Big Data Tomfoolery

Brian Wood Blog

Big data: it’s not just more of the same.

This time it’s different. Really different.

Article by Harvey Koeppel in Search CIO.

Emphasis in red added by me.

Brian Wood, VP Marketing


Big data is not little data writ large — it changes everything

The origins of confusion …

The real challenge with big data is that it is called big data. The nomenclature (thanks, marketing!) stimulates a reflexive response — an almost instantaneous, emotional and physiological need to compare the target term big data with its seemingly diminutive predecessor, simply data — or, as I now like to call it, little data.

I would suggest that we are talking about apples and oranges here (i.e., things that are so different that they should not be compared); however, based on an article appearing in the British Medical Journal in 2000 (Comparing apples and oranges: A randomised prospective study, by James E. Barone), apples and oranges are apparently more similar than they are different, so we can’t use that metaphor here, or perhaps anywhere, as we might have before.

What? An information technology industry that no longer uses apples and oranges as the benchmark for erroneous comparison and evaluation? Heresy, I say! What will be next — banning the use of the term green screen? What about blue screen? BTW, try asking your teenage children if they would like to watch color TV. OMG, be prepared to feel very old. LMAO!

Semantic tomfoolery aside, thinking about big data as a bigger version of little data puts us at a significant disadvantage when it comes to understanding what it is; how it can be harnessed; and the enormous value that it has created already and will continue to create with respect to how we live, work and play.

The road to enlightenment …

To put all of this into a perspective that is both understandable and actionable, it is helpful to consider how and why big data is so much more than simply more data.

Zen and big data

The differences highlighted above are by no means intended to be exhaustive but rather, illustrative. In looking at these examples, it starts to become more evident why big data is not just about adding more storage capacity to your data center and/or increasing the bandwidth of your network. And we have only scratched the surface.

Understanding the real impact of big data requires additional context from looking at the other technologies that have grown up and will continue to grow up alongside it: