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Businesses must cut through the big data hype in 2014

Big data hype continued to grow throughout 2013. The year ahead will determine whether the hype is justified.

There is a lot of analytics and big data hype going around these days, but it is unlikely that every new technology or strategy for analyzing data will pan out. Differentiating the trends that will pan out from those that will sputter out could be a key to business success in 2014.

One of the most hyped trends that began developing in 2013 -- but may be doomed to leave organizations disappointed in the coming year -- is the development of applications that allow users to run SQL-like queries against data in Hadoop systems. A number of vendors released products in this area last year, including Cloudera's Impala, Pivotal's HAWQ and Splunk's Hunk, and analytics professionals have shown a lot of interest. Gartner analyst Merv Adrian said he expects applications in this category to leave many users disappointed in 2014.

Adrian said some SQL-on-Hadoop applications may deliver on their promise, but overall the concept is too new to have a great impact, and many applications are likely to struggle with performance issues. This could leave a number of systems discarded by their users before the year is out.

"In general, they are new, immature and likely to disappoint their users until their limitations are understood," Adrian said.

The basic problem is that hype has outrun reality. The SQL-on-Hadoop tools have a role to play, but it may be more limited than some organizations imagine it to be. The hype surrounding Hadoop in general had been significant, and many inexperienced users think it can do just about anything. Add in a useful technology that most analytics professionals are familiar with in SQL and the result is huge hype. Adrian said users will have to develop a realistic understanding of the limitations of these tools in the year ahead.

No analytics relevance for the 'Internet of Things'

Big data has the potential to be an overhyped term, but companies in 2014 can mitigate the risk and create true value by better aligning their people and processes with the information sources.
Tony Cosentinoanalyst, Ventana Research

Another technology trend that is likely to disappoint analytics professionals in 2014 is the Internet of Things. This concept, which mainly refers to connecting conventionally dumb appliances like manufacturing equipment and delivery infrastructure to the Internet, is not typically associated with analytics or business intelligence. But some have suggested that it could produce a veritable bounty of data, which could help feed analytic models and allow for enhanced reporting capabilities.

However, William McKnight, of McKnight Consulting Group, is a little more bearish about the prospects of the Internet of Things being a meaningful player in business intelligence. He doesn't doubt that connecting home automation systems, navigation devices and manufacturing systems to the Internet will produce a wealth of data. Tying all that data together is another matter, though.

"Making connections between objects and making sense of those implications with business intelligence, which requires more top-down planning, will be in outer years," he said.

Dissecting the big data hype

Without question, no other trend in the analytics world receives more hype than big data. But not everyone agrees whether this attention is deserved. Big data hype could be a media and marketing creation, or it could be a reflection of the power behind the idea.

For Tony Cosentino, an analyst with Ventana Research, it all depends on how you use it. He cited research done at his firm which showed that interest in big data systems continues to grow at most organizations. However, the capabilities of the technology have outpaced governance structures and workers aren't always prepared to make big data a part of their daily activities. Big data could have a potentially great impact, but only if the right processes are put in place.

"Big data has the potential to be an overhyped term, but companies in 2014 can mitigate the risk and create true value by better aligning their people and processes with the new information sources and innovative technologies already available in the market," Cosentino said.

Whether or not big data hype is justified may ultimately be up to the users, according to Cosentino. The technology shows promise. But it will have to be used in the right way to ensure it lives up to its hype in 2014.

Ed Burns is site editor of SearchBusinessAnalytics. Email him at and follow him on Twitter: @EdBurnsTT.

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