Data storage gets spicy with help from AI

  • IDC and Gartner indicate 80% or more of data stored in the cloud is unstructured

  • One company called Wasabi is blazing a trail in this arena, integrating AI into tagging technology to help businesses manage their data

  • An IDC analyst explained the ability to analyze assets can help enterprises get more value from their cloud data

If you lived through the VHS home movie era, you’re probably familiar with this struggle: it is impossible to figure out what’s actually on those tapes that might be worth keeping. This same problem — access and inventory — is exactly what cloud providers are trying to solve when it comes to data (or what's called "object") storage.

The "object” in “object storage” refers to any kind of unstructured data — basically anything that’s not numeric. Think videos, photos, PDFs, emails, audio files and the like.

Notably, estimates from IDC and Gartner indicate 80% or more of data stored in the cloud is unstructured. Gartner predicted that between 2023 and 2028 large enterprises will triple their unstructured data capacity across their on-premises, edge and public cloud locations. 

Until now, object storage has largely been unsearchable meaning the unstructured data is essentially useless.

"Moving archives to the cloud solves the accessibility problem. You click the mouse and the data is there instantly…but it doesn’t solve the problem of how the heck do I find what I’m looking for,” said David Friend, the CEO of object storage company Wasabi. "It's like a library without a card catalog. It's useless."

But AI tagging can help organize it and put it to work, Friend said. Wasabi acquired Curio AI this week to do just that.

And IDC VP of Cloud and Edge Infrastructure Services Dave McCarthy said the AI capability is a big deal.

"There are tremendous opportunities for AI to make cloud infrastructure more efficient and effective. Customers are already looking to AI for cost optimization and a better understanding of their cloud storage environments," he told Silverlinings. 

Indeed AI is about to change the game, making data that was hitherto pretty much just shoved up in the cloud attic without rhyme or reason accessible for analytics, application enhancements, new use cases and more. That's good news for enterprises looking to tap into the power lurking in their data.

"One of the highest value uses of AI in storage is the ability to perform a deep analysis of the data itself. With data creation happening at a higher volume and velocity than ever before, it can be an overwhelming task to catalog it all," said McCarthy. "Automating the process of tagging information with metadata will have a positive impact on future data discovery needs and drive more value from the data itself."

AI: The secret storage sauce

Carolyn Duby, Field CTO at Cloudera, told Silverlinings these examples only scratch the surface of what AI can enable when it comes to object storage. She noted without context from tagging, it is hard to analyze, secure and govern objects in storage. That's especially so for companies in the insurance, healthcare, legal and financial services segments that are "sitting on substantial collections of unstructured data." 

Using AI to sift through and categorize these treasure troves can cut down on manual processes, help enterprises properly secure their assets and allow them to build new products based on information gleaned from the stored data, she said.

AI can also be a differentiating factor for a cloud storage provider like Wasabi, she said.

"Imagine an enterprise has cameras monitoring a door and they have a loss or break in. Wasabi/Curio could do object detection on the video and guide an investigator to the times when a person came to the door or the door opened," she explained. 

Duby continued: "I think that Wasabi/Curio could extend their services to documents but the video use case is a good one for Wasabi/Curio because it drives more data to their cloud which drives revenue. The big question is will their costs go up as a result of the processing necessary to index the video data."

What is Wasabi?

You may not have heard of Wasabi, but you've certainly heard of their customers, which include Legendary Entertainment, the Boston Red Sox, Boston Bruins and Liverpool Football Club. For them, AI tagging will enable new fan experiences, for instance allowing them to pull archival footage of specific players or games at the drop of a hat. In the case of the Red Sox, that was all work that was previously done manually by interns, Friend said.

To make object storage tagging the rule rather than the exception, Wasabi is integrating technology it just acquired from Curio AI into its platform. That means the platform will automatically tag metadata in all unstructured data that is uploaded. Friend said tags will help customers identify faces, logos, objects, crowd noises and more in their stored objects. That in turn will enable analytics, new services and more.

Whit Jackson, Wasabi's VP of media and entertainment, said it’s true that other companies like ChatGPT, Amazon Recognition and others offer tools that can help tag content. But the problem is those require the customer to do development work to make their data have value. Wasabi’s goal is to make all of that automatic via Curio’s web interface and query machine.

“Five years from now, maybe 10 years from now, all unstructured data will be using this technology,” Friend concluded. “I don’t see how anyone will be able to be in this business without this technology in the future.”