Gartner recently declared 2013 the year of Big Data. Really? The truth, it seems, is harder to define but channel experts are unified in a cautionary approach to what so far has been more of a buzzword than an irresistible trend.
In fact, some businesses have described it as the elephant in the room while analysts are claiming enterprises have so far refrained from approaching Big Data because they are hesitant to take the first step, clueless on where to start or frazzled with what to do with all that data.
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But our experts also say that with the emphasis placed on Big Data expected to multiply dramatically in coming years, businesses have to get a grip of what it entails and what they can do with it -- especially from the analytics end.
Acronis A/NZ general manager, Andy Purvis, said the biggest driver of Big Data growth is the consumerisation of IT and associated surge in mobile devices.
He claimed consumers own 2.3 mobile devices but by the end of 2015, will have 4.7 devices. "They are creating a culture where people expect data to be available on demand from anywhere at anytime. With data now available on the Cloud and in devices, businesses need to start taking it seriously," Purvis said.
Gartner's bold claim for 2013 followed a global survey of firms, which found 42 per cent of respondents had invested in Big Data technology, or are planning to do so within a year. It predicted that by 2015, 20 per cent of Global 1000 organisations will have established a strategic focus on information infrastructure.
Early stages of adoption
However, Gartner analyst, Doug Laney, said most organisations are still in the early stages of adoption, and few have thought through an enterprise approach or realised the profound impact that Big Data will have on their infrastructure.
"They have increased their understanding of what Big Data is and how it could transform the business. The questions have now shifted to 'what are the strategies and skills required?' and 'how can we measure and ensure return on investment?'" he said.
IDC Australia senior market analyst, Shayum Rahim, said enterprise class businesses, such as Oracle, IBM, EMC and SAP have Big Data solutions in the Australian market; But the great unknown lies in the maturity cycle of the mid-market space, which he said makes up a "large chunk of the market".
"We're interested to find out where in that maturity cycle mid-market organisations are in terms of their Big Data journey -- whether they're at an analytic stage or before that, or already using it for decision making processes," Rahim said.
Data#3 managing director, John Grant, said he was cynical about the label 'Big Data' as it focuses on the selling of features instead of its benefits. "It's not a question of if 2013 is the year of Big Data but rather of focusing on if organisations want to know what information is available about their business and if they can analyse it in different ways to make business decisions," he said.
Distribution Central managing director, Nick Verykios, said Big Data does not mean anything to businesses unless the term analytics is added to it.
"The availability of automated analytics tools used on data that has been collected for compliance has altered Big Data analytics conversations from 'it can' to 'it should' to 'it must'. Suddenly we go from something that's difficult to do to the ability to execute on critical activity," Verykios said.
But Purvis said although the analytics of Big Data are the most lucrative area, having a data protection and migration strategy is a must. "I can choose whether or not to put an engine above and over my data to do analytics; I can choose to do it with spread sheets or PowerPoint. But what I can't choose to do is have a data protection strategy."
According to Verykios, resellers may be in the Big Data collection, storage or backup and recovery space but they collectively have to invest in the analytics space for their Big Data strategy to be complete. They should not only participate in understanding Big Data but also invest in the right storage technology that can handle Big Data analytics, he claimed.
"Resellers have to align themselves with storage architecture vendors that can handle Big Data analytics, and with data analytics product providers in software or traditional hardware or both. They have to then provide customers with consulting services."
Grant agreed, claiming that resellers should figure out which aspect of Big Data they want to play in, focus on it and provide customers with expertise to sort through choices they've got around information management and information analytics.
"Once they do that, they've got a direct path to being a provider of data back-up and recovery, storage and analytics, which together with consultation, is the complete solution."
Purvis said the channel should provide the SMB space with enterprise grade capability either through as-a -service or the Cloud.
"You've got to segment the market. More and more businesses are going to move towards a managed service provider model and typically, those kinds of models have only been available to the medium-large enterprise customers."
Rahim also said the services sector is the most lucrative industry for the channel to get involved in. "There is a large opportunity for service organisations, particularly in the mid-market where businesses may only just be starting on their journey and may not necessarily have the skill sets to be able to derive value from that."
Future of Big Data
Veeam's Charles Clarke said that from 2014 through to 2016, there will be a much larger adoption of Big Data in Australia.
"For me, Big Data and the Cloud fall into the same category. It describes a methodology rather than a technology, so companies are going to leverage the opportunities that they both present to achieve results that are meaningful for them," Clarke said.
Going forward, he claimed that the analysed data will be part of the Cloud diaspora pulled from a variety of sources and engines will be smarter in terms of providing that data, making it almost "Big Brother like".
"Remembering that we live in a connected world, organisations are going to be increasingly influenced by information that's becoming available. The battle for access to that information and the analysis of it is clearly a battleground that they will have to play in," Data#3's John Grant said.