Big Data: Transforming Raw Information Into Successful Strategies
Wes Simonds 120000EFD6 firstname.lastname@example.org | | Tags:  streaming velicity variety volume big analytics infosphere data value biginsights
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The following contribution is by guest blogger Wes Simonds. Over the next few months, Wes will share with you his perspective on the role of software in transforming business and building a smarter planet. Wes worked in IT for seven years before becoming a technology writer on topics including virtualization, cloud computing and service management. He lives in sunny Austin, Texas and believes Mexican food should always be served with queso.
Big Data: Transforming Raw Information Into Successful Strategies
Big data's much more than a buzz word. It's a buzz saw that organizations can use to cut through uncertainty and doubt in developing new strategies.
The problem boils down to this: How can organizations optimize the business utility of all of their data, transforming it in an almost alchemical sense into new forms of value?
That's a difficult question to answer, particularly in the case of enterprises confronted by a data tsunami. According to recent IT analyst reports, in fact, enterprise data growth over the next five years is estimated to increase by more than 650 percent. Worse, a full 80 percent of that data is expected to be unstructured, making it significantly harder to assess and utilize.*
Beyond pure volume, data challenges also apply in the contexts of variety (data exists in many types and formats) and velocity (real-time data must be analyzed with extraordinary speed to create maximum value).
What if business leaders had a way to leverage all that data as a rich resource -- analyzing it in endless ways to uncover trends, track down emerging problems, and establish more accurately what their employees, business partners and clients/customers actually need and want?
Leverage big data to drive innovation -- and get a better business outcome
This, in fact, is exactly the value proposition of big data: the power to guide organizations in decision-making of many kinds and allow them to proceed with confidence.
The University of Ontario Institute of Technology is similarly leveraging big data analytics to obtain new insights and yield better patient care. By accessing analyses of vast amounts of patient information -- millions of readings per patient per hour -- from medical monitors and sifting through them for emerging problems, caregivers are empowered to address medical complexities proactively, before they become serious problems for patients.
Getting this kind of outcome from big data analysis, however, will mean thinking carefully about the complexities, and the extent to which they may or may not apply to your organization, then choosing the best available solutions to address them.
Will solutions work with the rest of your IT infrastructure?
Not all solutions will integrate easily or quickly with your existing assets and information repositories. For fast deployment and best ROI, look for solutions based on open standards (and in some cases, open source code) that maximize compatibility -- not proprietary interfaces or formats that lock you into a particular vendor's offerings. In cases where your data is already in a proprietary format, big data analytics solutions may need smart connectors to access it.
Can solutions address all aspects of big data—variety, velocity and volume?
Analytics tools will need to be capable of handling every data format, and in the largest volumes, whether that data is structured or unstructured. Also important: real-time analysis of data, in cases where streamed, time-sensitive information can be leveraged to drive rapid change.
"Two IBM solutions especially well suited to meeting those challenges are IBM InfoSphere® BigInsights and IBM InfoSphere Streams," said Asha Marsh, Big Data Product Marketing Manager for IBM.
"BigInsights can handle even Internet-scale data volumes and a wide variety of data types -- from text to video to system log files and much more. And if you're looking for up-to-the-minute insight, Streams performs real-time, complex analytics with microsecond latencies for the highest possible business agility in responding to new trends."
Does the solution keep data secure, and ensure it is being used appropriately?
Big data solutions, and the insights they can deliver, will need to be managed in a governed fashion so that only the right people have access -- and then, only with the right level of privileges. Solution providers with a strong background in governance and security, from abstract models to specific implementations, will help yield the best possible return on your big data investment.
Does the vendor have both the technology and industry expertise needed to apply the technology to your particular business problem?
Technology per se isn't enough; its specific utility in your context, as determined by your business goals, challenges, processes and strategies, is what really matters. For best results, seek out a big data solution provider with a history of successful customer engagements spanning many industries.
"IBM is bringing real-world industry experience to [our] students to keep them in touch with emerging technologies and IT trends such as big data," said Professor Nareshkumar Harale, Head of Computer Engineering, MGM College of Engineering and Technology.
Does the vendor have a big data vision that goes beyond today's infrastructure and information sources to encompass emerging platforms and generate new value?
As the diversity of information available to organizations increases, so, too, must the scope and capabilities of big data solutions -- as well as the speed at which new business strategies can be suggested and implemented.
"The volume and velocity of information is generated at a record pace. This is magnified by new forms of data coming from social networking and the explosion of mobile devices," said Steve Mills, Senior Vice President and Group Executive, IBM Software and Systems. "Through our extensive capabilities in business and technology expertise, IBM is best positioned to help clients not only extract meaningful insight, but enable them to respond at the same rate at which the data arrives."
Is data at your organization seen as a problem looking for a solution? Or a rich source of insights waiting to be discovered and tapped?
What's your big data strategy?
Guest blogger Wes Simonds worked in IT for seven years before becoming a technology writer on topics including virtualization, cloud computing and service management. He lives in sunny Austin, Texas and believes Mexican food should always be served with queso.