Big Data Adoption Gains Ground in 2013: Gartner

In anticipation of big data opportunities, organizations are collecting and storing a burgeoning amount of data.

Adoption of big data technologies is set to finally break into the mainstream in 2013, according to a worldwide Gartner survey of IT leaders, 42 percent of whom said they had invested in big data technology or were planning to do so within a year.

Big data—a collection of data sets so large and complex that it becomes difficult to process using on-hand database management tools or traditional data processing applications—is critical because businesses have identified obvious or potential business opportunities that cannot be met with traditional data sources, technologies or practices, the report said.

"Organizations have increased their understanding of what big data is and how it could transform the business in novel ways. The new key questions have shifted to 'what are the strategies and skills required?' and 'how can we measure and ensure our return on investment?'" Gartner Research Vice President Doug Laney said in a statement. "Most organizations are still in the early stages, and few have thought through an enterprise approach or realized the profound impact that big data will have on their infrastructure, organizations and industries."

Gartner said that by integrating and analyzing a variety of data sources, not just individually, organizations can achieve “extraordinary” business insights, process optimization and decision-making. By 2015, Gartner estimated that 20 percent of Global 1000 organizations will have established a strategic focus on "information infrastructure" equal to that of application management. Survey results indicate organizations are undertaking their big data initiatives in a rapidly shifting technological landscape with disruptive forces that produce and demand new data types and new kinds of information processing.

"This makes IT and business leaders worry that they are behind competitors in launching their big data initiatives. Not to worry, ideas and opportunities at this time are boundless, and some of the biggest big data ideas come from adopting and adapting ideas from other industries," Gartner Research Vice President Frank Buytendijk said in a statement. "Still, this makes it challenging to cut through the hype when evaluating big data technologies, approaches and project alternatives."

In anticipation of big data opportunities, organizations across industries are provisionally collecting and storing a burgeoning amount of operational, public, commercial and social data. However, the report noted in most industries—especially government, manufacturing and education—combining these sources with existing underutilized "dark data" such as emails, multimedia and other enterprise content often represents the most immediate opportunity to transform businesses.

"Business and IT executives regularly say that information is one of their company's greatest assets," Laney said. "Businesses are increasingly managing and deploying information more effectively than ever, but certainly not with the well-honed asset management discipline applied to their traditional material, financial or other intangible assets. The application of formal information valuation models will allow IT, information management and business leaders to make better-informed decisions on information management, enrichment, security, risks, purchasing, collection, usage, bartering, productization and disposal."