I’m writing this from my hotel room in Las Vegas, while attending the HP Discover 2013 conference. They are all talking about three main themes:
- Big Data
In my humble opinion, this show is completely about showcasing HP products and services (like a paid sales pitch). As a CIO, I find it useful to see the plethora of products and services and how the vendors are applying them to various use cases for their customers. It expands my thinking, and helps me rev up the creative juices for identifying areas of research and exploration to help set the ongoing strategic agenda for my organization. There are better shows for that sort of thing (like the Gartner Symposium). But, when I get invited by HP to come on their dime, it’s hard to pass up the chance to rev the creative juices.
The Big Data hype is in full swing. At the show, I’m seeing a lot of discussion of Big Data enabling products and services. However, the use cases are still thin and few. We must still be early enough in the hype cycle that everyone is talking about it and positioning themselves as the go-to partners if you want to be part of the in-crowd; but also early enough that we aren’t yet hearing about the real world and earth shattering examples of what people are really accomplishing with Big Data.
We’ve heard lots of examples of how HP customers are turning to HP Big Data products to help them get a handle on near-real-time sentiment analysis in social media channels. Yes, this is really cool stuff. It is. Really. But… is that all we can imagine for big data? Okay, so we also heard at the show about how stock prices have been correlated to social sentiment. Wait, that’s the same thing with a stock market twist. Drats. Oh yeah, one product hawker briefly spoke of how they helped a pharmaceutical company to identify 30x more drug interaction correlations than they were previously able to identify. Now, that’s what I’m talking about. But wait, it turns out he was talking about a Hadoop project, not a fancy new HP product offering.
Don’t get me wrong, HP is definitely demonstrating that they are paying attention to the Big Data hype cycle and aligning products and services for the anticipated gold rush. Vertica and Autonomy IDOL are interesting product lines to keep an eye on. Their HP Cloud with Hadoop, OpenStack and SAP HANA offerings also promise to give them a seat at the table (though I think they have some catching up to do when compared with AWS and the other public cloud players).
So, I think that the use cases for Big Data need more attention from us. We need more inspiration in the Big Data space. Of course, the inspirational book The Human Face of Big Data is a great example of a moving and eye-popping concepts ideas and vision. However, in all of the hype and posturing, I’m afraid that we’re leaving someone very important behind – the business man. We geeks and techno-impressed can excite ourselves with map reduce, MPP, Shared Nothing architecture, and Exabytes; but the business man is left to wonder how this will change his world and what he should do about it. ”It’s all about social media and knowing what people think about you, Mr. CEO. So, can we invest a few million into advanced tools, software, training and cloud space to get started?” Hmm, not a great position to start.
When asked in one of the sessions today what I though Big Data is, I responded, “It’s about quickly finding the signal within massive amounts of noise”. To geeks, that makes sense. To the business man, how do we explain the Big Data opportunity? With examples and stories.
“When we read a story, we inhabit it.” – John Berger
“There’s always room for a story that can transport people to another place.” — J.K. Rowling