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Analysis

Will "Big Data" Drive IT's Next Evolutionary Leap?
Charles King By: Charles King, President, Pund-IT
Published: 18th March 2013
Copyright Pund-IT © 2013

Paleontologist and evolutionary biologist Dr. Stephen Jay Gould often discussed the concept of "punctuated equilibrium" that had informed his work and thinking for some three decades. Rather than evolution proceeding along the stately, adaptive path Charles Darwin envisioned, Gould and his colleague Dr. Niles Eldridge, believed that often huge transformative leaps were spurred by major global or regional events. 

Putting aside the continuing controversies around "punctuated equilibrium" (the internecine warfare of academics makes professional politicians look like rote school kids) the concept seems to me to explain 'leaps' in the development of computing technologies. These include the transitions from mainframes to clients/servers to PCs to the Internet to cloud computing.

Proponents often describe big data in similar terms, so is it an actual evolutionary leap? I believe so. In a fundamental sense, big data technologies arose as the volumes of information organizations create/store became increasingly unwieldy and problematic. Early solutions were designed to address unstructured and semi-structured data that make up about eighty percent of the material created (the lion’s share of "big" data).

But truly effective big data technologies and strategies must extend beyond that material to encompass the structured information stored and analyzed in traditional relational databases. In fact, unless solutions can effectively address and analyze all of an organization’s information resources, users risk creating new classes of information siloes. In such cases, so-called big data solutions will deliver little more than tactical 'hops' rather than the transformative 'leaps' they promise.


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