Big Data

Exciting and Cool Isn’t Enough

on March 29, 2013
I recently experienced the excitement and energy around Big Data first-hand as Oversight was selected to attend the GigaOM Structure Data conference in New York.  It was really exciting to be in the same place with hundreds of other people all focused on Big Data discussing what’s happening around Big Data including a number of early Big Data applications and successes.  Amidst all of the excitement, there was one thing that struck me as most important above all other things. Paul Maritz, former long-time executive at Microsoft who has spent the last five years at EMC as CEO of VMWare and most recently leading EMC’s The Pivotal Initiative, made a comment that I think is at the hear of what Big Data is all about.  Maritz said that disruption doesn’t come about as a result of technology, rather technology helps to enable the true source of disruption which is business model.  He used Amazon as an example of a company that has disrupted the retail business through its business model.  Amazon, Maritz said, has its advantage in its focus on customers, not brands.  This customer focus has been facilitated by technology and Amazon has been able to leverage this technology in other ways such as Amazon Web Services, but at its core Amazon has disrupted the retail world with its customer-focused business model. As I listened to vendors extol the virtues of their Hadoop this relative to someone else’s Hadoop that, I kept thinking about what Maritz had said about business models.  How does a Hadoop this or that help a company disrupt its market?  How does a next generation business intelligence tool help a company disrupt its market?  I’m not saying it can’t, but I am saying that those of us in the vendor community need to think and discuss our solutions in those terms.  Listening to sessions on Big Data case studies I was struck by the experimental nature of most of the customer applications.  While all of the examples were cool uses of data from multiple sources, complex analytics, and generally included unstructured data as part of the solution, I couldn’t say that any of them are helping to transform business models. Big Data will become Big Time when it is used to create more disruptive business models and not just pilots and experiments.