Written by Rob Lawrence, eSage Group’s Strategic Relationship Manager
Will someone please tell us all, once and for all, just what in tarnation is Big Data? What is it? Where is it? Who’s doing what with it? And why are they doing that? In one blog article I can maybe just scratch the surface of those questions. I might even provide some level of understanding for those curious marketers, bewildered and attempting to make heads or tails of the concept of Big Data. I could certainly dive deeper than even that because I’ve spent some time with this, and done homework, and lived Big Data. But this is a blog article, not a dissertation, so I’ll keep it at a 10,000 foot view of the ever elusive, yet intriguing, Big Data!
If you are one of the rare data scientists that have graduated recently from one of few schools offering Big Data degrees, which makes you an expert in this field, please feel free to stop reading here, or continue on to better understand what the rest of us are, well, trying to grasp when it comes to Big Data. For the rest of us, here is my take on the whole Big Data craze:
Big Data is simply all the data available. That means, in realistic terms, all of the data one can gather about a subject from all the places data resides: data sitting in some long forgotten enterprise software program in the basement of a large corporation, data from social media websites, website traffic data (click-through’s and pathing and such), text from blogs, even data from a sensor on a rocket ship or bridge in Brooklyn (not sure if they’re using sensor data on the Brooklyn Bridge, but they could be). Sources of data are vast, and growing. It’s cheaper to store data than ever before, and we now have the computing capability to sift through it, so now there is lots more data being collected, “Big” amounts of Data are being stored and analyzed. There is a lot you can do with all this Big Data, but this is where it gets dicey. You can collect all kinds of data with one subject, question or problem in mind, but end up realizing (through analysis) more important information about a totally different subject, question or problem. That’s why Big Data is so confusing to lots of folks just getting their hands dirty with it, and apparently also why it is so valuable to Marketers, Engineers, CEO’s, The FBI, Data Geeks, and anyone else interested in edging out the competition. Let’s explore some basics:
Wikipedia says: “Big data usually includes data sets with sizes beyond the ability of commonly used software tools to capture, curate, manage, and process the data within a tolerable elapsed time. Big data sizes are a constantly moving target, as of 2012 ranging from a few dozen terabytes to many petabytes of data in a single data set. With this difficulty, new platforms of “big data” tools are being developed to handle various aspects of large quantities of data.”
The Big Data Institute says: “Big Data is a term applied to voluminous data objects that are variety in nature – structured, unstructured or a semi-structured, including sources internal or external to an organization, and generated at a high degree of velocity with an uncertainty pattern, that does not fit neatly into traditional, structured, relational data stores and requires strong sophisticated information ecosystem with high performance computing platform and analytical capabilities to capture, process, transform, discover and derive business insights and value within a reasonable elapsed time.”
So, we’ve only scratched the surface of truly understanding what Big Data is here in this blog, and really the multitude of possibilities Big Data represents has only begun to unfold to those of us using it to better understand whatever it is we’re collecting data about. I hope at a minimum by reading this you have gained a better understanding of what “Big Data” is, but moreover, a curiosity to learn more and perhaps even apply it to something you are working on. These are exciting times whether you are using data for marketing or designing a new rocket ship to explore Mars. Big things are coming, and it’s all due to Big Data!
Here are some great articles I’ve recently enjoyed regarding Big Data:
- Definition of Big Data Analytics by Margaret Rouse: http://searchbusinessanalytics.techtarget.com/definition/big-data-analytics
- On Big Data, The Boston Marathon and Civil Liberties by Derrick Harris: http://gigaom.com/2013/04/17/on-big-data-the-boston-marathon-and-civil-liberties/
- Big data, What’s your plan? by Stefan Biesdorf, David Court, and Paul Willmott