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Big Data Strategy Lacking At European Enterprises

Interxion study finds that only 25% of large European organizations have developed a business plan for big data. What's stopping them?
9 Bandwidth Hogs: Reality Vs. Myth
9 Bandwidth Hogs: Reality Vs. Myth
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A scant 7% of European organizations today see big data as a priority, but more than 62% believe big data will become a priority within three years. That's according to a new survey by Interxion, an Amsterdam-based provider of cloud- and carrier-neutral colocation data center services in Europe, and market research firm Vanson Bourne.

The study, "Big Data -- Beyond the Hype," also shows that only 25% of large European organizations have developed a business plan for big data; however, more than 80% of them have either "explored" big data or plan to do so. "What we see from the findings is that (big data) is on people's minds, but it's not a priority," said Interxion marketing executive Ian McVey in a phone interview with InformationWeek.

Vanson Bourne, which conducted the study for Interxion, surveyed 750 senior IT officials at companies with more than 500 employees in November and December 2012. At first glance, a European-specific survey may seem not particularly relevant to North American corporations. But its findings have much in common with at least one early study: Both suggest that large organizations, regardless of their home base, have yet to fully embrace the big data concept.

[ Big data may not be as daunting as you think. See Microsoft Goes After 3 Big Data Myths. ]

In December 2012, market research firm IDC and data storage company EMC released a study that showed only 3% of data today is tagged, and 0.5% is analyzed. "If we're exploring for digital oil, it is early days indeed," Chuck Hollis, EMC vice president and global marketing CTO, told InformationWeek in December. "We're only tagging 3% and analyzing 0.5% -- and we're struggling to do that as well. Boy, a lot of work we've got to do."

The Interxion survey says that several factors are keeping enterprises from embracing big data. For instance, 55% of respondents named analytics as one of their biggest big data-related concerns, followed by storage (53%) and network performance (48%).

The analytics concern likely stems from the need to hire seemingly scarce data scientists, professionals who possess both the requisite technical skills and business savvy to pull insights from large volumes of information.

Storage-related concerns make sense as well, particularly as corporations and government agencies begin to stockpile petabytes of data from machine sensors, social media services and myriad other electronic sources.

However, the network issue is one that's often overlooked. "If you bring together business, IT and networks, quite often the network piece is left out of the equation," said McVey. "Bringing together volume, velocity and variety is actually a network issue as well -- because if you're going to do, say, 12 petabytes of data across a WAN, that's quite costly."

Other interesting findings from the Interxion/Vanson Bourne study include:

-- Smaller companies are more likely to see big data as a challenge: 79% of businesses with 501 to 1000 employees say their IT departments view big data as a "significant challenge," versus just 55% of organizations with more than 3,000 workers.

-- The applications that drive big data solutions the most include customer management systems (41%), e-commerce (35%) and financial transactions (34%).

-- A company whose business plan is aligned with its IT strategy is more likely to explore the strategic potential of big data. This often doesn't happen, however, as budgetary pressures and the challenges of day-to-day operations mean that "business and IT aren't always aligned," said McVey.

-- One-third of IT managers, faced with have to attend to daily short-term challenges, struggle with long-term strategic planning related to big data and other forward-looking technical matters.

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