By Brett Lobwein, international award-winning wildlife photographer & regional sales manager at Scality
As an avid nature photographer with an affinity for underwater shoots, data is never far from my mind — even in the depths of the ocean as I capture the beauty of Earth’s most majestic creatures (and, of course, because I also work at Scality 🙃).
At such a zen moment, why would I be thinking about data (or my job, for that matter)? Because hidden under the surface of the sea lies an immense volume of data.
An ocean of unstructured data
It boggles my mind that oceans cover 70% of our planet and yet we’ve barely scratched the surface of understanding. The water that sustains life on this planet largely remains a mystery. In fact, scientists know more about space than they do about our oceans. It’s estimated that only about 20% of the ocean has been chartered and mapped — and humans have only physically explored about 5% of it.
Here’s the good news: The rate of marine exploration is steadily increasing. According to nature.com, the totality of ocean basin research has grown by at least three times over the last 20 years and it will continue.
As the rate of research increases, data infrastructures using object storage will be instrumental in handling the scale of unstructured data (PDFs, image files and more) that will be generated. I’ll share my own personal experience to demonstrate.
Introducing Happywhale: Researching the patterns of whales through photography
A few years ago, a friend got me involved in a project called Happywhale, which works with citizens and scientists to collect information about these amazing mammals. Using photographs that citizens upload to Happywhale — along with details about the time and location of the shot — scientists are able to determine whether it’s a known whale in their database.
Read on to see a few shots from my recent trip to Tonga.
Metadata gives meaning to photographs and images
For researchers to learn, whale photos (and all unstructured data) need to include pertinent information. Ten years ago, if you took a photo of a whale, it probably didn’t have much value beyond sentiment — or at least, you weren’t sure if it did. Maybe you’d print it out, frame it, and remember the moment fondly, but other than that, it was just sitting on a literal shelf taking up space.
As a photographer, I take an untold number of photos all the time. How do you find what you’re looking for or make it meaningful? Advances in modern photography (mirrorless cameras and other similar equipment) allow us to add a wealth of information to each photo using metadata.
We have to make data searchable and indexable. This is why enriching the object data (or my whale photos) with keywords and other tags (aka metadata) is really important.
For instance, if I wanted to find a specific photo of a humpback whale that I took four years ago, it would be implausible for me to sift through the thousands and thousands of images I have saved on various hard drives to find that one photo — unless I’ve tagged it with metadata. This metadata is incredibly valuable to an organization like Happywhale because it’s used to pinpoint a specific whale’s location and track their migration.
Fun fact: Whales are identified by their unique tails. If the whale is unknown, it’s identified as a new animal. Photos of the tails are ascribed specific metadata tags, which are used to help keep track of each individual whale.
Object storage empowers customers to do this at a much larger scale. Indexing huge amounts of data helps to extract insights. With Scality object storage in particular, unstructured data is organized as discrete objects, and each object is assigned a unique identifier along with the associated metadata (like keywords, locations, dates, and more). Object storage helps applications find the data needed for deeper analysis and organization. In fact, unstructured data stored with object storage software like Scality becomes ready for AI training and modeling for even faster insights.
Even whale research needs protecting: Object storage keeps data safe
Yet as research and data expands, we all need to proceed with caution. As we all know, bad actors are everywhere. And, unfortunately, given the state of today’s ransomware threats, even large-scale oceanic research needs protection from nefarious cybercriminals.
Some may know this, but a fellow photographer (we are an ingenious community of creatives 😉) came up with a solution to protect digital images and, in turn, this strategy is now used for most organizational data. Peter Krogh first introduced the concept of a rock-solid data protection strategy called the “3-2-1” rule in his book, The DAM Book: Digital Asset Management for Photographers, in 2009.
The idea at the time was:
- Have three copies of data (one primary and two backups)
- Store two copies on different types of media
- Keep one copy offsite
Today, as cybercriminals have grown more sophisticated, this rule needs an upgrade. We’ve partnered with the best in cyber-resilient solutions (including our partners Veeam and HPE) to promote the enhanced version of the 3-2-1 rule, which is now the 3:2:1:1 data protection best practice.
That extra 1 refers to ensuring that at least one copy is offline, air-gapped or immutable (Read more on that here). Scality is one of only a few vendors that provides a best-in-class, inherently immutable data store. Data is never overwritten, and it’s always available so it can be recovered easily at any point in time. No data loss ever!
The result: The future of oceanic research and, really, all customer data is much safer with object storage at the foundation of a cyber-resilient infrastructure.
Main image by Brett Lobwein: A mother humpback whale and her calf swim in the Pacific Ocean near Vava'u, Tonga.