Most enterprises lack resources to exploit big data, argues IT leader

By Derek du Preez
04 Nov 2011 View Comments
Big data concept

IT leaders are not convinced that they will have the financial resources to scale up their infrastructure to take advantage of big data and are looking to the cloud for the answer.

This was the opinion of Greg Smith, CIO of distribution company Yodel, who was speaking at a Computing roundtable today, and who did not think it was possible to implement big data technology alongside his company's current data infrastructure.

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David Rajan, director of technology at Oracle, however, told attendees that big data technology could and should complement existing data warehousing models.

"I don't see big data radically changing the way we manage and store data in the enterprise. It's not a panacea solution solving the IT complexity of the last 30 years," said Rajan.

"While it does have the potential to impact top line revenue, at the same time, in a datacentre, in a large corporation, you will have lots of data warehousing systems that manage structured transactional data very effectively. This stuff is not going away," he added.

"For me, big data is another piece of the puzzle that solves the unstructured data problem. It gives us the ability to mine the web and mine our customer interactions. But, fundamentally it fits into the existing model that we currently have, it doesn't replace it."

Yodel's Smith disagreed with Rajan and argued that not all companies have the finances to scale up their technology to harness big data and keep their traditional environment running as well.

"Part of the challenge is that most of what we do in corporate IT is management; we act as very active custodians for the data we create," said Smith.

"If we are managing a huge multiplication of that data, we cannot afford to treat it in the same way as the data we generate traditionally," he added.

"We can't scale our Oracle environment up by 1,000 fold. We just can't afford to do it."

Smith went on to suggest that companies like Yodel may look to cloud providers to manage their big data needs "as a service".

"We could be talking about thousands of terabytes of data here, I can't build an infrastructure to hold that. It's too expensive," said Smith.

"But somebody who just does that, does it on a temporary basis, on a pay-as-you-go basis – I can afford to use that. I could afford to use thousands of terabytes of data that I couldn't hold myself."

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