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Issue 1 January 2012

The hype vs. the reality of big data

Big data is everywhere these days. Marketing materials are bursting with references to how products have been enhanced to handle big data. Consultants and analysts are busy writing new articles and creating elegant presentations. But the sad reality is that big data remains one of the most ill-defined terms we’ve seen in many a year.  The problem is that data volume is a metric that tells us little about the data characteristics that allow us to understand its sources, its uses in business and the ways we need to handle it in practice. Even the emerging approach of talking about big data in terms of volume, velocity and variety leaves a lot to be desired in terms of clarity about what big data really is.  Business drivers and origins So, what is the problem? And, more to the point, is there an answer? The problem is that big data in a technical sense, beyond the common characteristic of “bigness,” has little else in common. Hence the difficulty in coming up with a single, all-encompassing definition.  However, in a business ...

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