Everyone’s heard of big data, but defining it is trickier. Is it the digital equivalent of Elaine’s Big Salad on “Seinfeld” (Big lettuce, big carrots, tomatoes like volleyballs)? Is it, as one Redditor averred, Hoarding 2.0? Or is it, (attributed to @evertlammerts on Twitter) data that “piles up so high that it disappears into the clouds”?
“Official” definitions of big data are no fun.
Wikipedia says, “Big data usually includes data sets with sizes beyond the ability of commonly used software tools to capture, curate, manage, and process the data within a tolerable elapsed time.” Yawn.
Make sure your organization has the right tools for big data.
META Group, which eventually became Garner, assigned big data three “dimensions” way back in 2001: volume, velocity, and variety. Some organizations have added “veracity” as a fourth dimension describing big data. Still: boring.
All Those “Byte” Prefixes
Are you old enough to remember when it felt like bragging to talk about a megabyte of data? Well, big data is necessitating – byte prefixes that make that megabyte look like petite. A 2012 big data forecast by IDC estimated that the digital universe contained 2.7 zettabytes of data. A zettabyte is 1 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 bytes.
Here’s a comparison for how big 1.2 zettabytes (the amount of digital data created in 2010) is (from a 2010 EMC press release): It’s equal to “707 trillion copies of the more than 2,000-page US Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act signed into Law in March 2010. Stacked end to end, the documents would stretch from Earth to Pluto and back 16 times or cover every inch of the United States in paper 3 feet deep.”
If you want to see how much data you (or your organization has) in terms of Microsoft Word pages, PDFs, stacks of paper, etc., Exonar has a data visualization tool that can show you.
Big Data Where You Wouldn’t Expect It
Did you know that some cows generate 25MB of data each year, through sensors placed on them? That’s right, and the average cow doesn’t spend that much time surfing the web. If all 1.4 billion cattle on earth were equipped with sensors, they would generate enough data to fill a million 32GB iPhones every year!
Once cows learn to take selfies, the world will never be the same.
Another source of big data that you might not expect is Lady Gaga. Apparently, Ms. Gaga’s business manager, Troy Carter, is a big data enthusiast, and he’s mined the data generated by the singer’s 31 million Twitter followers and 51 million Facebook fans to create a social network called Littlemonsters.com, which is a social network all about Lady Gaga. Carter’s ultimate goal is to attract all those fans to the new social network, bypassing Twitter and Facebook and therefore keeping all the revenue generated therefrom.
Germany’s World Cup Performance
And if you thought there were aspects of life that remain untouched by big data, well, you would be wrong. Team managers for Germany’s World Cup team combed through huge amounts of data about the Brazilian team – data that was compiled by students at Cologne’s Sports University. The goal was to look for advantages that could be gained over the daunting Brazilian team. Analyses included how Brazilian players deal with pressure, how they react when fouled, and how they sprint for the ball. Well, something worked, as the 7-1 victory over Brazil, followed by the 1-0 victory over Argentina attest.
If your organization has hopped on the big data bandwagon, equipped with enough snacks and magazines that they’re going to be there a while, you may occasionally need to step back and regain your perspective a bit. Fortunately, the Twitter account Big Data Borat provides a steady stream of big data satire that offers a feeling of solidarity as you watch your colleagues be perpetually enthralled by this concept that is supposed to answer all the questions in the world. You can even play a game called “Is it Pokémon, or #bigdata technology?“
Whether your organization is in the throes of Big Data Fever, or still exploring how this concept may transform business and research, Samanage is there making sure that your IT infrastructure is all accounted for, and operating properly. With a unified IT service desk / IT asset management interface, and the flexibility that lets you take IT beyond its traditional roles, Samanage is a great partner to have as your organization gears up for big data.
About Oz Merchant
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