Realising smart cities: The role of managed storage

You’ve likely encountered the idea of the “smart city” over the past few years

In essence, the concept refers to the use of AI, IoT, and advanced analytics to help cities improve their provision of public services such as sanitation, maintenance, and transport. 

Smart cities are exciting because they can allocate municipal resources in a more precise and granular manner than we currently have available. A smart city would monitor on-the-ground conditions, such as traffic density or water usage, and automatically adjust its infrastructure to improve efficiency – in these cases, through diverting traffic or throttling up pumping stations near areas of peak demand.

This means that smart cities promise a massive improvement in both the efficacy and efficiency of a city’s services and resources – with some projections estimating that smart cities will generate $20 trillion in economic benefits by 2026. 

But, to achieve this, IT teams in local and national government need to take a radical reapproach to many parts of their IT infrastructure. Chief among these is their storage arrangements. What changes do IT teams need to their storage infrastructure to facilitate smart cities? 

The need for endless storage

Smart cities are predicated on constant streams of data from IoT sensors and networked devices. However, a “traditional” centralised enterprise data centre can’t deliver either endless storage or the latency required of a smart city. 

Today, many centralised data centres are built far away from urban centres which in future will mean poor latency for many critical sensors and utilities, and the capital expense of relocating them is going to make day-to-day operations and scaling of smart city capabilities extremely difficult. Ultimately, then, smart cities are going to require decentralisation for storage – data that’s close to those sensors and equipment that serve as the network’s inputs and outputs.

Additionally, the smart city’s data needs to be stored, and regular wiping of this data isn’t an option, since teams will require sufficient datasets for use in AI model training, long-term reviews, or analytics dashboards. This ever-expanding data lake means that a smart city’s storage solution needs to be effectively bottomless.

Bottomless storage, in practice, means that the price per unit of stored data must be low enough to not be an issue in provisioning and expanding a smart city’s infrastructure. This gives public bodies the ability to store all the data they need without the stress of having to make capital spends on a regular basis, which means either drained budgets and major installation projects for SysAdmins and DevOps teams, or having to arbitrarily reduce the data pool they’ll be able to draw from for operations.

Managed infrastructure as a data solution

So, ultimately, a functional smart city’s data storage infrastructure has to be both low latency and bottomless. And as mentioned, bottomless storage in practice encourages teams to shift towards a system that’s both scalable and allows teams to only pay for the resources they actually use. Ultimately, the best route currently available for the latter is managed infrastructure: working with providers who can transform up-front capital expenditures to operational expenditures and can abstract away the logistics of scaling up data storage provision. 

Whether it be storage itself, network structures, or virtualisation environments, managed infrastructure can facilitate the ever-growing needs of the smart city through scaling provisioning based on current demand. At the same time, it also cuts out the procurement and admin that would traditionally come with scaling a centralised on- or off-prem data centre, allowing smart cities to benefit from the economies of scale a managed infrastructure provider can offer.

Realising the smart city

There’s historically been some resistance to managed infrastructure, especially among government bodies. But if the smart city is to be realised this decade, especially given the scarcity of talent, then managed infrastructure is going to have to be accepted as a necessity for creating its storage backbone.

With the world’s cities growing at their fastest-ever rate, the smart city is going to be essential to deliver effective, equitable, and environmentally sound services to burgeoning populations. And at the heart of enabling this paradigm is going to be having storage infrastructure that’s rapid, bottomless, and scalable – and realistically, that’s the managed option.

About the Author

David Friend is the co-founder and CEO of Wasabi, the cloud storage company that delivers fast, low-cost, and reliable cloud storage at 1/5th the price and 6X the speed of Amazon S3. Prior to Wasabi, David co-founded Carbonite, one of the world’s leading cloud backup companies. You can follow Wasabi on Twitter at @wasabi_cloud.

Featured image: ©Malchev