Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Big Data, Fast Data, Orange Data, Blue Data - its decisions that count not data

Oh the chanting is out, Big Data, Fast Data, the three 'V's and of course the ubiquitous elephant are roaming across the IT landscape as the next great hype monster.  Its going the same way as pretty much every IT hype exercise.  Yes this links to the hype cycle but the way it happens is sadly predictable in IT.

  1. Company has a business problem they think about it in an innovative way
  2. Company needs to build a new piece of technology to help with the process, or chooses to just because they can
  3. Company announces the business results they have
  4. IT industry focuses on the technology
  5. IT industry creates a sticker - 'Big Data'
  6. IT vendors produce versions of that technology or start claiming their technology does that anyway
  7. IT vendors ramp up the marketing spend around the technology
  8. Everyone forgets why this all started
Why is it that Google and Yahoo created and use Hadoop?  Well its because they had a completely different scale of data problem and needed to do challenging analytics in a different way.  Whether it be ad serving or search itself the point was that the aim was functional the data was required to deliver on that functional goal.

When people rave about Social Media, Open Data and various Big Data sources and talk about Hadoop in glowing terms that is all fine and good, but the real point here is about decisions and making them better.  Its about what you can improve in your business not about having to store every piece of data out there.  Concentrating on HDFS as being the important thing in Big Data is looking at flooring being the only important piece of a house.

The hype is on with Big Data, the hype is on with Fast Data but the reality is back to why people started looking at these volumes of information and critically about what it actually means when you start considering massive scale information in terms of governance, management and analytics and that all comes back to a simple set of questions.

What decisions do I need to make better?  What information do I need to make those decisions better? How do I get the right analysis of that information delivered to the point where the decision is made?

We need to stop focusing on Hadoop, R, HANA and all of the technical pieces and start looking at the real trend here, and that is the integrating of analytics into operational processes, the old world of transactional data v analytical data has gone and that is a massive change for IT, not simply in technology but more critically in mindset.

The real shift is not 'Big Data' its the end to post-transactional reporting, its about a single IT infrastructure that mixes real-time information with historical analytics to support better operational decision making.

As with SOA the real shift is a mental one not a technical one and its the mental shift that is hardest to achieve.  Can traditional IT departments move away from the separation of BI from Operational systems?  Clearly the business is going to do that so the only question is whether the IT department is along for the ride or is just the kindergarden where people play with toys.

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