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February 27, 2013

Big Data Grows Up

Posted by Vishnu Bhat (View Profile | View All Posts) at 3:56 AM

It's difficult for any of us to imagine just how revolutionary the concept of a public library was more than a century ago. It was a place where anyone could go and borrow a book with the promise that after you'd read it, you would return it so that someone else could enjoy it, too. Before the development of public and free libraries, vast collections of books and information were status symbols of the rich. They possessed private libraries, and the number of books you possessed was one of the main measures of your power and prestige. Do some rich people still keep massive, private collections of books? Sure. But their decision to collect books isn't at the expense of the greater society. Because free, public libraries exist, pretty much everyone has access to the same kind of information.

I bring up the history of 19th-century libraries because this same re-jiggering of information (and how it's accessed) is going on this very moment. We might not realize it, but the societal shift that encompasses information access today is as important as what the world experienced in the 19th century. 

Big Data - that deluge of digital "stuff" flying around the ether that might or might not be useful to your organization - is maturing and an entirely new ecosystem is sprouting up because of it. This maturation is breaking down the walls that separate your day-to-day business from the rarified halls of the Information Technology department. Call it the beginnings of a data democracy where everyone has access to insights they need - just when they need it - to ensure the health of whatever business they're in.

Several thought leaders shared these optimistic predictions during the launch of Infosys BigDataEdge platform. They talked about the tearing down of the walls between business and IT to create a level playing field that encourages new and better Big Data applications. They also converged on the need to empower the business side to self-serve needs so that data can be discovered, insights generated quickly and acted upon on time. New developments in technology are enabling this accelerated leveling of the playing field. Now, of course, there's the Cloud. Not just a Cloud. But the cloud. And it has redefined what Big Data means and how it can be accessed. It's a shift that continues to this very day. When the Cloud meets Big Data, we have before us the promise of delivering vast new insights to businesses problems. 

What's also fascinating about this new world is that, like the development of the public library some 150 years ago, what you want out of Big Data is probably what someone else wants out of it as well. Democratization creates vast synergies and economies of scale. So there's really no need to worry if what you want isn't yet available. The gaps you identify are probably similar to someone else's - somewhere - which means that any number of application providers will step in to close it.

What we're seeing is that the quest for information, in all its forms, keeps on replenishing and renewing itself. It comes to us in various forms. And Big Data - its latest incarnation, by virtue of its accessibility, is more innovative than ever.

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