It Is a Big World for Big Data After All

By E.G. Nadhan, HP

In the Information Week Global CIO blog, Patrick Houston says that big is bad when it comes to data, questioning the appropriateness of the term big data. Houston highlights the risk of the term being taken literally by the not-so-technical folks. Big data will continue to spread with emerging associative terms like big data expertbig data technologies, etc. I also see other reactions to this term like the one in Allison Watterson’s post, “What do you mean big data, little data is hard enough.” So why has it gained this broad adoption so fast?

Here are my top 5 reasons why the term big data has stuck, and why it may be appropriate, after all:

Foundational. It all started with data processing going decades back. Over the years, we have seen:

  • Big Computer – monolithic behemoths – or in today’s terms, legacy platforms
  • Big Network – local and wide area networks
  • Big Connector – the Internet that facilitated meaningful access with a purpose to consumers across the globe
  • Big Communicator – social media that has fostered communication beyond our imagination

It is all leading up to the generation and consumption of big data driven by presence. It was all about data to start with, and we have come back full circle to data again.

PervasiveBig Data will pervasively promote a holistic approach across all architectural elements of cloud computing:

  • Compute – complex data processing algorithms
  • Network – timely transmission of high volumes of data
  • Storage – various media to house <choose your prefix> bytes of data

FamiliarBig is always part of compound associations whether it be a hamburger (Big Mac), Big Brother or The Big Dipper. It is a big deal, shall we say? Data has always been generated and consumed with continued emergence of evolutionary technologies. You say big data and pictures of data rapidly growing like a balloon or spreading like water come to mind. It has something to do with data. There is something big about it.

Synthetic. Thomas C. Redman introduces a term “Informationlization” in the Harvard Business Review blog titled, “Integrate data into product, or get left behind.”  To me, the term big data is also about the synthesis individual pixels on the display device coming together to present a cohesive, meaningful picture.

Simple. You cannot get simpler than a three-letter word paired up with a four-letter word to mean something by itself. Especially when neither one is a TLA (three-letter acronym) for something very difficult to pronounce! Children in their elementary grades start learning these simple words before moving on to complex spelling bees with an abundance of vowels and y and x and q letters. Big data rolls off the tongue easily with a total of three syllables.

As humans, we tend to gravitate towards simplicity, which is why the whole world chimes in and sways back and forth when Sir Paul McCartney sings Hey Jude! decades after the first performance of this immortal piece. The line that sticks in our mind is the simplest line in the whole song – easy to render – one that we hum along with our hearts. Likewise, big data provides the most simplistic interpretation possible for a really complex world out there.

I actually like what Houston proposes – gushing data. However, I am not sure if it would enjoy the attention that big data gets. It represents a domain that needs to be addressed globally across all architectural layers by everyone including the consumers, administrators and orchestrators of data.

Therefore, big data is not just good enough – it is apt.

What about you? Do you have other names in mind? What does big data mean to you?

A version of this blog post originally appeared on the HP Enterprise Services Blog.

HP Distinguished Technologist and Cloud Advisor, E.G.Nadhan has over 25 years of experience in the IT industry across the complete spectrum of selling, delivering and managing enterprise level solutions for HP customers. He is the founding co-chair for The Open Group SOCCI project and is also the founding co-chair for the Open Group Cloud Computing Governance project. Twitter handle @NadhanAtHPwww.hp.com/go/journeyblog

2 Comments

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2 responses to “It Is a Big World for Big Data After All

  1. Big Data to me is taking traditional analytical and statistical techniques and using them on enough data to get interesting results in the macro world. It takes more resources, but the results can be much more useful.

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