Azzi: Storage Devices Will Meet Increased Data Demand

Ghassan Azzi

Senior Manager, Sales, Africa Business at Western Digital, a global data storage brand, Mr. Ghassan Azzi, spoke to journalists about the benefits of the device. Emma Okonji brings the excerpts:

What is Western Digital   Corporation (WDC)doing to address the global increase in the demand for data, in an era of data explosion?

Western Digital Corporation (WDC) is a storage company and it is leading in the storage industry. We are almost number one in the world today on the storage side. With technology evolution, storage is becoming a necessity for organisations. With the new development, organisations do not need to purchase storage devices from stores each time they are in need. Organisations should be thinking of how best to install the latest data storage devices around their premises because the demand for storage is on the increase, which has been propelled by technology evolution. The demand for data is huge, which calls for increased demand for storage of data and other essentials, and we have the latest storage devices to address the increasing demand for data and storage facilities. We have our storage devices in USB, SD, Micro SD, and hard drive and these devices are readily available. We operate globally everywhere; our market share is big; publicly, we say more than 50 per cent of the world data is stored on one of our portal.

How will you describe the growth of data storage business in Nigeria, and what are your plans to sustain the growth ?

I can say that the business has been good for us in Nigeria. Over the last five years that we started to invest in the country, we have been growing little by little. When we came here, we had no business. Our products were here but they were coming from everywhere. So, when we came here, we put up a team to grow the business.

We started here with the SanDisk brand due to the size of the market. And here we are talking about the integration of the mobile phone; every phone needs a microSD, plus everybody needs USB. So, when we started five years ago, we started with SanDisk. Now, we launch WD as a company  to serve the Nigerian market from a microSD up to enterprise business. We want to grow more, we are covering Lagos as well as in the Norths and South. For our objective, I cannot give a timeline. However, our objective in18 months  is to have a legal entity in Nigeria where we would have our own office and team to further grow the business. Now, we at the stage of developing the other sector of the business, so SanDisk as a brand has been well established in the market, almost number one premium brand in Nigeria today. When we brought WD, we started with external hard drive; now, second step is to go into the internal drive (here, we are talking about surveillance), which is for security, a growing industry in Nigeria, Africa and the world.

For whatever you’re doing with CCTV camera, you need a hard drive that can capture every second/moment of what is happening on your territory.

Third focus for us is on the internal side is the SSDs. We don’t see a shift from SSDs to the hard drive but that is the future and the next one is enterprise. We are doing enterprise business now in Nigeria but to establish it as a solid foundation we are looking at next year, to really go into the enterprise business proper. This aspect of business involve government, banking, corporate organisations and this this is where we come with our big solutions. This is our plans for Nigeria.

What are some of the importance of storage facilities to organisations, and why must organisations invest in storage facilities?

Importance of storage facilities cannot be over-emphasised, because of its critical role in organisational growth. Data is key to any organisation, and the effective storage of the data will give organisations the full assurance that their data is secured. Data must be stored as backup and ready for retrieval at any point in time. Any organisation without effective data storage devices is still far from the realities of digital transformation business, and there is a need to store every data for business continuity and for future reference. Data is about information and information is key to organisations, which means that proper storage of information is also key to organisational growth. So it gives an organisation peace of mind when they know that their data and information are in a safe place where no one can tamper with them.

What is the attraction Western Digital to Nigeria?

Honestly, Nigeria comes second after South Africa today on the development side and we can see that from the demand. Our decision to penetrate the Nigerian market was informed by our desire to transform data storage business in Nigeria. We have demands coming from corporate, we also have demands coming from the customers and it is shifting as well on the capacities. Today, we see demand on 32GB, 64GB, 128GB, 256GB, even with also 1TB microSD in Nigeria and that’s a big launch as no other brands can boast of that. Same we can see on the hard drive, the 1TB is the highest in demand on hard drive.

How will the enterprise market benefit from your solutions?

We have different types of solutions but they all revolve around storage. We have the JBOD, just a bunch of drives, where we can extend their capacities or the JBOF which is just a bunch of flash. So, one is with SSDs, one is with internal hard drives. We have our own servers that come with the full solutions for archiving. They say usually that 70 to 75 per cent of the data centre cost is storage. So, we really play a big part in the growth of the data centre businesses or into the corporate life, because imagine if you don’t have a solid storage, what will happen to these corporations, if it crashes and there is no good back up you have lost everything. Just imagine how much a telecommunication consumes everyday on their archiving system. If they don’t have that solid infrastructure, if they put something that is not solid and they collapse, actually the whole company will collapse.

Are you concerned about counterfeiting, and how do you intend to address it?

That is only the retail side of the business. When we go enterprise, there is no counterfeit. The truth is that people can’t be naive to put a counterfeit on data centre because it will crash the data centre in few hours. it will not take the load. But when you talk about the retail product,it is possible, but we do a lot of campaigns, one of them is “buy the original” campaign, we train all our reseller so when the customer comes in we make sure they buy the right SanDisk. Same for the hard drive we are doing. Look for the hologram, we have started putting on our hard drive holograms to identify it from the fake or from refurbished, and we try to increase the awareness and education of the consumers because the consumers don’t know what they’re buying. They go for a hard drive, someone is making more money on that because it is refurbished, it is priced up and the customer doesn’t know. The customer takes a hard drive, goes home and three months later it crashes, and all the information gone. That’s on the hard drive, but on the flash, if you buy a microSD that is fake with a bad memory, and you put it on your laptop, or phone, it can damage both your phone and laptop. People do not know this and we are doing a lot of programme around that to create the awareness.

Will you recommend zettabyte of storage capacity for enterprise business?

Zettabyte is not the issue today. What we look at as a company is how we can serve our customers, what is your need? Is it a terabyte, petabyte or zettabyte. If I understand the applications that any enterprise is using, using, then I can offer such enterprise the right storage device to start with. Yes, we can reach the zettabyte but do organisations need it today? I don’t think so. But definitely organisations will need a zettabyte depending on what is their size of business. So to address this; yes we can serve enterprises based on their needs and from what type of application they have, whether it is data, a mobile or archiving system. Our goal is to make sure that we give our consumers the peace of mind that they deserve when they buy our products.

What level of Artificial Intelligence are embedded in your products?

There are Artificial Intelligence (AI) and there are Internet of Things (IoT) embedded in our products and these are emerging technologies that are driving the world today and could stretch to maybe in 10 or 15 years time. Today, a car consumes a 100GB per sec, and it means it connects everywhere with satellites, with the roads to check if there is a pedestrian, signal light, all sensors reading and writing how fast is the memory, how good is the connector to absorb the data, read/write and transfer the information. In the past we used to be a floppy disk before we went to optimal disk, then a USB, but it is all about how we transitioned into that storage industry. It is all about adapting to the new way of our lifestyle.

How secured are your products in today’s era of cyber insecurity?

Firstly, most of our products come with an encrypted password on the hard drive and even the flash, so whether you lose them or the USB, they cannot steal your data, not even without the password. So, consumers have to read and understand what they are buying because this is important. For our business, the festive season drives our retail products because no one is really going to buy internal hard drive as a present. So, during festive periods, we do a lot of promotions on our high end microSD 128GB and above.