Analytics and data management
Questioned about their experience of the important and growing field of analytics, SQL and related database skills came out on top. As organisations increasingly become indistinguishable from the data they hold, managing that data and extracting meaningful information from it is becoming more important with each passing year.
Given this focus, skills in areas such as relational database management systems (RDBMS), business intelligence (BI), data governance, master data management, data mining, data warehousing and the newcomer, big data, will always be in demand.
The giants in the heavyweight database field, Microsoft with SQL Server and Oracle with its enterprise databases and end-to-end technology suites, are well served by a cadre of trained and accredited specialists. The open-source MySQL, which powers an enormous number of transactional websites, is also well supported (figure 3).
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Prompted about which single analytics or data management skill will increase most in importance, the survey respondents returned a clear winner in the shape of BI. The ability of an organisation to convert its broad data assets into knowledge, getting the right information to the right people at the right time, is now seen as vital by the IT department as well as the business as a whole (figure 4).
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The term BI encompasses some of the other rising stars on the list such as data mining and data governance. Really, BI is about marshalling the various processes and activities in such a way that they provide an overview of the business, where it has been, where it is now, and where it is going.
The current interest in mobile BI – rolling the technology out to smartphones and tablets – neatly unites two of the main growth areas revealed by the survey.
Another point of note is the rise of big data. While scarcely featuring on the list of current skills, NoSQL databases (such as Cassandra) and the Hadoop software framework both emerge on the list of technologies to watch, with the statistical language R and the more general term MapReduce also mentioned just outside the top 10.
With skills in these areas in short supply, and with big data now on the radar of more and more organisations, data scientists are suddenly in demand. In terms of technology, big data is an area in flux, with some analysts arguing that the current open source MapReduce-based frameworks like Hadoop are being overtaken by proprietary solutions for real-time parallel processing and analytics (many created by Google) such as MPI, BSP, Pregel, Dremel and Percolator.
Despite these and other innovations, there is a tacit recognition that the majority of analytics tasks will remain within the remit of traditional RDBMS. Among those looking into big data analytics, 64 per cent said advanced SQL skills would need to be developed or acquired compared with 20 per cent who mentioned Hadoop.
Virtualisation, cloud computing and datacentre infrastructure
In the data centre VMware skills featured prominently (figure 5). Consolidation of resources continues, apace, including server, storage and network virtualisation, and with VMware still commanding the lion’s share of the hypervisor market this is not a surprise. Indeed, a recent Computing survey found 77 per cent running VMware, as compared with 22 per cent using Microsoft's Hyper-V platform, with Citrix’s Xen coming somewhere behind that.
By eliminating high entry costs for big data analysis, you can convert more raw data into valuable business insight.
A discussion of the "risk perception gap", its implications and how it can be closed