The theme at this week’s Teradata user conference was Unleashing the Power of Data, and the 560 organisations gathered in Dallas represented a who’s who of mega corporations and governments that are grappling with how to handle Big Data. However, just down the road in Austin, Texas, the gone-private Dell has set its sights on making Big Data more accessible to a broader audience.
“Infrastructure is increasingly becoming commoditized,” said Darin Bartik, Executive Director of Product Management for Dell Software’s information management solutions. “The ability for customers to really differentiate themselves from their competition is driven so much by making smarter decisions, faster decisions.”
The PC powerhouse has been struggling with the market meltdown, and has been spreading its wings into storage, servers and software as it attempts to become a one-stop IT shop. While it deals with public and private-sector customers of all sizes, Bartik said mid-market organisations have a “significant opportunity to differentiate themselves from their bigger competitors.”
So the company is very focused on providing analytics and business intelligence solutions so customers can make better, faster decisions. “A big focus for us is enabling organizations that wouldn’t be able to do it on their own.”
Big Data has shot up the popularity charts and the vendor community appears to be collectively salivating over the opportunity to help organizations deal with ridiculous amounts of structured and unstructured data. However, while they grapple with ways to address the three (or four) ‘Vs’ of data: volume, variety and velocity (and value), there are a number of barriers, ranging from lack of budgets to lack of skills.
According to a number of companies attending the Teradata event, the early adopters of data-driven capabilities can gain a significant competitive advantage. “I think a lot of wealth has been created… it will have a significant impact,” said Mike Gualteiri, Principal Analyst, Forrester Research.
Rashmi Nigam, All Things Data, Machinima, a video entertainment network serving more than 2.4 billion monthly video views and reaching over 200 million uniques each month, said even smaller companies like hers can benefit from data-driven marketing. “Big Data and analytics isn’t just for big companies, it’s for everybody who is online.”
The future for Big Data and analytics, while still in its early days, is poised for huge growth, according to Shawn Rogers, VP, Enterprise Management Associates, who said the market for cloud analytics will grow at a torrid pace in the next 3-5 years. “Eventually, the vast majority of companies will use cloud-based infrastructures as a significant component of their analytics strategy.”
Organizations are drowning in data, and missing out on opportunities, according to the big IT research companies. “In the face of accelerating business processes and a myriad of distractions, real-time operational intelligence systems are moving from ‘nice to have’ to ‘must have for survival’,” said Rita Sallam, Research VP Analyst, Gartner. “There is growing quantifiable evidence that data-driven decision making enabled by business analytics solutions provides a competitive difference,” said Dan Vesset, Program VP, Business Analytics at IDC.
The influence of analytics is set to increase dramatically. “Gartner predicts that analytics will reach 50% of potential users by 2014” said Dan Sommer principal research analyst at Gartner. “By 2020, that figure will be 75%, and we will be in a world where systems of record, systems of differentiation and systems of innovation are enabling IT, business and individuals to analyze data in a much denser fashion than before. Post 2020 we’ll be heading toward 100% of potential users and into the realms of the Internet of Everything.”
There’s no question that you need it, agreed Bartik, and organizations need to be more data-driven. “Competition is moving faster. Marketplace and consumer decisions are changing that more rapidly.” Where once the ability to “trust your gut” was a key part of decision-making, he said the “ability to make decisions based on past experiences is going away.”
The challenge, he said, is that with so much data available, organizations can make smarter decisions.
“It just wasn’t possible before. Businesses need to take advantage of being data driven.”
However there is a gap between perception and reality, and this is a journey that will take time, not least because making this all work together is still in its infancy, he said. “The reality is that we’re not there yet, there’s nothing out there that really brings this all together. We’re still 3-4 steps away.”
The first step is to get customers – other than the Fortune 500-Global 2000 — to understand that the problem exists before they begin to see the need for a data-driven focus, said Bartik. “We want to greatly simplify first the ability to get everything set up, and then provide tools to look into that.” We have to help customers move into Big Data analysis in a step-wise fashion, he said.
Dell is working on departmental and horizontal use cases, like marketing. “Out of the box we give them answers to their most common questions in those functional areas.”