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10/18/2011
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Social Meets Big Data: Get Ready

You may not agree with Marc Benioff that Facebook looks like the future of the Web. But you'd better be ready for the mountain of data social media produces.

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"Everything I want in a consumer OS is in Facebook," Salesorce.com CEO Marc Benioff told the audience at the Web 2.0 Summit on Monday.

As InformationWeek's Fritz Nelson reports from the conference, Benioff says that's where enterprise users are learning about collaboration.

I'm not sure that I buy that most of us collaborate very much on Facebook. We share; we riff; we entertain; we stay in touch. Sure, Facebook makes it easier to share information than many corporate software systems do (and at most companies, we all deal with too many systems, each with their own quirks and security.)

But Facebook certainly has not won accolades from its user base for its last few rounds of interface tweaks, nor for its continued fiddling with security settings. Unlike Google tools, Facebook hasn't become a widely-used part of the corporate workday. Yet it is our continued willingness to share via Facebook and its rivals that is creating a mountain of data for businesses to analyze.

"We're on the threshold of a new industry with data," Benioff also told the Web 2.0 Summit conference audience.

Big data captures the imagination of IT people because it helps them achieve the holy grail: Generate actionable data quickly to help the business make better decisions, innovate, and increase revenue.

But big, as it turns out, is just the start of the big data conversation. As InformationWeek's Doug Henschen reports, variety, velocity, and volume are the hallmarks of the big data era. It's not just about how big your big data store is. Check out the expert advice he shares on compressing the data, sharing the results, dealing with new types of data (including all that social media data,) and more.

The more velocity we have access to, the more we want, as business people--and as consumers. Think about it: Don't you expect your customer service requests to be acted upon more quickly now? Don't you expect your loyalty rewards benefits to kick in faster than ever?

I signed up for a hotel rewards program over the weekend and was shocked they didn't instantly send me a discount offer of some kind. "Didn't their database kick that out yet?" I couldn't help thinking. After all, I now get instant alerts on my iPhone when a favorite store is offering a one-afternoon discount. Data analysis speed. Your business team will never be sated, because your customers never will be.

Whose tools can help? See Henschen's anlaysis of the 12 Top Big Data Analytics Players, with options ranging from Hadoop to Teradata.

Not up to speed on how your peers are using Hadoop or the other tools? Catch up by reading 10 Lessons Learned By Big Data Pioneers.

Stay up to date on all the discussions of big data analysis happening Tuesday and Wednesday at the Web 2.0 Summit, with our complete coverage, including a video livestream.

Laurianne McLaughlin is editor-in-chief for InformationWeek.com. Follow her on Twitter at @lmclaughlin.

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