Big data is continuing down the path from mystery to common tool, given the recent Salesforce partnership involving six players in the big data space. The company that is best known for its SaaS and CRM products wants to make its Wave analytics platform capable of handling big data from other sources.
However, at a deep level, Salesforce and its partners also want to make big data easier to use, taking it down from the data scientist level to that of the informed user.
If Salesforce and its partners are successful, big data will move out of the highly specialized world it's in now to one in which it is a mainstream IT product, available to anyone with access to the data and PCs or mobile devices. This process of popularization can change how IT and CIOs, and even employees, interact with analytics.
"The threshold of expertise is coming down because people are asking different questions," Anne Rosenman senior director for product marketing at Salesforce Analytic Cloud, told InformationWeek in an interview.
"Twenty years ago, there was no tracking of social, no tracking about how people navigated Websites on mobile or click paths," Rosenman added. "Now all those pieces are data and are becoming important … and actionable."
Coming on board as Salesforce partners are Google, Cloudera, Hortonworks, New Relic, Informatica, and Trifacta. Generally, the partners would be the gatherers and managers of big data, while Salesforce would simply provide the software connectors to link Wave with partner offerings.
"A lot of our customers are already using these big data platforms," Rosenman continued. "We're delivering an analytic platform people can use. About half of current Wave users are accessing the app over mobile platforms."
The perspective changes a bit from the viewpoint of the partners.
"We're looking to integrate and to provide powerful back-end services," said Adam Massey, director of the cloud ecosystem at Google. By providing access to Google's deeper pools of big data, Salesforce users can add greater context to the customer data that Salesforce users access, Massey explained. That should result in better digital decision-making.
Google's participation is in the backend. Salesforce users only have to worry about crafting their query while Google manages the infrastructure and scales capacity to fit the need, Massey continued. Google provides the connectors between its database and Hadoop distributions running in the cloud.
Hadoop provider Cloudera is also pursuing ease-of-use.
"Our goal is to offer ways to run multiple workloads on a single datasets in a Hadoop cluster, thereby removing complexity when it's not needed (for business analysts, say) and maintaining it when it is (for data science, say)," explained Clarke Patterson, senior director for product marketing at Cloudera in an email.
"[W]e focus on making the experience of deploying Hadoop as easy as possible with a specific focus on management, security and governance," Patterson added. "Our assertion is that Hadoop should be treated the same as any other technology component in the data center so [it] should have these capabilities built in."
What Will Change?
What is not apparent today is the limit of big data.
So far it seems exempt from the law of diminishing returns. At what point does it cease being cost-effective to sift through another petabyte of unstructured data?
"There is no shortage of queries. All can be stored in the cloud," said Google's Massey.
Right now only one percent of all data is being analyzed, noted Salesforce's Rosenmann. "There is goodness in the 99%," she added.
"At some point … we will stop talking about big data and get back to just talking about data," added Cloudera's Patterson.
Hadoop merely becomes another part of the datacenter, Patterson said, much like a relational database. "[W]here the data comes from won't matter. What will matter is more of it will be at the fingertips of every person across the enterprise should they so choose to make use of it."