‘Big Data’- Separating The Wheat From The Chaff: Part One

Introduction

This White Paper seeks to examine the emergence of the ‘Big Data’ phenomenon and attempts to give insight and understanding as to what it is, why it seems to be important right now, and examines the potential issues that are likely to cause headaches – from the perspective of the cyber aware executive and security professionals and how the risks may be identified and mitigated.

What is ‘Big Data’?

Today the term “big data” draws a lot of attention, there now seems to be a viable commercial concept behind the hype, with plenty of big companies having hefty vested interest in making this the next ‘big thing’.  It is also part of the growing awareness of “cyber”.

There are any number of players looking to climb on to this particular band wagon, from those who sell storage space and hardware to those offering the latest in analytics suites. They range from niche advisory services to the out-source analytics houses and the big consulting firms attempting to tell the world why their take on the issue is unique and invaluable and every shade in between.

Make no mistake, from their perspective, ‘Big Data’ is the new ‘Big Thing’- but whether its’ true value is being over- hyped (think early days CRM and the wild claims doing the rounds in the late 90’s) or whether the idea is real, the implementation (and success) will depend on the competitive space.

Big Data is all about finding a needle of value in a haystack of unstructured information. Companies are now investing in solutions that interpret consumer behaviour, detect fraud, and even predict the future! McKinsey released a report in May 2011 stating that leading companies are using big data analytics to gain competitive advantage predicting a 60% margin increase for retail companies who are able to harvest the power of big data¹.

Reductions in storage and computing power costs have made it feasible now to collect, store and analyse unprecedented volumes of data- no matter how structured or otherwise it might be.

There now exist vast amounts of data in non- traditional, less structured environments; e.g. weblogs, social media, email, sensors, geo-data, videos and photographs which can be mined for useful information. Ownership of that data is an interesting question, large portions of it being personal data that ought to be subject to legal and regulatory controls.

¹ – Oracle Big Data white paper, January 2012
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This is the first instalment of a three-part story on Big Data – parts two and three will be uploaded on December 12th and December 19th, respectively.

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