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The Data Juggernaut

6/5/06

While some of the more commoditized links in the computing/communications chain have nearly fallen away (mainframes, phone switches, optical fiber) and some seem to be rusting a bit after a multi-decade run (PCs, chip manufacturing), data and the technology to manage it just keep growing.

We first noticed this a few years back when some of our technical services clients reported surprising demand for NAS (network-attached storage) and SAN (storage area network) consulting, this in the midst of the long digital winter following the dot com bust and 9-11.

Since then, companies have increasingly recognized the value of data mining (looking for patterns in sales and operations that can be exploited to increase demand or reduce costs) and business intelligence (assembling critical data from multiple systems into a single display on decision-makers desktops).

More recently, the promise of RFID is finally starting to deliver, with the little tracking chips increasingly found on valuable objects like pharmaceuticals, military equipment, railcars, shipping containers and ultimately -- according to the pundits -- on commonplace consumer goods and LTL shipments. We believe the massive quantities of data generated by RFID devices will soon swamp the volumes already washing through the digital world. And when RFID data (which time-stamps the identification of an object) combines with geodata (which maps where the object is), the result will be unprecedented supply chain precision and terabytes of more data.

One key sector of this burgeoning data storage and management industry is relational database management software (RDBMS) and related services: according to research firm Gartner, in 2005 RDBMS sector sales grew 8.3% to nearly $14 billion, a remarkable increase for such a huge business. Oracle is of course the leader at nearly 50% markeshare, but Microsoft's SQL Server database rose to 15% marketshare, up from 2004s 13.9%. Underdog SQLs success reflects the increasing embrace by smaller companies of the value of data management.

Gartner claims RDBMS will continue strong growth through 2010. We see insatiable demand long after that, whatever the security risks of massive data storage and manipulation.


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