05 Jan 2013 — By Fari Payandeh
The thickening line of optimism wrapping around the vector of time is a harbinger of what is to come. As I was browsing through the Big-Data-related articles that I had collected in 2012, I couldn’t help but noticing the positive trend in the way the world is viewing it. Nonetheless, a chorus of voices, conveying a message of admonishment has been reverberating through the corridors of academic and scientific communities. The gap between the overly optimistic business world and the prudent scientific world is primarily created by the forces that have stumbled into a delicious opportunity for making huge profits. They see Big Data as a low hanging fruit and they are working around the clock to promote it. Some of these “experts” don’t have the foggiest idea of what’s under the hood. “Something true when whispered becomes false when shouted”, and that is part of the problem. On the opposite pole, some scientists wrongly assume that Big Data is just another fad and it will collapse under its own weight. I believe that the current state of this technology is the most sensitive barometer for measuring its future potential. However, the technology has two arms, albeit inextricably intertwined, working on two different requirements. Big Data’s first arm came to life out of operational necessities after some Web 2.0 companies hit an impasse while utilizing traditional RDBMS technology. The second arm, the analytics, already existed in the IT industry, but needed a transplant to give it Business Intelligence capabilities. The operational arm has been successfully implemented by companies like Facebook; Facebook ingests around 500 TB of data per day– an astonishing value compared to traditional Data Warehousing limits. The evidence abounds that the operational capabilities of Big Data are indisputable.
Now, let’s examine the point of contention, which is Big Data Analytics. No one questions the value that analytics might bring to businesses. The rift is caused by the disagreements over the practical aspects of creating value, and not its merits. Here is a good example of what is under scrutiny: How are we going to derive insight from bad data? Many companies are grappling with making sense of the operational data they have collected, let alone distilling raw data into intelligence. With that in mind, there are companies that have succeeded in increasing revenues and reducing costs as a result of implementing Big Data Analytics. As the world becomes one huge Network– one entity one IP address— arena, connecting billions of devices, and as more and more sensors are implanted in “things”– appliances, buildings, offices, homes, vehicles, factories, medical devices, and big machineries, we will witness a societal metamorphosis. Just as breaking the sound barrier unleashed the forces that changed the world in terms of air travel and warfare, breaking the data size barrier will inevitably change the world in terms of making it a SMART place. Does it mean that every company that sits on top of large amounts of data will directly benefit from this new technology? The answer is No. Is Big Data going to change the world as we know it? The answer is a resounding Yes, but it will take some time for Big Data’s true identity to be revealed.