The benefits from the cloud extend beyond cost savings, ease of management and unrivalled flexibility. While these features are certainly compelling, and are driving cloud adoption, there is huge untapped potential in what the industry has now branded ‘big data.’
As we move towards ubiquitous internet connectivity the flood of data that flows through an enterprise increases exponentially. Whether it is blogs, tweets, YouTube videos or other forms of electronic data, this mass of information presents a huge opportunity.
But the challenge most organisations face is how to mine the opportunities that are implicit in this massive growth in unstructured information. How do you harness, interpret and use it? To date, three big data dynamics have become evident. There are a few organisations who have seized the opportunity, there are those who are aware of it but don’t know how to make use of it, and there are others who aren’t aware that opportunities even exist.
The key to making use of big data is establishing what you want to achieve. For example, do you want to use data to identify new customers for your product or service, do you want to extract information that reveals the profiles of people who visit your website or interact with your social network presence, or do you want to identify customer behaviours?
In short, you need to think about the complexities of the data at hand and your objectives. For example, a retailer may want to chart demand for specific products, at particular locations and times. This type of information is tremendously powerful and could provide a much sharper focus for businesses. However, extracting it requires careful thinking about the types of questions you will use to interrogate the data. And it may result in your requiring more storage and/or compute power than your organisation currently hold on premises. Enter the cloud.
The use of the cloud can significantly advance any business’ chances of using big data to their advantage. But the cloud can’t do all the hard work for you – you need to know what exactly you want from it, just as you need to predict how you’ll interrogate your data.
A nice, clear example of the benefit of knowing what you want to achieve with a collection of data is TomTom’s use of mobile phone location signals. The satellite navigation company taps into the databases of mobile phone operators to gain real-time access to mobile phone location data. This information is then used in real-time to determine the speed of traffic, traffic flows and where roadblocks are. The information is then sent to TomTom satellite navigation devices to enhance the quality of user experiences.
These examples illustrate how some organizations view big data as a rich source of insights waiting to be discovered. The potential is enormous, and where once may have been the preserve of the IT powerhouses, such opportunities have been somewhat democratised by cloud infrastructures.