Is it time to think laterally on analytics and big data?

"The evolution of big data and analytics platforms is continuing at an unprecedented rate."

The evolution of big data and analytics platforms is continuing at an unprecedented rate.

The last quarter has seen major announcements from IBM on its investment in support of the Apache Spark platform, from SAP with a new big data-focused release of its HANA database and platform, and from Oracle with the addition of its new Big Data Discovery, Spatial, and Graph capabilities to its platform.

“Exciting though this innovation is in opening up new analytical possibilities,” observes Tim Jennings, research analyst, Ovum, “organisations mustn’t lose sight of the fact that gaining value from these insights depends on understanding the data available, and its effective application to business problems.”

For Jennings, existing approaches to business intelligence are well entrenched, having matured over many years, but the new opportunities created by analytics and big data require more lateral thinking on how business processes can be improved, and new value propositions created.

“Despite the “big” designation, this is equally applicable to SMEs, which have access both to their own sources of internal data, and to the large data sets that are now frequently available in the public domain,” Jennings adds.

“Explosive data growth from websites, enterprise IT systems, sensor networks, audio and video streams, and mobile devices, combined with data technologies including in-memory analysis, non-relational databases, distributed data analysis, and real-time data integration, has generated innovative use cases.”

The opportunity is not, however, just for the bleeding-edge, or simply about petabyte-scale databases, adds Jennings who believes that organisations must also consider the available sources of data and the speed of analysis.

“This requires detailed exploration that involves examining the data sources and information flows associated with key business processes and considering how that information can generate new insights,” he explains.

“Often there is data available that is not currently collected at all, not analysed, or not analysed sufficiently quickly to do anything other than post-hoc analysis.”

As a result, Jennings claims that putting this right can lead to “genuine innovation” in performance and in business outcomes.

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