Big Data: Classical or Jazz?

By Mona Patel, EMC

“Science is nothing but the finding of analogy, identity, in the most remote parts.”  -Ralph Waldo Emerson.  There were some pretty cool Big Data analogies discussed at The O’Reilly Strata Conference 2012 in Santa Clara, CA.  One in particular was “Big Data: Classical or Jazz?” a keynote delivered by Luke Lonergan, CTO of EMC Greenplum.   In attendance was Generosa Litton, Director of Big Data Marketing at EMC. I asked her about her thoughts on Luke Lonegran’s keynote.

After listening to Luke’s keynote “5 Big Questions about Big Data”, what made a lasting impression?

I was fascinated by what Luke said about how organizations need to behave in order to leverage Big Data. Luke equated this new behavior in terms of classical and jazz music performances and described the technologies that companies need to acquire in order to harness the power of Big Data.

So Is Big Data Classical or Jazz?

Classical music is usually performed as written. The musicians hardly stray from the notes, tempo, and dynamics written on the page, thus the actual music always stay the same. However, in a world where people’s expectations are always changing, businesses will need to be able to adapt on the fly. Which is why Big Data, Luke explained, is more like jazz. Jazz musicians improvise based on the interactions that they have with each other and with the audience. No two jazz performances are ever the same and the music adapts to the moment. Thus, adaptation is a fundamental element of this new Big Data world. Organizations must have the ability to process trillions of events in real-time and just like a jazz band, react to their audience sentiments and accommodate their needs on the fly, or in business terms, in real time.

How can organizations behave more like a jazz band? What new technologies will they need to acquire and deploy?

Scale-out technologies, from storage, compute, and analytics all the way to real-time interactions have become integral to leveraging Big Data. Hadoop is one of the biggest and most important scale-out innovations of the last 30 years. It emerged as the Big Data analytics engine to support data-intensive distributed applications and reduce the time required for data analysis of complicated, unruly unstructured data sets.

Any other insights Luke had to share when it comes to being successful with Big Data?

He did share that the next level of change that needs to take place is in how businesses interact with their internal stakeholders and customers. Many of the leading Internet companies have already shown us how real-time interaction is enabling them to have a deeper relationship with their customers. Now traditional enterprises need to adapt this new form of interaction both inside and outside the organization. Scalable collaborative and interactive capabilities among business leaders, IT and data science teams will bring about a new kind of “R&D” that will speed innovation and more importantly, create new value for the business. Moreover, heightened collaboration and interactivity will enable organizations to develop an agile data analysis process and predictive capabilities.

Big Data has become a big deal. By being more like jazz bands, improvising and adapting based on audience interaction instead of being restricted by notes on the page, businesses can harness the power of Big Data to open the door to a new approach of engaging customers and making better business decisions.

About the Author: Mona Patel