Big Data: Who Cares?
Despite the hype being generated by big data, many are questioning the actual implications for business. With data expected to grow at 40% a year and the digital universe recently breaking the zettabyte barrier, much of the buzz is based just on the absolute wow factor of how big is big.
Putting aside the hype about the amount of data, it’s also important to note that in addition to the increased volume, the nature of the data is also changing. Most of this growth is unstructured machine- and consumer-generated data. Digital technologies are moving to denser media, photos have all gone digital, videos are using higher resolution, and advanced analytics requires more storage.
In short, the amount of data is increasing and the data objects themselves are getting bigger. But so what? As an IT organization why should I care? There are two big reasons.
In all of this unstructured data there is real business value. What businesses need to do is identify the specific opportunities they have to use very large and unstructured data sets and generate real world results.
An example of the benefits that can be derived from big data analytics is monitoring customer buying habits, integrated with real-time alerts. If a regular customer does something unexpected – like order 300 times more than they usually do – the company can immediately re-route inventory to satisfy their need. For businesses in retail environments, being able to store and analyse hours, days, months and years of surveillance video allows optimised product placement and service locations.
As the business advantage of big data analysis becomes more apparent, the new consumers of business intelligence will come from places like marketing and product operations, rather than the traditional consumer of business intelligence, the finance department. As these departments have expectations of immediate results, it may be impossible to satisfy cost effectively with existing solutions. This is driving increasing interest in leveraging the approach of open source solutions like Hadoop for specific data marts, at a price point that fits within these departments’ ability to provide project funding. From an IT perspective, it’s vital to ensure your infrastructure is managed in a way that will allow it to adapt to these changing needs.
Cost of Compliance
Based on current trends, at some point the cost of compliance will break your budget. Conformance requirements mean you need to keep an ever-growing amount of increasingly valuable data. Compliance to new laws may require data be kept forever and be retrieved immediately when required. Additionally as existing infrastructure scales, the complexity of managing and protecting the data becomes impractical. Eventually you will have to think differently about your data and keep more while spending less.
As an IT organisation you may be thinking that your own data growth will soon be stretching the limits of your infrastructure. A way to define big data is to look at your existing infrastructure, the amount of data you have now, and the amount of growth you’re experiencing. Is it starting to break your existing processes? If so, where?
At NetApp we’ve taken a practical approach to helping our customers with their big data challenges. It’s not about some future unknown state that requires retraining your staff with new competencies or changing the way you do business. It’s about what can you do today that can make a real difference. If you can find the value in your universe of data and help your company turn it into real business advantage, then you will instrumental so its success and fufill the promise that IT has held out to the business. If not, IT risks being considered as just another cost centre with an increasingly cloudy future.