Dark Data: The Next Enterprise Frontier

This may be the era of the data-driven enterprise, but only a handful of organizations report they are ready for it. There is a growing volume of “dark data” that remains obscure to IT managers and decision makers. This period unfolding before us will be driven by several technology initiatives, from 5G wireless and IoT to AI.

These are the main takeaways of a recent survey of 2,259 IT executives, published by Splunk, which found that organizations are aware of, but woefully unprepared for, the data challenges ahead. These include the prevalence of “dark data,” which is growing at least as quickly as their overall data volume. And most of the managers and professionals surveyed have limited understanding about the new wave of data-rich, cutting-edge technologies, such as AI, blockchain, 5G, augmented reality, and more.

For starters, only 14% of respondents to the survey said that their organizations are currently prepared for an imminent wave of new data, whether as projected from their current rate of data growth or as caused by adoption of new technologies. Another 33% said that their organizations are currently preparing for fast-rising data volumes. “That leaves 53% whose organizations are not prepared or preparing at all,” the report noted. In addition, among the 86% whose organizations are not yet prepared, only 8% are very confident that their organization will be ready in time.

Executives and professionals recognize data as an asset, but most are struggling to keep up with it, the survey also showed. Two-thirds of respondents said both the value and amount of data in their organizations will increase—expecting the sheer quantity to grow nearly 5 times by 2025. In addition, 57% said the rate of data growth is outpacing their organizations’ ability to keep up with it, and 47% bluntly said that their organizations will fall behind when faced with rapid data volume growth.

In addition, the survey showed that much of this value has yet to be captured. Sixty-six percent of respondents revealed that half or more of their data is dark data—the unquantified and untapped data generated by systems, devices, and interactions. This is a 10% increase over the previous year. The leading challenge to discovering and accessing this unutilized data is the sheer data volume.

The survey assessed the awareness and adoption of a number of key emerging technologies, including the following:

5G: Many IT and business managers don’t have a strong grasp of 5G technology, with just 44% saying they “understand the technology well or at an expert level.”

Edge computing: Edge computing is among the technologies least understood by respondents, with just 39% understanding it well or at an expert level. “A behind-the-scenes tool even within the often-overlooked arena of data storage infrastructure, fully 25% of IT and business managers don’t know their organization’s intentions for edge computing, while 24% report that their organization has already adopted it,” according to the report.

AI and machine learning: For all the attention on AI and machine learning, the percentage of respondents who understand it well or have an expert understanding— 42%—indicates a significant knowledge gap. At the same time, 25% of respondents said that their organizations have adopted AI and machine leading in some form, and 51% said that their organizations will be using it in the future, with an average time-to-use of 3.3 years. Fifty-four percent said they expect AI and machine learning to increase their data volumes, “perhaps by enabling organizations to put to work data they have previously been unable to utilize or to bring in more data they’ve avoided for want of analytics resources,” the report noted.

IoT: Forty-five percent of respondents said they understand IoT well or have an expert understanding—higher than the other technologies driving the increase in dark data (though by just one percentage point compared to 5G). Twenty- eight percent are currently using IoT technology, and an additional 48% said their organization will be using it in the future. These future users expect to be using IoT devices in 3 years, on average.

Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR): While 42% of respondents said they understand these well or have an expert understanding, 35% admitted to understanding it only a little or not at all. Twenty-two percent of respondents said that their organizations are currently using AR or VR technology, with an additional 47% planning to use it in the future. Half expect AR/VR to increase their organizations’ data volumes, and only 12% expect it to worsen their dark data problems, while 23% believe it will solve them (29% said it will solve some, worsen others). “This disconnect reinforces that many IT and business managers are not foreseeing the challenges that come with the technology and growing data volume,” the report stated.