Big data is mostly a buzzword created by analysts and the press with the most literal examples of big data being restricted to machine data, SAS CEO Jim Goodnight has claimed.
Goodnight made the comments during the opening keynote of his organisation's Premier Business Leadership Series 2013 conference in Orlando, Florida.
"Most of our customers don't have big data, it's not that big," he said in response to a question posed during an on-stage Q&A hosted by Walter Isaacson, president and CEO of the Aspen Institute - and the author of a Steve Jobs biography.
Before introducing Goodnight, Isaacson told the audience the SAS CEO had all of the positive attributes of Steve Jobs, but without the slightly darker side the late Apple boss had sometimes displayed.
Goodnight argued that "big data" is just another buzzword following on from other recent trends in the IT industry, even suggesting that analysts promote them in order to generate business.
"The term big data is being used today because computer analysts and journalists got tired of writing about cloud computing," he said.
"Before cloud computing it was data warehousing or 'software as a service'. There's a new buzzword every two years and the computer analysts come out with these things so that they will have something to consult about."
For Goodnight, big data is really about machine data which involves millions of transactions per hour and he gave the audience his views on what he believes big data actually is.
"Really big data is what we see machines are creating with sensors everywhere; all over the electric grid, all over the railroad tracks across the country, there are sensors that are measuring movements of trains.
"That's where really big data is coming from; it is all of the machine generated data and logging information, which has moved from one machine or router to another," Goodnight continued, adding: "All of that is captured and there are literally millions of these transactions an hour."
When asked what should be the next buzzword for the computing industry, Goodnight responded with the rather un-snappy "I think they should go with high performance analytics," drawing chuckles from the audience.
"It's mainly because of the fact that data is just going to get bigger and bigger," he continued when drawn to explain why he thinks it'll be the next big thing.
"There are a lot of platforms for data out there which are being generated and a lot of high performance capability and it needs to be analysed," he added.