Big data: the view from the sharp end

By Stuart Sumner
01 Apr 2014 View Comments

Big data: snake oil or gold mine? That’s one of the questions that Computing put to its audience in a series of polls sponsored by Intel, at the recent Big Data Summit in London.

Now in its third year, the summit is a chance for senior IT practitioners to come together to hear from some of the leading lights of the UK IT industry – people on the bleeding edge of big data development and exploitation.

This year, Computing decided to find out where delegates stood on a number of key issues around big data.


In their responses to this first question, we found the audience to be largely split between those who have an interest in big data, but lack the right tools to exploit it, and those who see no compelling reason  to devise a strategy, for now at least.

However, 17 per cent said that big data is already a key differentiator for their business – and remember that these are IT decision makers from medium to large organisations, not vendors. We would expect this slice of the pie to grow the most, should we ask the same question at next year’s summit.


Corroborating the first poll, responses to this second question further emphasised the tools issue. Although almost a third of respondents were confused about how to tackle big data, many more felt a lack of the right tools or skills is what’s holding them back.


Since so many organisations clearly lack the right tools and skills, it’s interesting to note the responses to the next question. In order to justify implementing new tools, firms overwhelmingly cite the need for a clear business opportunity as the trigger. Intriguing, too, that four per cent admit that the hype around big data is itself enough to justify an outlay on new solutions.


Finally, we asked if big data analytics will replace traditional BI tools. Comfortingly for the BI providers, the clear industry feeling is that there is still room for traditional relational tools, even as we move towards exploiting unstructured data.

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