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3/11/2013
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Big Data: Hype Vs. Hope At Interop

Upcoming Interop workshop will focus on helping organizations see through big data hype and focus on what matters.

13 Big Data Vendors To Watch In 2013
13 Big Data Vendors To Watch In 2013
(click image for larger view and for slideshow)
A measured dose of skepticism is generally a good thing, particularly when it comes to big data. But that skepticism should not prevent enterprises from delving into the growing mountain of data they have in order to gain new insights into customers.

Big data and cloud were the hottest buzzwords in enterprise IT in 2012, and the upcoming Interop trade show and conference are exploring both in depth to help IT managers separate the hype from the hope. Both technologies have the potential to transform the way enterprises use technology and the increase the benefits they can derived from the data they are collecting. Big data already is leading to new medical treatments now that more heath data is being digitized and more research can be merged, producing larger statistical pools of treatment and outcomes.

For a consumer company like Netflix, which delivers movies and TV shows to a vast and diverse audience, big data can be used to improve suggestions and recommendations for what customers might want to watch next. Jeremy Edberg, reliability architect for Netflix and former Information Cowboy for reddit, will provide practical examples of how to use big data to help make businesses more successful.

Municipalities and other government entities and agencies also are making gains by using big data to improve services and spend money more wisely. Brett Goldstein, CIO for the city of Chicago, will appear at Interop to describe how Chicago Department of Innovation and Technology is using big data to accelerate the city's growth as a global hub of innovation and technology.

Goldstein was previously the city's chief data officer, where he led the city's efforts to improve transparency through open data and helped develop a strategy for citywide data usage and storage. He also was involved in making decision making more data driven by using data analytics, including predictive analytics. Goldstein, a former commander in the Chicago Police Department, founded and directed the Chicago Police Department's Predictive Analytics Group, which aims to predict when and where crime will happen.

But Interop doesn't just jump on the hottest hype bandwagon, and isn't a cheerleader. The goal of the panel discussions and workshops is to bring a dose of reality and practical application to the latest technology trends. And yes, to explode a few myths, while pointing attendees along the path to improved productivity and better alignment of business and technology.

There is no topic that needs a closer examination than big data. And we may now be entering a trough of big data disillusionment, according to Chris Taylor, marketing director for TIBCO software, an infrastructure software provider for on-premise and cloud computing systems.

Taylor and other data experts will discuss practical big data strategies in an 8-hour workshop, "Big Data Myths and Real Decisions," at Interop Las Vegas on May 7. One question that every organization should ask itself: How much data do we really need to save? "Just six months ago, the mantra was more is better," said Taylor in a phone interview with InformationWeek. "And now you're seeing stories start to pop up, saying, 'Well, maybe you don't want to hold everything.'"

[ What are the most common misconceptions about big data? Read Microsoft Goes After 3 Big Data Myths. ]

Of course, there's always a hype/backlash cycle when any new technology comes along. But what makes big data unique in this regard is that the sellers of big data solutions, rather than the buyers, appear to shying away from the "big data" tag. "The companies that are really focused on big data, and the ones who are most successful, are least likely to call it big data," Taylor said.

For instance, Nielsen, a company that Taylor has worked with extensively, manages many big data-like problems in its global efforts to collect information on customer preferences. But Nielsen doesn't consider itself a big data company, according to Taylor.

Why not? "Because they don't believe that what they're doing is focused just on Hadoop," he explained. "Big data and Hadoop have become so synonymous that companies who aren't focused on Hadoop feel like what they've accomplished will be taken the wrong way."

The Interop workshop will also explore how enterprises can gain a better understanding of their proposed big data ecosystems. One elementary question: Which big data platform is best for your needs: on-premise or in the cloud?

Given the rapid velocity of big data streams, there's often no time to move data from place to place -- from server to server, for instance -- for efficient processing. "The data amounts are too big, so companies are starting to use more technology to watch the data streams as they happen, rather than trying to move data in big chunks," Taylor said.

Organizations must also decide what information is most relevant to them. A retailer, for instance, will likely monitor its customers' usage of mobile apps, social media, retail transactions and loyalty programs. "These are all streams of information coming constantly," said Taylor. "You have to be able to watch those streams and pick up your customer."

Taylor warns that simply going to a big data provider and saying "We want big data" is a risky proposition. "There's been a perception that if you get enough data, you can find something in it that's meaningful," Taylor said. "I think that's a big mistake. The answer might be not big data at all, but small data. But if you haven't gone through the requirements phase, you won't know that."

Other workshop topics will include practical ways to integrate big data with your business, and how to determine what hardware infrastructure you'll need. The session will also include a rundown of the most requested use cases for big data.

The most common use case is what Taylor calls "The Offer." "If you're Dunkin' Donuts," he noted, "and you want to know exactly when to discount donuts or get people to come back for coffee, you look at the pattern of behaviors and try to find the best moment to drive that behavior."

Attend Interop Las Vegas May 6-10 and learn the emerging trends in information risk management and security. Use Priority Code MPIWK by March 22 to save an additional $200 off the early bird discount on All Access and Conference Passes. Join us in Las Vegas for access to 125+ workshops and conference classes, 300+ exhibiting companies, and the latest technology. Register today!

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