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5 Ways to Make Your Big Data Strategy Reap Big Business Value

AUTHOR: Derek Lacks

How does the intersection of two huge opportunities—cloud computing and big data—impact data strategies, and how does the IT organization take advantage of them to create business value?

As an Accelerate strategist, I define actionable strategies within organizations aimed at accelerating the maturity and business impact of virtualization and cloud initiatives.  Many of the executives I work with are finding themselves at the intersection of two mega opportunities facing their organizations—cloud computing and big data.

To ensure common vernacular, “cloud computing” refers to an IT approach that allows the abstraction of computing workloads, so that they can be run across multiple environments based on organizational requirements (private, hybrid, or public clouds).  This is made possible by decoupling the data and software from the servers and storage systems running them, which enables IT resources to be dynamically allocated and delivered as services (as in infrastructure-as-a-service, platform-as-a-service, storage-as-a-service solutions, and so forth).

In the realm of data, cloud computing allows organizations to think outside the traditional data center constructs, which limit capabilities based upon finite capacity. Cloud computing provides the elasticity and flexibility to spin up or down compute capacity based upon the needs of the business. Now it’s possible to build applications that exceed the limits of existing compute power without worrying about significant CapEx investments to meet the demands of future applications.

But what about big data? Forrester Research defines big data as techniques and technologies that make capturing value from data at an extreme scale economical and estimates that we will exceed 2.7 zettabytes (equivalent of 27 million terrabytes) of global digital data this year.[1] The key difference between big data and our traditional analytics strategy is that the investments required to support the variety, volume, and velocity of today’s data available was previously prohibitive.

Big data strategies provide us with the means to collect and analyze this data in a way that is flexible and cost-effective. While many hear “big data” and think of the challenges of managing it, I prefer to focus on the opportunity to turn this growing data stream into business value.

The technologies—including applications and data platform—to leverage this new paradigm are still being created, but it’s inevitable that they will depend on integration with cloud computing.

The question is, how will these two topics impact your data strategy? Here are five best practices that I believe can help accelerate your journey:

  1. Build your application with tomorrow in mind – Big data offers significant benefits but is dependent on building applications that can leverage the key tenants of cloud computing.
  2. Strive to retain flexibility – Cloud and big data strategies need to be examined in concert with significant attention focused on maximizing elasticity and portability of workloads.
  3. All data is in scope – Big data is about extracting insight from the full body of organizational data versus the typical 10 percent that resides within your relational database management system (RDBMS).
  4. Staff for success  – Be aggressive in building data scientist capabilities, as this will be a critical requirement in driving your big data strategy.
  5. Don’t be afraid to start small – Leverage the expertise of early leaders such as Pivotal that can provide your efforts a jump-start by exposing you to the art of the possible.

Derek Lacks is a strategist with VMware Accelerate Advisory Services based in Massachusetts.

[1] Forbes.com: Big Data Meets Cloud, Holger Kisker, Ph.D.