The Buzz On Big Data

Over the last year or so, the buzz over big data has reached deafening proportions. It’s hard to go a day without encountering some mention of the term, and a growing number of organizations are looking for ways to put the concept into play.

“It’s a hot topic,” states Tony Baer, principal analyst for Ovum Consulting. He discovered a number of interesting trends when he examined recent social media sentiment data collected by analytics firm DataSift, which Ovum collaborated with on a comprehensive study.

For one thing, the topic has jumped outside the boundaries of IT and spread into the general enterprise. A growing number of business publications and portals, such as Forbes and Harvard Business Review, are devoting ink and pixels to big data.

For another, positive mentions of big data vendors outnumbered negative mentions by 3 to 1. A negative spike occurred in November, when HP’s troubled acquisition of Autonomy hit the news. However, Baer says that this event has little to do with overall big data adoption and trends. “It is a peripheral issue at best,” he states. Overall, 60 percent of Twitter activity on the topic occurred in the second half of 2012.

Twitter analysis also revealed that Apache Hadoop isn’t the only major recognizable name in the big data arena. 10gen, which produces the popular MongoDB document-oriented NoSQL database, ranked high in visibility, trailing only the Apache Foundation.

Others, such as IBM and Teradata, were also well-represented in the Twitter stream. This, Baer says, indicates a growing awareness in the “Internet of Things” and a desire to generate business insights from all data.

The research also found that attitudes about big data—and ideas about adoption— vary significantly by country. Conventional wisdom would indicate that the United States would be the leading market for big data platform installs, but the Japanese, Germans, and French were often far more vocal on Twitter.

One surprise from the study, Baer says, is the fact that sentiment remains so overwhelmingly positive, and adoption seems to be steaming ahead without much resistance. “As with any new technology, some organizations are going to stub their toes,” he points out. “So, you would think there would be some negative static out there. So far, it has not appeared.”

Baer believes that negative buzz about big data will likely accelerate in 2013, as businesses ramp up adoption and encounter inevitable problems. “There will be frustrations and lessons learned,” he notes, “but the reality is that big data is becoming an important IT and business initiative. There’s a need to analyze data and use it for closed-loop decision making. The technology is becoming more accessible, and there’s a growing skill base for tackling big data.”

The bigger question, he says, is what will organizations do with all the existing data? “The jury is out about whether organizations have the data science expertise to put big data to work in an intelligent and useful way,” Baer concludes.”Although big data is very real and isn’t going away, we are clearly going to see growing pains.”

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