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How Big is the Burden of Big Data?

By Rakesh Raman

Today, tech vendors are leaving no stone unturned to sell their ‘big data’ solutions to enterprises. But chief information officers (CIOs) or tech heads in user organizations are more confused than enthused about this new offering.

So, what exactly is big data? It’s a relatively new term that emerged with the proliferation of digital channels including the Web interfaces, mobile networks, and social connectivity platforms. The deluge of structured and unstructured data that always keeps flowing on these channels is termed as big data.

Estimates suggest that today there are about 2.5 billion Internet users, 2 billion social media users, and nearly 6 billion mobile devices are in use across the world. All these users of digital devices and Web properties are generating colossal amount of data that can’t be analyzed using ordinary tech tools.

Data Deluge

While it may be possible for user companies to manage structured data that comes through standard online forms and goes directly to their database systems, it’s the unstructured data in the form of e-mails and social media messages that needs special analytical treatment.

For instance, today nearly 120 billion e-mails are exchanged per day by 800 million global workers while 2.5 billion Facebook posts and 400 million Twitter tweets are exchanged in a day.

The challenge before user companies is to cull out relevant information from these constantly flowing data streams, analyze that information, and use it to refine their business strategies.

However, it’s not that hunky-dory affair. Organizations are trying to analyze and interpret this huge amount of data to understand consumer demand, competitors’ strategies, market trends, and so on to pull off data-led growth for their businesses.

But most users have still not realized the applications of big data solutions for their business needs. Although these solutions are considered useful for analyzing a business ecosystem, user organizations are struggling to know the subtleties of big data to apply it in their business environments.

Low Awareness

Despite industry hype, most organizations have yet to develop and implement a big data strategy. Business analytics company SAS and researcher SourceMedia surveyed 339 data management professionals about their organizations’ use of data management technology.

The results show that few organizations are taking advantage of product, customer, and other data sources. Just 12 percent of organizations surveyed are currently executing against a big data strategy in daily operations.

Among the most common reasons they are not fully exploiting their big data is that 21 percent don’t know enough about big data, the survey revealed.

Undeterred by the lack of awareness among user companies, top tech vendors are introducing their big data solutions and taking other steps to inform CIOs and corporate decision makers about the utility of big data. Vendors like IBM, Microsoft, HP, and EMC are at the forefront of big data marketing campaigns.

Big Data Forays

Tech companies are not only selling their solutions independently, but they’re also joining hands with other organizations to promote their products. Rutgers, for example, launched a high-performance computing (HPC) center at the university focused on the application of big data analytics in life sciences, finance, and other industries.

Rutgers Discovery Informatics Institute

Rutgers Discovery Informatics Institute

The center is aimed at improving the economic competitiveness of New Jersey’s public and private research organizations. The HPC center will be part of the newly created Rutgers Discovery Informatics Institute (RDI2) and will utilize supercomputing equipment and software provided by IBM in the project’s first phase.

Similarly, Square Kilometer Array (SKA) South Africa, a business unit of the country’s National Research Foundation joined Astron, the Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy, and IBM in a four-year collaboration.

The objective is to research extremely fast, but low-power exascale computer systems aimed at developing advanced technologies for handling the massive amount of data that will be produced by the SKA.

Microsoft believes that big data’s strain on privacy protection, the shifting relationship between government and the Internet, and the evolving threat model all raise new challenges for industry and governments globally.

The software major warns that from a security perspective, big data represents a valuable target for attackers. As the cloud and devices become more integrated with society, people also become increasingly dependent on the reliability and availability of data and services to function.

Microsoft has devised a strategy to overcome big data challenges for companies and governments around the world.

Market Development Initiatives

Among other big data initiatives, EMC Corporation announced its plans to establish an R&D center in the Skolkovo Foundation’s Innovation Hub in Russia that will focus on development of cloud infrastructure solutions and big data analytics technologies for Bioinformatics and Energy Efficiency.

EMC’s Skolkovo center is part of its global network of R&D centers operating in Brazil, China, India, Ireland, Israel, Singapore, and the United States.

Big companies are also exploring options of inorganic growth in the big data market. Last year, for example, IBM completed the acquisition of Vivisimo, a leading provider of federated discovery and navigation software that helps organizations access and analyze big data.

Big Data

Big Data

Vivisimo software automates the discovery of big data, regardless of its format or where it resides, providing decision makers with a federated view of key business information necessary to drive new initiatives.

On the hardware front, HP introduced a server to help clients operationalize big data. The HP ProLiant SL4500 server series was claimed to be the only solution purpose-built for big data environments.

Moreover, IBM unveiled a new digital marketing system and big data software. It is designed to help organizations gain actionable insights on the broadest range of data to transform the way they do business with customers, employees and partners, suggests IBM.

According to the company, the new offerings tackle the most pressing big data challenges facing organizations today — accessing and gaining intelligence into an enormous stream of data generated from mobile, social, and digital networks.

Meanwhile, “The Human Face of Big Data” was launched as a globally crowdsourced initiative from Rick Smolan, the creator of the “Day in the Life” series. The multifaceted project kicked off with an eight-day “Measure Our World” event inviting people around the world to share and compare their lives in real time through a smartphone app.

The Human Face of Big Data

The Human Face of Big Data

Of late, IBM released new technologies designed to help companies and governments tackle big data by making it simpler, faster and more economical to analyze massive amounts of data. New data acceleration innovation results in as much as 25 times faster reporting and analytics, claims IBM.

While the big data market is currently in its infancy, attempts are being made to take the solutions to the next level of implementation. In this direction, the Rugby Football Union (RFU) and IBM have announced a strategic five year agreement.

As Official Analytics Partner for the RFU, IBM will implement a leading analytics solution to provide fans with real-time insights into the game, including information about individual performance by players – the IBM TryTracker.

In a first for rugby, IBM’s Predictive Analytics software will analyze historic and current rugby data provided by Opta, the world’s leading sports data provider, to provide valuable in-game stats.

As big data is knocking at user organizations’ doors, CIOs need to acquire additional skills to handle big data and overcome big data challenges to meet their core business objectives. Big data should not end up in big splurge of company resources without delivering any meaningful results.

By Rakesh Raman, the managing editor of RMN Digital.


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