Business Insights Newsletter Article | December 2012
Adrift in a Sea of Data?
In Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (come on, you remember your high-school lit class, right?), the thirsty sailors bemoan the presence of the tantalizing but undrinkable sea around them: “water, water every where/Nor any drop to drink.” Today, Taylor might pen The Rime of the Current Businessfolk, whose plaint would be “data, data everywhere,” as tantalizing as the salty brine to Coleridge’s doomed crew.
Yes, data volume is exploding today, thanks to the ever-cheaper cost of computing and storing digital information. What’s more the, this ocean of data is rolling in at increasing velocity, threatening to swamp businesses, governments, and nonprofits. You Tube videos, Facebook posts, Twitter tweets, credit and debit card purchases: these are just some of the trillions of pieces of data that are being collected and stored every minute of every day by businesses large and small.
But unlike Coleridge’s hapless sailors, who cannot quench their thirst with saltwater, today’s businesses can slake their desire for useful insights in the surrounding ocean of data. In fact, the winners in today’s competitive environment will like be those businesses that learn to analyze the flood of data, sifting it for insights that will lead to increased sales, improved services, and greater efficiency. This is the promise of business intelligence based on “Big Data.”
Businesses that can effectively collect and analyze transactional data can get invaluable insights into what their customers want in terms of products and services. They also get a leg up on looming problems or complaints, ready to take action quickly.
So how can your business make sense of all this data? You might try using old reliable data-crunching tools like the spreadsheet and relational database software that resides on desktops and laptops. You might try…but you’ll probably fail. The problem is one of scale: those standalone machines don’t have the computing power necessary for processing terabytes of data.
What you need is a solution that can manage many data types – structured or unstructured – and many sizes. And it should be able to handle both data at rest or in motion. So where can you find an affordable solution that provides these capabilities? From the same company that brought you the BI tools you know and love: Microsoft.
Microsoft’s HDInsight offers a scalable, affordable, user-friendly solution to Big Data BI. In technospeak, HDInsight is an Apache compatible Hadoop distribution. If that doesn’t make sense to you, don’t worry; your IT guys will be happy to provide an eye-glazing explanation. What you really need to know is that HDInsight will give your business the capability to store, retrieve, manipulate, and, above all, analyze Big Data. Better yet, it democratizes the power of Big Data BI – thanks to HDInsight’s compatibility with the Microsoft stack, nearly everyone in your organization is empowered to analyze data, collaborate on insights, and make informed BI decisions using familiar tools like Microsoft Excel, SharePoint, and SQL Server.
What’s more, you can take advantage of the power of HDInsight either in your own datacenter, running on an on-premise installation of Windows Server, or in the cloud, running as a Windows Azure Service. This means your Big Data solution can be built around your company’s long-term IT strategy.
Consider the possibilities. Using customers’ cell-phone location data, retailers can offer special “limited-time only” coupons to nearby patrons. Utilities can slice and dice the data from smart meters to better manage peak-hour workloads. And law enforcement can take predictive policing out of the realm of science fiction (remember Minority Report?) by using fresh data streams to forecast the times and places were the crime risks are the greatest.
Driving repeat business, lowering energy costs, and making cities safer are just a few examples of the power of Big Data analysis. The possibilities are virtually limitless. So, are you ready to create a strategy to bring the benefits of Big Data mining and analysis to your business? Then get in touch with your Microsoft representative today. Don’t end up like the Ancient Mariner, with an albatross of untapped data hung around your neck. Put that data to work with a Microsoft Big Data Solution.