How big data in the cloud can drive IT ops

Exploiting big data is not just a resource for business users. It can also transform IT, says Lori MacVittie

When organisations use the cloud to exploit big data, they're usually thinking about the benefits for business owners. They should also be considering how that same data can transform IT operations.

Big data is much talked about these days, and with good reason. Big data — large quantities of unstructured and semi-structured data — is probably one of the first cross-functional concerns actively shared both by IT and business stakeholders.

IT worries about how to store it, how to mine it effectively, and how to share it with those business owners who need it to make decisions more rapidly. Exploiting it can be a competitive advantage for businesses when it's possible, and a huge disadvantage when it's not.

Many organisations are turning to cloud computing to process, analyse, and ultimately store big data, serving up its insights via services to the business owners who need them. And yet many are overlooking the value of that same data as it relates to operations.

The value of big data to IT

In addition to providing valuable insights for business stakeholders, pieces of big data can transform IT in its daily operations. If IT can create an infrastructure capable of making context-based decisions, it can create a more robust and tailored experience for end users that can directly affect the bottom line.

For example, organisations track location- and client-specific demographics as well as purchasing and browsing behaviour in web applications. All that data is ultimately combined, mined, and used to design marketing campaigns and promotions to encourage visitors to return and hopefully purchase the latest and greatest gadgets on offer.

Too often such promotions and campaigns require a great deal of both IT and business overhead. Planning and implementation can require modification to applications that can take weeks if not longer to deploy. And then there's the inevitable clean-up at the close.

But if contextually-aware infrastructure were added to the picture, exploiting insights served from big data warehouse services in the cloud, a more adaptable framework could be created that brings the much-vaunted IT-as-a-service goal one step closer.

If infrastructure can consume data via services from the cloud, and that data can be codified and shared with application infrastructure, it can form the basis of a promotional framework through which privileges can be extended to appropriate visitors on demand.

Rather than wait for promotional periods or holidays, website visitors reaching specified goals — such as total purchase value or number of visits or pages of collateral read — can be immediately rewarded automatically.

Big data-driven infrastructure

Similarly, some operational functions could benefit from the insights afforded by big data. Performance and security features can be activated automatically based on characteristics mined from big-data services.

Enhanced security processes can be triggered when visitors suddenly access applications from new devices or locations. Even more business-focused variables might trigger additional infrastructure action.

Big data is becoming a big deal, and cloud is a major enabling factor in its sudden success.

If the average purchase of a user has been £25, a sudden purchase of £250 might raise some digital eyebrows and might require special handling or include special instructions to verify using a security question.

Such capabilities could certainly reside wholly within the application tier, but more and more such functions are implemented as specific processes requiring collaboration across multiple services. Enabling application-process routing at abstracted layers of the infrastructure provides for a more flexible and adaptable architecture, especially as it consolidates governance of such sensitive processes at a single layer of control rather than dispersed across multiple applications.

There is no doubt that big data is becoming a big deal and cloud is a major enabling factor in its sudden success. The question for IT and business stakeholders is how best to manage and then use that data in innovative ways that minimise time to market and cost to implement while maximising the ability to employ the insights afforded by big data rapidly.

Big data-driven infrastructure may be the best way to achieve both at the same time.

Lori MacVittie is responsible for application services education and evangelism at application delivery firm F5 Networks. Her role includes producing technical materials and participating in community-based forums and industry standards organisations. MacVittie has extensive programming experience as an application architect, as well as in network and systems development and administration.


Get the latest technology news and analysis, blogs and reviews delivered directly to your inbox with ZDNet UK's newsletters.