Luke Lonergan, Co-Founder & CTO, Greenplum, a division of EMC
Last month, I delivered a keynote at O’Reilly Strata Conference 2012 in Santa Clara, California where I addressed the top five questions about Big Data that I hear all the time.
1. What’s The Big Deal With Big Data?
We are all aware that data is growing in volume, but I think we’re much more interested in how Big Data is opening the door to a new realm of technologies and how we use them in our everyday pursuit of business. Big Data is a manifestation of the explosion of customer interactions, through mobile devices and social, and we are all trying to capture and take advantage of these interactions to get a closer relationship to our customers. Big Data compels us to use the data that is streaming in from all around to change how we engage our customers. Big Data is a big deal today more than ever, as it introduces a new approach to interacting with customers in a fundamentally different way.
2. Big Data: Classical or Jazz?
This question would definitely be a challenging query if we put it into a Google search engine! Like Big Data, music has gone through a progression. If you look at the way classical music was formed, it was a linear presentation of notes meant to be played by orchestras. Classical music was designed to be performed the same every time. In a world where customers’ expectations are always changing, organizations need to start playing a different tune. Jazz introduced the idea that the audience and environment are part of the performance, and the result changes and adapts. I think Big Data demands that we need to be more like jazz musicians than orchestras.
Just like jazz, adaptation is a fundamental element of this new Big Data world. How can companies really engage with customers so they understand what they are looking for? Organizations need to adapt and behave more like jazz bands and customize every interaction that they have with their audience.
One of the success stories that we see over and over again around Big Data is that the data that was formerly discarded, the data that is so voluminous and difficult to analyze, has all of a sudden become a gateway to finding new value and insights. It’s like striking gold in the mountain of dirt. So we are getting more value with this volume of data, and because of new technologies, Big Data is creating new opportunities for organizations.
4. Which Technologies Support Big Data Analytics?
We have a vast array of technologies that we can leverage to enable Big Data to help us gain insights and solve problems. One of the most significant innovations around Big Data is Hadoop, which is the standard bearer for a revolution in how data is stored and processed. “Scale-out” for everything is the technology foundation behind Hadoop and the idea of scale out is core to Big Data. We have to be prepared to move a business from 1,000 to 1 million to 10 million customers without changing the processing model or components, and Hadoop’s modular, scale-out everything model is designed for this purpose.
While storage is obviously important when it comes to physically storing data even more important is the notion of “computable storage” or the principle that anything stored can be used in scale-out computation and is an integral part of the Big Data infrastructure. Computable storage ensures that no matter how large the data grows, we are able to use it for computation in a predictable amount of time.
The compute layer, which is also scale-out, provides the analytics and makes sense of the data. Computable storage, analytics, real-time services and interactions need to not only have a scale-out element but also part of the real-time workflow and feedback loop that facilitates continuous interactions among customers and data science teams. Having a scale-out infrastructure that work together enables organizations to quickly adapt to customers who are continuously interacting with their services.
5. Is Big Data The Future?
With Big Data, are we just passing through hype or will it have a lasting influence? Certainly, Big Data is already creating an impact in the way we interact with the world. We’re also seeing many successful companies that are using Big Data to bring new value to their customers.
There is a new normal with Big Data where we create dynamic engagement with our customers and environment, one that provides the power to adapt with the interactivity that is needed to meet customers’ changing needs. Big Data requires agility and predictive capabilities. Big Data is enabling companies through the availability of machine learning and dynamic model construction to anticipate customer interactions that guide customers through customized trajectories.
The most successful Internet companies are already leveraging this new normal. Traditional businesses are just starting to get value from their back-end analytics and are just beginning to grapple with the idea of changing their interaction layer from classic OLTP to more dynamic interactions. So there is a sense of urgency for Big Data. Successful companies that leverage Big Data will gain predictive and dynamic capabilities to mine new value and create deeper customer relationships.