Big Data continues to be the buzzword du jour. And as with most popular concepts espoused by everyone from marketers and consultants to purveyors of software and infrastructure, the phrase can mean different things to different people. For us at Sullexis, we think of Big Data as a set of technologies that enable our clients to consume and process high volumes and/or diverse types of information.
But our clients need ROI. Neither access to a large amount of diverse data nor possession of the most sophisticated Hadoop stack of Big Data technologies will generate ROI without the right application. Our clients need to derive real business value from their information. Luckily, there is already a proven concept within organizations to derive value from information: Business Intelligence (BI). And we think a significant value of Big Data technologies is in improving your current BI solutions. Here’s how.
1. With Big Data technologies, your BI solution can include more types of data.
Your data warehouse requires data to be precisely structured. You rely on complex ETL processes to prepare your data for load and ingestion. But Big Data technologies enable the ingestion of data from diverse data sources and new data types, both structured and unstructured. You can use Big Data technologies to analyze a huge variety of data types. For example, using natural language processing, you can pull keywords from Word documents in SharePoint or from emails on Exchange or from social media activity. You then have a choice – you can feed this newly structured data into your data warehouse to leverage the analytics built into your current BI solution or you can build new analytics into your Big Data stack. Either way, your BI just got better.
2. With Big Data technologies, you can explore your data.
Your current data warehouse requires data in a strict pre-defined format to drive descriptive analytics (e.g. reporting). It is not easy to modify your data warehouse structure. And to modify it, you need a detailed design. But sometimes you need to take a fresh look at a larger set of data to evaluate patterns and trends – to explore your data. A Big Data environment can give you a flexible environment to explore your data (ALL of your data), which you can then use to drive new structures and better functionality out of your existing BI solution.
3. With Big Data technologies, your BI solution can consume higher volumes of information.
BI solutions are usually limited by technical resources, both hardware & software. This creates situations where data must be split and summarized to view an aggregate picture of the data. In many cases, this splitting and summarization of information causes a loss of granularity and weakens the possibility for detailed analysis. Big Data technologies enable horizontal scalability – you can add resources as needed in order to store and process as much information at the most granular level needed. This horizontal scalability will enable detailed analysis of vast amounts of data, enabling your team to meet the requirements of your BI solution. You have the ability to conduct data modeling and analysis in your Big Data environment or your Big Data environment can feed data into your current data warehouse, leveraging analytics you have already built.
4. With Big Data technologies, your BI solution can process more information in less time.
Many BI solutions are struggling with performance. We have seen many BI systems that require multiple days to generate cubes of information. Big Data technologies enable horizontal distribution of this massive amount of processing. This distributed processing power will process more information more quickly. Use a Big Data environment to pre-process your data, reducing the load on your current BI solution.
5. With Big Data technologies, your BI solution will maintain a higher quality of analysis.
When a BI solution is resource constrained, data aggregation is the inevitable result. This causes a loss in granularity, reducing the quality of the data. This loss in granularity may reduce your ability to detect relationships within the data. The distributed power of Big Data technologies will enable you to perform data analysis at any level needed, without aggregation. For analysis that is straining your current BI solution, use the Big Data environment to augment your capabilities.
6. With Big Data technologies, your BI solution will offer an improved user experience.
Eliminate client complaints regarding slow data reporting. Since Big Data technologies mean more power, you are able to obtain your information in less time, often in near real-time. This enables you to invest more resources in data visualizations, which drives improved user experience. A Big Data environment will give you options on where and how to ingest, store, analyze and visualize your data for optimum user experience.
7. With Big Data technologies, you will reduce the cost of your BI solution.
As with any business solution, cost is a critical factor. Big Data technologies are designed for horizontal scalability. Traditional BI solutions require vertical scalability – you need to acquire more powerful hardware to support the demands of the projects. Vertical scalability gets very expensive very quickly. Horizontal scalability means that you can use economical commodity hardware on a larger scale as one single powerful piece of hardware. The amount of data you must manage will keep increasing. Leveraging the horizontal scalability of Big Data will reduce your costs.
So, can Big Data technologies help your BI solution? Yes. Need help? Contact us.