Taking a Leap With Big Data

Express Computer

January 2, 2014

Innovation is no longer a buzzword in today's economy. It is a prerequisite not just for success, but for survival. Innovation is the essential engine of positive change, and information is its fuel. It follows that the ability to discover, analyze and use information accurately and quickly is paramount to business success. It may be that only the organizations that adapt will survive and proliferate.

Information has changed the rules of innovation. And big data has changed the rules of information itself. The importance of big data becomes clear when one goes beyond the strict definition of the 3 Vs of volume, variety and velocity. Big data is ultimately about gaining insight from new and expanded sources of data?it is really a transformation of the way companies generate, capture, store, process and gain insight out of data.

Different industries are at various stages in establishing and implementing data management strategies to support their business. According to a recent Economist Intelligence Unit report, the financial services sector, technology companies, and professional services firms are most prepared for the data age. By contrast, data management strategies are least often found amongst manufacturers or retailers.

Financial institutions use data extensively to calculate the risk premium of financial products. Pharmaceutical companies are using human DNA data to support drug discovery while telecommunications operators analyze usage patterns to offer better network coverage and services.

Managing and utilizing data in planning and operations can have potential business benefits across almost any industry today, including manufacturing, pharmaceutical, telecommunications, government, and the like. This article will highlight examples from various industries that are moving quickly to adopt innovative data management methods to realize results.

In recent years, the health and life sciences (HLS) industry has undergone a data evolution that has seen organizations such as hospitals, genomics institutes and pharmaceutical enterprises generate and amass terabytes of data.

Hospitals are shifting to electronic health records (EHRs) in order to allow patient records to be stored, managed and searched among different organizations. This new practice allows more efficient storage and retrieval of patient records and relevant data. Various medical data such as x-rays, computed tomography (CT), and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans are acquired and presented in a digital format and processed through a picture archiving and communication system (PACS). A patient's medical records may be stored for more than 80 years, and needs to be available 24/7. This huge, ever-increasing volume of data must be digitized, shared and stored, creating a critical need for robust, automated and continually scalable medical storage infrastructure.

The media and entertainment industries have seen phenomenal changes in the way they work over the last few years. Among film, television, gaming, advertising and graphic design, the demand for digitally created content has been escalating due to increased dependence on CGI, 3D animation, motion capture and other technologies. The advent of high definition (HD), UltraHD and evolving video resolution standards like 4K mean that data volume is only going to rise.

That's not all. The creation of these special effects blockbusters needs robust data systems that allow for smoother post-production. This capability is made possible by enabling better I/O and throughput, faster renders, speedier downloads, diminished throughput bottlenecks, and smaller time windows for transcoding.

Public utilities, by their very scale, generate enormous amounts of data that can be analyzed to improve efficiencies and reduce wastage. For example, a water authority in Australia saw 50% year on year growth in data, thus requiring a data solution that could scale up as the data was collected and stored. The authority also embarked on an initiative to analyze water consumption and prepare for unpredictable supply. The importance of the oil and gas industry in today's world cannot be over-emphasized. Depleting resources, increasing costs and an incredible number of unpredictable factors make it one of the most data-intensive industries. The gathering and analysis of data can have an impact on every aspect of the business. For example, advanced analytics, such as pattern recognition, applied to a comprehensive set of seismic data can identify potentially productive seismic trace signatures that were previously overlooked.

Another industry that can benefit greatly from big data is telecommunications. The explosive growth of Internet-connected devices has seen telecommunications companies saddled with massive amounts of data. According to TM Forum Report, data has grown at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 29% over the past five years, and is likely to grow at double-digit rates in the future. Today, there are nearly 6 billion phones in operation. These companies have more to contend with than the vast amounts of data being produced by, and passing through their networks. Communications service providers also need to analyze customer data to gather business intelligence in order to improve customer experience, plan their network expansions, and control costs.

With big data poised to make an even bigger impact on businesses across all industries, the need for deploying the right infrastructure has become vital. Today's data challenges are a far cry from the challenges of yesterday. Business driven, structured data?such as OLTP and databases?has been surpassed in volume by human-driven unstructured data?such as email and social media. However, the future of information really lies with machine-driven data?such as sensors and satellites?which will create exponentially larger volumes.

Organizations have to keep in mind that it takes a robust strategy for information management across all data types to turn available data into the insights that deliver on the promise of big data. With competitors actively improving information management technologies and practices, it will be "survival of the smartest" in the market place.

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