Big Data: Analytics and Much More

Susan Hall

As private companies struggle to find the analytic talent they need to deal with the massive amounts of information they collect, the $200 million government Big Data initiative announced Thursday by President Obama makes developing the necessary work force one of its three main goals.


Much of that money and effort will go toward scientific research to further the missions of the departments of energy, defense and health. In a Forbes article, Ping Li, a partner at venture capital firm Accel Partners, talks about how Big Data will transform science, but the article also discusses the array of work in the overall economy that will be created.


Li is quoted as saying:

A lot of the applications that ride on top of these new data platforms have yet to be invented. Right now users are importing legacy business intelligence and ERP, putting it on top and calling it Big Data. I think we will see new applications that are Big Data. We are just starting to see the seeds as people recognize the potential of the new platform. We will see startups that will build new applications which will break the existing platforms and start again.

Anand Rajaraman, a Stanford professor and founder of companies that have been acquired by Amazon and Walmart agrees, saying:

"Big Data is at a stage where early innovators are out there." This is like the early days of e-commerce when pioneers had to figure out components like fraud and payments, he added.


"Each of those is now a big company. In Big Data, each of the new use cases will get commercialized and become a big company on its own...."


And InfoWorld reported on a keynote earlier this month by Amazon CTO Werner Vogels at the CeBit trade show, saying:

"Big data is not only about analytics, it's about the whole pipeline. So when you think about big data solutions, you have to think about all the different steps: collect, store, organize, analyze, and share," said Vogels.


To make full use of the growing amounts of data many enterprises collect and to gain a competitive advantage, innovation has to occur in all of these areas, not just analytics, according to Vogels.


Yet the analytics component is important, too-and on a global level, according to Forrester analyst James Kobielus, who writes at Information Management:

If we accept that humanity plays, either through divine appointment or natural selection, the role of master steward of Earth's resources, then it's clear that analytics may be a prime resource in helping us build a sustainable, scalable, and livable future for one and all. Or, conversely, our collective misapplication of analytics and other technologies may doom us through self-destructive measures that contribute to irreversible resource depletion at the expense of future generations.


And yes, that sounds far weightier than the analytics that determined it's best, if you're buying a used car, to select an orange one.

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