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Big Data - gizmos don't cut it
Tuesday, 3rd January 2012
Tim Buckley Owen
Another year, another gizmo that’s guaranteed to fix Big Data. Yet as a succession of authoritative commentators has already made clear, technological solutions aren’t enough.
The latest cure comes from Infineta Systems – a provider of wide area network (WAN) optimisation systems for large scale traffic – courtesy of the Internet Research Group (IRG). IRG’s report indicates that concentrating data from multiple locations for analysis, and subsequently distributing it to employees in the field, can put such a huge strain on a WAN that corporations are sometimes forced to cap the big data traffic that now seems so crucial to their future competitiveness.
Fortunately for everyone Infineta, which commissioned IRG’s research, has the very answer in the form of its Data Mobility Switch, which it claims is the only WAN optimisation solution designed specifically for high capacity Big Data applications. In addition there’s its Velocity Dedupe Engine, which Infineta says delivers “unprecedented levels” of scalability and bandwidth capacity to support critical workflows across the data centre interconnect.
If contextual evidence is anything to go by, IRG and Infineta have correctly identified some of the challenges. However, neither the report nor the announcement actually mentions one of the most potent contributors to the capacity problem: the expected exponential growth in the use by employees of mobile devices.
In a blog posting anticipating his imminent Enders Analysis report, telecoms specialist Ben Evans noted recently that monthly active users of Facebook’s mobile applications had passed the 300 million mark. And Ofcom’s recent International Communications Market Report for 2011 (LiveWire coverage here) reproduces figures from Cisco projecting a 21-fold increase in mobile data use in the United Kingdom by 2015, with even higher growth in countries like India and China.
It’s a fair bet that not all of that use will be personal. As previous surveys have indicated (more LiveWire coverage) employees are going to be less and less tolerant of clunky company kit that doesn’t match the performance of their own mobile devices – no doubt piling even more pressure on the corporate WAN.
But whatever technological fixes may be needed, authority after authority in 2011 indicated that enterprises still didn’t know how to use Big Data. There’s currently too much emphasis on how much of it you’ve got and not enough on how you can exploit it, warned Gartner for example (LiveWire comment here). Web metrics currently aren’t fit for purpose said the United States Association of National Advertisers (more LiveWire comment). Plenty of companies just weren’t using it properly concluded the Economist Intelligence Unit (and more).
Their messages couldn’t be clearer: all the gizmos in the world are pointless unless there’s a parallel change in mindset about what Big Data is for.
By Tim Buckley Owen
Tim is an information skills trainer and writer on the information industry with over 40 years' experience in the profession. His career has encompassed information management, writing, editing, training, government policy advice and corporate media & marketing.
Besides writing for FreePint, Tim runs courses for training providers and private clients on enquiry handling, abstracting & summarising, information packaging & presentation and information management. The sixth edition of his classic handbook Successful Enquiry Answering Every Time is published by Facet Publishing. You can find details of Tim's training services at www.buckleyowen.com.
Tim can also be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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