Another naysayer was Memset's CEO, Kate Craig-Wood. "The use cases for big data techniques [versus those of relational databases] are vanishingly rare; few new skills are needed. I think big data is a bit of a fad, and most cases can be solved by better code –- and patience," she said in June.
Unsurprisingly, Gary Bloom, CEO of enterprise NoSQL vendor MarkLogic, thought these critics would soon be eating their words.
"Thirty years ago when SQL came along IBM mainframes really lost their importance. The world shifted to a new set of vendors [like Microsoft and Oracle]," he told Computing last week.
"I think the exact same thing is going to happen here. We're going to switch to a whole new set of vendors. We're moving to a new generation of database, NoSQL, designed to process the 80 per cent of the world's data that's not in a relational database. NoSQL isn't going to replace RDBMS, it's going to complement RDBMS, do the things RDBMS can't do, or can't do well."
There was certainly plenty of action among NoSQL firms in 2012, from venture capitalists and traditional vendors alike, with 10gen announcing funding from RedHat and Intel in November, and $65m pumped into Cloudera by investors in December. Meanwhile Couchbase CEO Bob Wiederhold told Computing his company was now going head to head with 10gen with his firm's latest document-orientated NoSQL database release.
The big players used their financial muscle to keep a skin in the game too, with SAP's powerful HANA in-memory database taking the battle to rivals such as Netezza, Oracle and Teradata. Meanwhile, IBM picked up enterprise search optimiser Vivisimo, analytics firm Varicent and Tea Leaf, a customer behaviour analysis firm; Cisco finalised their acquisition of continuous query vendor Truviso in May; and Oracle announced its purchase of cloud-based big data analytics firm DataRaker in December.
2012 was also a year in which privacy concerns bubbled to the surface. The way in which big data technologies allow government agencies or corporations such as Tesco, Google or Facebook to quickly cross-match all sorts of data pertaining to an individual is worrisome to many.
"Ultimately consumers will be able to opt in or opt out of the tracking mechanisms", said MarkLogic's Gary Bloom, before going on to say that in his view privacy policies will drive firms to make improvements to services, use more "open data" released by governments, and be clearer in their policies. It remains to be seen whether he is right.
A momentous year then, in which a lot of balls were thrown into the air. As a follow-up, we asked our commentators where these balls would land in 2013. Their answers will be published in a Computing article in January. It will be interesting to see whether their involvement in advanced analytics makes their predictions any more accurate than the rather poor record of most pundits at this time of year.