2012: A Cloudy Year for Big Data

By Frank Ohlhorst  |  Posted 2012-01-15 Print this article Print

"Convergence" is the word as big data moves further into the cloud and into the reach of small and midsize enterprises.

Truth be told, big data is not a big or new concept.

The ideology behind big data has been around since the early days of mainframes and scientific computing. What is new about big data is the term itself, which has become part of the nomenclature of today's business speak. Still, for most of its existence, big data has been out of the reach of small and midsize businesses (SMBs) because the storage and processing power needed to make this technology work is too expensive.

The cloud is changing that by bringing the necessary big data components to the masses in the form of hosted solutions. These new cloud-based capabilities are on a growth path and are creating more opportunities for even the smallest of businesses to leverage big data without the traditional expenses of compute farms and massive storage arrays.

Big data analytics comprises three primary elements: volumes of unstructured data, processing power and algorithms. Naturally, the biggest challenge for SMBs is the data itself-finding it, storing it and accessing it.

For it to be true big data, there has to be lots of it, and most SMBs don't generate that volume of data internally, which leads them to seek out alternative data sources. Here, the cloud delivers.

There are several large public data sets that are readily available, containing all types of information, including data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the World Bank and general public data from Google.

Additional data is available from several government agencies, such as Data.gov, while data-focused sites that span everything from Web traffic to social networking can be found in the likes of Crunchbase.com, Kasabi.com, Freebase.com, Infochimps.com and Kaggle.com. These Websites offer a variety of data types for use in analytics.

Throughout 2012, those data sets and others can be expected to grow exponentially. The amount of data being generated globally increases by 40 percent a year, according to the McKinsey Global Institute, a data analytics research firm.

However, data is only part of the equation. All this information needs to be organized, sorted and processed, and that takes computing power.

Once again, cloud services can deliver those capabilities. A key example is Amazon's Cluster Compute, a cloud-based supercomputer that offers this service.

Amazon isn't the only one in the game: Companies such as IBM and Hewlett-Packard are offering private cloud-based big data analytics platforms. However, since this technology is designed as a complete platform and not as a service, these platforms are still out of the reach of the SMB market.

Other companies are looking to fill that void by offering on-demand analytic solutions that can process big data and deliver results quickly and inexpensively. A case in point is Aster Data, which offers a cloud-based, on-demand analytics platform, along with appliance-based and software analytics products. Another company looking to bring big data analytics into the cloud is 1010Data, which has developed a completely hosted big data analytics platform.

Still other firms are developing the momentum to convert big data analytics into cloud services. The most notable of these ventures is Splunk, which is known for software that analyzes large volumes of machine data. The company is currently working on Splunk Storm, a data analytics platform designed for cloud developers to build multitenant solutions. That way, the high costs of big data analytics can be spread out among multiple customers, creating an economy of scale that will increase in affordability over time.

Frank Ohlhorst Frank J. Ohlhorst is the Executive Technology Editor for eWeek Channel Insider and brings with him over 20 years of experience in the Information Technology field.He began his career as a network administrator and applications program in the private sector for two years before joining a computer consulting firm as a programmer analyst. In 1988 Frank founded a computer consulting company, which specialized in network design, implementation, and support, along with custom accounting applications developed in a variety of programming languages.In 1991, Frank took a position with the United States Department of Energy as a Network Manager for multiple DOE Area Offices with locations at Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL), Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPL), Argonne National Laboratory (ANL), FermiLAB and the Ames Area Office (AMESAO). Frank's duties included managing the site networks, associated staff and the inter-network links between the area offices. He also served at the Computer Security Officer (CSO) for multiple DOE sites. Frank joined CMP Technology's Channel group in 1999 as a Technical Editor assigned to the CRN Test Center, within a year, Frank became the Senior Technical Editor, and was responsible for designing product testing methodologies, assigning product reviews, roundups and bakeoffs to the CRN Test Center staff.In 2003, Frank was named Technology Editor of CRN. In that capacity, he ensured that CRN maintained a clearer focus on technology and increased the integration of the Test Center's review content into both CRN's print and web properties. He also contributed to Netseminar's, hosted sessions at CMP's Xchange Channel trade shows and helped to develop new methods of content delivery, Such as CRN-TV.In September of 2004, Frank became the Director of the CRN Test Center and was charged with increasing the Test Center's contributions to CMP's Channel Web online presence and CMP's latest monthly publication, Digital Connect, a magazine geared towards the home integrator. He also continued to contribute to CMP's Netseminar series, Xchange events, industry conferences and CRN-TV.In January of 2007, CMP Launched CRNtech, a monthly publication focused on technology for the channel, with a mailed audience of 70,000 qualified readers. Frank was instrumental in the development and design of CRNTech and was the editorial director of the publication as well as its primary contributor. He also maintained the edit calendar, and hosted quarterly CRNTech Live events.In June 2007, Frank was named Senior Technology Analyst and became responsible for the technical focus and edit calendars of all the Channel Group's publications, including CRN, CRNTech, and VARBusiness, along with the Channel Group's specialized publications Solutions Inc., Government VAR, TechBuilder and various custom publications. Frank joined Ziff Davis Enterprise in September of 2007 and focuses on creating editorial content geared towards the purveyors of Information Technology products and services. Frank writes comparative reviews, channel analysis pieces and participates in many of Ziff Davis Enterprise's tradeshows and webinars. He has received several awards for his writing and editing, including back to back best review of the year awards, and a president's award for CRN-TV. Frank speaks at many industry conferences, is a contributor to several IT Books, holds several records for online hits and has several industry certifications, including Novell's CNE, Microsoft's MCP.Frank can be reached at frank.ohlhorst@ziffdavisenterprise.com

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