Australian businesses on a path to adopting big data: EMC

EMC's Chad Sakac said that while there is a universal understanding that big data has its benefits, Australian companies are still working on how to take full advantage of it.

Key to making the most of big data and turning it into predictive analytics is translating the strategy cross-company, something that Australian companies have yet to fully comprehend, according to Chad Sakac, EMC global systems engineering president.

Sakac said that while there is a universal understanding amongst businesses that big data can provide insights into driving forward business strategies, Australian businesses lack translating that concept as a company imperative. Rather, it's often driven by a handful of thought leaders within an enterprise.

"If I look at enterprises as a whole, they're going, 'Yes, we need to do something. No, we do not have an effort to try and create a data lake for our enterprise'. There's project A, project B, project C," he said.

Sakac pointed out that in comparison, companies in industries such as telecommunications and manufacturing within the United States have taken advantage of the concept of creating a "data lake", a term that has been coined to represent a data storage repository.

Sakac drew on GE as an example of one company that has embraced the use of data analytics within the entire business. He said that the company is now using algorithmic models to analyse the data and forecast parts of the business' operations, which is saving it "billions of dollars".

"GE is perhaps one of the most diversified companies in the world. They're constantly acquiring companies, divesting themselves with companies; they're in everything from medical devices to jet engines and lights," he said.

"They made the decision -- and this is a reflection in what I see in some of the most advanced companies in the Americas -- where they said this data lake thing is such an important asset ... they basically set up a business function that crosses their business units that is responsible for providing data lake as a service. Not just one line of business, but for all of them."

Sakac highlighted that big data is often misconstrued, as many assume that big data is only useful for large companies. He argued that big data is simply any useful data, as long as it can add value back into any business.

"I think one of the things that is really unfortunate is big data implies it needs to be physically big," he said.

He added that another fundamental challenge faced by businesses when attempting to create a data lake is that they have "data ponds". He said the best way around this is to move stored data from traditional infrastructure to an open-source platform.

"Traditionally, those businesses have been using expensive proprietary, closed databases, and only people who are allowed to touch them were database administrators.

"To get value out of it, you need to move from having isolated data ponds to a data lake, and that means you need to aggregate more data sets into a way that they can be accessed by different data engines altogether," Sakac said.

However, recent data released by Gartner shows that Australian and New Zealand companies are about to catch up, with business intelligence and analytics on top of their technology priorities for 2015.

The data showed that Australian organisations will spend a forecast AU$670.6 million on business insights and analytics software in 2015, an increase of 12.1 percent from last year. In New Zealand, spending on business insights and analytics will grow 9.3 percent to reach NZ$94.2 million during the year. Double-digit growth rates have been predicted in both countries for the next three years to 2018.