What Is Big Data? | Benefits of Big Data | Data Analytics | Use of Big Data | Big Data Challenges | How Big Data Works
What Is Big Data?
The Definition of Big Data
What exactly is big data?
To really understand big data, it’s helpful to have some historical background.
Here is Gartner’s definition, Big data is data that contains greater variety arriving in increasing volumes and with ever-higher velocity. This is known as the three Vs.
Put simply, big data is larger, more complex data sets, especially from new data sources. These data sets are so voluminous that traditional data processing software just can’t manage them. But these massive volumes of data can be used to address business problems you wouldn’t have been able to tackle before.
The Three Vs of Big Data
The amount of data matters. With big data, you’ll have to process high volumes of low-density, unstructured data. This can be data of unknown value, such as Twitter data feeds, clickstreams on a webpage or a mobile app, or sensor-enabled equipment. For some organizations, this might be tens of terabytes of data. For others, it may be hundreds of petabytes.
Velocity is the fast rate at which data is received and (perhaps) acted on. Normally, the highest velocity of data streams directly into memory versus being written to disk. Some internet-enabled smart products operate in real time or near real time and will require real-time evaluation and action.
Variety refers to the many types of data that are available. Traditional data types were structured and fit neatly in a relational database. With the rise of big data, data comes in new unstructured data types. Unstructured and semistructured data types, such as text, audio, and video, require additional preprocessing to derive meaning and support metadata.
The History of Big Data
Although the concept of big data itself is relatively new, the origins of large data sets go back to the 1960s and '70s when the world of data was just getting started with the first data centers and the development of the relational database.
Around 2005, people began to realize just how much data users generated through Facebook, YouTube, and other online services. Hadoop (an open-source framework created specifically to store and analyze big data sets) was developed that same year. NoSQL also began to gain popularity during this time.
The development of open-source frameworks, such as Hadoop (and more recently, Spark) was essential for the growth of big data because they make big data easier to work with and cheaper to store. In the years since then, the volume of big data has skyrocketed. Users are still generating huge amounts of data—but it’s not just humans who are doing it.
With the advent of the Internet of Things (IoT), more objects and devices are connected to the internet, gathering data on customer usage patterns and product performance. The emergence of machine learning has produced still more data.
While big data has come far, its usefulness is only just beginning. Cloud computing has expanded big data possibilities even further. The cloud offers truly elastic scalability, where developers can simply spin up ad hoc clusters to test a subset of data.
Benefits of Big Data and Data Analytics:
Big data makes it possible for you to gain more complete answers because you have more information.
More complete answers mean more confidence in the data—which means a completely different approach to tackling problems.
Use of Big Data
Big data can help you address a range of business activities, from customer experience to analytics.
Companies like Netflix and Procter & Gamble use big data to anticipate customer demand. They build predictive models for new products and services by classifying key attributes of past and current products or services and modeling the relationship between those attributes and the commercial success of the offerings. In addition, P&G uses data and analytics from focus groups, social media, test markets, and early store rollouts to plan, produce, and launch new products.
Factors that can predict mechanical failures may be deeply buried in structured data, such as the year, make, and model of equipment, as well as in unstructured data that covers millions of log entries, sensor data, error messages, and engine temperature. By analyzing these indications of potential issues before the problems happen, organizations can deploy maintenance more cost effectively and maximize parts and equipment uptime.
The race for customers is on. A clearer view of customer experience is more possible now than ever before. Big data enables you to gather data from social media, web visits, call logs, and other sources to improve the interaction experience and maximize the value delivered. Start delivering personalized offers, reduce customer churn, and handle issues proactively.
Fraud and Compliance-
When it comes to security, it’s not just a few rogue hackers—you’re up against entire expert teams. Security landscapes and compliance requirements are constantly evolving. Big data helps you identify patterns in data that indicate fraud and aggregate large volumes of information to make regulatory reporting much faster.
Machine learning is a hot topic right now. And data—specifically big data—is one of the reasons why. We are now able to teach machines instead of program them. The availability of big data to train machine learning models makes that possible.
Operational efficiency may not always make the news, but it’s an area in which big data is having the most impact. With big data, you can analyze and assess production, customer feedback and returns, and other factors to reduce outages and anticipate future demands. Big data can also be used to improve decision-making in line with current market demand.
Big data can help you innovate by studying interdependencies among humans, institutions, entities, and process and then determining new ways to use those insights. Use data insights to improve decisions about financial and planning considerations. Examine trends and what customers want to deliver new products and services. Implement dynamic pricing. There are endless possibilities.
Big Data Challenges
While big data holds a lot of promise, it is not without its challenges.
First, big data is…big. Although new technologies have been developed for data storage, data volumes are doubling in size about every two years. Organizations still struggle to keep pace with their data and find ways to effectively store it.
But it’s not enough to just store the data. Data must be used to be valuable and that depends on curation. Clean data, or data that’s relevant to the client and organized in a way that enables meaningful analysis, requires a lot of work. Data scientists spend 50 to 80 percent of their time curating and preparing data before it can actually be used.
Finally, big data technology is changing at a rapid pace. A few years ago, Apache Hadoop was the popular technology used to handle big data. Then Apache Spark was introduced in 2014. Today, a combination of the two frameworks appears to be the best approach. Keeping up with big data technology is an ongoing challenge.
How Big Data Works
Big data brings together data from many disparate sources and applications. Traditional data integration mechanisms, such as ETL (extract, transform, and load) generally aren’t up to the task. It requires new strategies and technologies to analyze big data sets at terabyte, or even petabyte, scale.
During integration, you need to bring in the data, process it, and make sure it’s formatted and available in a form that your business analysts can get started with.
Big data requires storage. Your storage solution can be in the cloud, on premises, or both. You can store your data in any form you want and bring your desired processing requirements and necessary process engines to those data sets on an on-demand basis. Many people choose their storage solution according to where their data is currently residing. The cloud is gradually gaining popularity because it supports your current compute requirements and enables you to spin up resources as needed.
Your investment in big data pays off when you analyze and act on your data. Get new clarity with a visual analysis of your varied data sets. Explore the data further to make new discoveries. Share your findings with others. Build data models with machine learning and artificial intelligence. Put your data to work.