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Big data to drive a surveillance society

Lucas Mearian | March 24, 2011
Analysis of huge quantities of data will enable companies to learn our habits, activities

Bill McColl, CEO of analytics engine vendor Cloudscale, said that up until now, big data analytics has been about offline queries or "MapReduce" algorithms, which were developed by Google. But 90% of corporate data warehouse users say they want to move forward into a world with real-time analytics.

"Companies know if they can extract more insight from data faster than their competitors, they're going to win," McColl said.

Jim Baum, founder and CEO of Netezza, maker of a massively parallel processing (MPP) data warehouse appliance, agreed with McColl. Baum argued that if a corporate user has to wait even three days to get an answer to an analytics query, the user won't bother asking a follow-up question that could the key to unlocking the truly valuable insights the information has to offer.

"If I can get an answer in real time, I will ask the next question and the next question, and that'll be followed by another. Getting answers in near real time is critical. It's the enabler of what we can do with big data," said Baum, whose company was purchased by IBM last year. IBM's purchase of Netezza was among a flurry of big data analytics vendor acquisitions over the past year. Other deals included EMC's purchase of Greenplum, Hewlett-Packard's purchase of Vertica and Teradata's planned acquisition of Aster Data Systems.

Todd Papaioannou, vice president of cloud architecture at Yahoo, said instead of thinking about big data analytics as a weapon that empowers corporate Big Brothers, consumers should regard it as a tool that enables a more personalized Web experience.

"If someone can deliver a more compelling, relevant experience for me as a consumer, then I don't mind it so much," he said.

Yahoo on Wednesday launched a new upgraded search engine called Search Direct. Similar to Google's Instant offering, Yahoo's Search Direct delivers more rich content to users based on search history. For example, if a user wanted to search using the term "New York," he would begin seeing results as soon as he started to type, and once he entered the words "New York" into the search window, the most popular searches that include those two words would instantly come to the top of the list, before he finished typing the full phrase.

Marc Parrish, vice president of retention and loyalty marketing for bookseller Barnes & Noble, said the amount of machine-generated data has "exploded" since electronic book sales have taken off.


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