert Answer Center as a post in Craig Mullins' blog. Craig served as the on-demand expert on the Expert Answer Center for two weeks in February, during which he was available to quickly answer questions on EAC topic as well as to write daily blog entries. Keep an eye on the Expert Answer Center for topics that could help your IT shop.


Businesses today are gathering and storing more data than ever before. We are said to be living in the "information age," and data is the capital of the new economy. With this explosion in the amount of data being stored, organizations are relying more than ever on database management systems to get a handle on corporate data and extract useful business information from that raw data.

I visit a lot of different organizations each year as a part of my job, and one thing is consistent: Databases are growing in size. I've never had a DBA say to me, "You know, my databases are getting smaller, and I just can't handle it." Nope, it is always just the opposite. Organizations everywhere are struggling with the burgeoning size of their corporate databases.

Winter Corp., a research and consulting firm, publishes a semi-annual survey of the largest and most heavily used databases in the world called the Top Ten Program (more details here). The most recent Winter report, published in 2003, confirms this explosion of data. Winter reports the largest data warehouse implementation grew to almost 30 TB, and the largest operational database contained just under 20 TB of data. And those are just the largest. The average size of an OLTP database grew from 1 TB in 2001 to 4.4 TB in 2003.

More data is a fact of life for today's businesses, and, as such, corporate databases are growing in size. Indeed, technology usage is growing and becoming more complex, but the rate of data growth has exploded. There are several factors driving this growth.

Data warehousing and data mining applications encourage us to store more data for longer periods of time. The analytical insight offered by such implementations far outweighs their cost. Web applications can increase data growth as well. Monitoring the clickstream requires the storage of more and different types of data than were previously needed. Multimedia data also increases storage requirements. As we move to store and manage not just numbers and text, but also video, audio, images, temporal data and more, data growth will continue unabated.

Most organizations today deploy multiple, heterogeneous computer systems -- from large mainframes to midranges to workgroup networks to PCs. And the same data may exist on all of these different platforms. Organizations are copying data several times to multiple platforms and DBMS products, data that used to exist on a single centralized system. So heterogeneity causes data growth.

Nascent technologies, such as RFID tags, will further add to the deluge of data that must be maintained and accessible. Indeed, the need for database systems will continue far into the future, as will the need for DBAs to manage those databases.

This was first published in February 2005

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