There’s been a lot of buzz generated about Big Data in recent years. Big Data really is a big deal, even minus the hype. Here are a few mind-boggling facts that reveal just how “big” the data really is:
- More data has been created in just the past two years than in the entire history of humanity.
- The rate of data accumulation will continue to accelerate. By 2020, the amount of data generated yearly is expected to equal all the data produced in 2009—multiplied by 44.
- The accumulated data in 2020 will equal about 44 zettabytes. (One zettabyte equals 1,000,000,000,000 gigabytes.)
- Digital storage makes the Big Data explosion possible. If all the data accumulated in a single year were written onto DVDs, all the disks, when stacked, would reach to the moon and back.
- The internet and social media are big drivers of Big Data. With every minute of every day, there are 100,000 tweets, 11 million instant messages, 170 million emails, and 31 million Facebook messages sent out into the world.
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The accumulation of data will only accelerate in the next few years, fueled by smart devices. Within just a few years more than 50 billion smart devices globally are expected to be feeding and growing the worldwide Big Data repository.
But what is the real value of all that data?
The Real-World Benefits of Big Data
We’ve only begun to scratch the surface in putting all that data to work, with less than one percent of all incoming data ever analyzed. But the potential is staggering.
Just a 10 percent increase in data accessibility can yield an average net income increase of more than $65 million for the typical Fortune 1000 company. Researchers at the McKinsey Global Institute calculate that retailers stand to increase operating margins more than 60 percent by fully exploiting data analytics.
Better integration of Big Data and data analytics present the healthcare industry with the opportunity to cut costs as much as $300 billion per year. And Oracle predicts that Big Data and Analytics will provide significant operational improvements in many key functional areas of finance and banking.
What Big Data Means for IT Departments
IT must bear the brunt of managing the flood of Big Data. Following are a few of the key impacts of Big Data on company’s IT departments:
- Scalability: IT must respond much faster to the rate of data growth, and be able to more accurately predict how the organization is utilizing Big Data storage. Rates of growth must be planned to ensure that resources will meet future demand—three months, six months, a year down the road.
- Complexity: In the past, an organization might rely upon a single, monolithic server. But in the age of Big Data, architecture has evolved. Now, a single large server might be replaced by a dozen, a hundred, or even thousands of low-priced servers. But that also multiplies the equipment menagerie that IT must monitor and maintain.
- Disparity: Before the age of Big Data, IT staff typically focused upon collecting and storing only a few data types. A software program at a financial institution, for example, might collect and process numeric data types, and nothing more. But Big Data is disparate data, and IT must develop data-agnostic capabilities to support the storage and management of many different forms of data.
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Big Data also offers IT the opportunity to be more prepared for market volatility. Consider the market instability that occurred in 2008: Countless IT departments found themselves scrambling to spin up additional resources to meet the demands generated by a chaotic financial landscape. Now, through the increased analytics capabilities enabled by Big Data, IT is more readily able to glean insights into users’ needs and market trends, helping to better predict and respond to market forces.
Three Musts for IT in Meeting the Big Data Challenge
How can IT manage the three impacts of Big Data mentioned above? By a symmetrical focus upon strengthening three key areas:
1. Talent: IT departments are filled with talented people. The homogenous whole of the typical IT department, in fact, represents many different sub-divisional areas of expertise: developers, testers, DBAs, etc. But most IT departments currently suffer a lack of the specific areas of expertise needed to consolidate the massive volume of Big Data into useable, actionable information for the business. Skills such as data visualization, statistical/quantitative analysis, data mining, machine learning, and NoSQL database management are among the talents that will grow in importance for IT in the age of Big Data.
2. Orchestration: By definition, Big Data incorporates many different types of data, drawn from a plethora of disparate sources. Success with Big Data requires that all sources and types of data blend into a harmonious whole. The orchestration of the process of merging and parsing the many different data inputs is an evolving discipline that should be an ongoing focus of IT departments.
3. Leadership: Most business departments at each organization will find tremendous value in the hidden connections and revelations that Big Data offers. But many of these departments are quite unaware of the potential value offered by Big Data technologies. IT departments should take the organizational lead in connecting the dots for these departments, helping them to understand and realize the value that awaits in leveraging the benefits of Big Data.
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It’s Not Simply the “Big” That Provides the Value
Though we’re only at the dawn of the Big Data era, it’s clear that the unprecedented explosion of data generation and storage will impact our lives mightily. But it’s not simply the sheer volume of data now available that provides value; it’s the way that data is used.
Not all data, after all, has value. That massive bulk of data must be sifted, sorted, and analyzed to tease out the nuggets of value. Distilling the relevance and extracting value from the whole is the key to transforming Big Data from big hype to insightful, actionable, real-world value.
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