January 3, 2012

Big Data Predictions for 2012

At the end of 2010, I asked some of my friends and Linux Pro Magazine readers to make predictions for 2011. Now as we look back on the year, we get to decide whether our predictions were on target.

Year of Linux on the desktop? Well, once again, Linux on the desktop wasn't really the sexy tech news of the year, which turned out to be the year of cloud, mobile, and tablet headlines. Carla Schroder was more on target with her predictions, such as "world governments will try to fence off and control the Internet" while "Linux and Free/Open Source software, and organizations like Wikileaks and the Electronic Frontier Foundation will continue to toil valiantly to protect our dwindling freedoms.”

No one predicted that Big Data would turn out to be one of the bigger, more interesting topics of 2011. For example, in September 2011, Kalev Leetaru published an academic article that received international attention — and not just in the tech crowd — because he showed how crunching data could theoretically predict the future.

By analyzing 2.4 petabytes of data — an archive of 100 million news articles and 30 years of international news and social media — he was able to illustrate his point by narrowing down Osama Bin Laden's hiding area to a 200-kilometer radius in Northern Pakistan. This story stood out to me because it combined Big Data, high performance computing, social media, journalism, and Linux. (The computer that crunched the data runs SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 11.)

The New York Times gave Big Data a shout out at the end of the 2011 in an article called For Start-Ups That Aim at Giants, Sorting the Data Cloud Is the Next Big Thing. "The amount of data being generated globally increases by 40 percent a year, according to the McKinsey Global Institute, the consulting firm's research arm. And while Splunk has a lead in selling software to analyze machine data, Big Data is big enough to create new opportunities for a multitude of start-ups, many of them using the open-source software Hadoop," the article says.

Big data requires big bucks, which Accel Partners rounded up in a US$ 100 million Big Data Fund, announced a few weeks ago and that will be used to invest in Big Data-related startups.

What About 2012?

Now we get to look ahead at 2012 and a lot of people are making big predictions about Big Data. At the end of 2011, IBM unveiled its annual list of five technologies that will change our lives within five years, the IBM 5 in 5, and Big Data was part of the big five. "Big Data in context is one of the most significant trends in the information technology field," writes Jeff Jonas, IBM Distinguished Engineer and Software Group's Chief Scientist of Entity Analytics.

By analyzing data in 2004, Wal-Mart realized that not only did sales of batteries and flashlights spike before a hurricane, Pop-Tarts were also hot. Flash forward to 2011 and Big Data analytics can save publishing, at least according to David Soloff's article on AdAge.com. "Publishers of high-quality content with large, desirable audiences need to reclaim their online ads inventory," he says. "Only Big Data tools can dig them out of the undifferentiated, over-supplied, machine- driven nightmare of the sell side by enabling publishers to scalability and cost-effectively analyze, price and allocate inventory in the new environment."

Neiman Journalism Lab's Amy Webb also predicts big things for publishing and Big Data. She writes, "Hacker-journalists are converting huge datasets for use by everyday newsroom reporters. Hyper-creative data visualization teams, such as JESS3, are creating stunning charts and graphs appealing to the non-geeky set."

What else will Big Data dominate in 2012? Dr. Westby G. Fisher, Clinical Associate Professor of Medicine at University of Chicago's Pritzker School of Medicine, predicts Big Data will be king in healthcare. And eWeek's Brian T. Horowitz says Big Data and personalized medicine will trend in healthcare in the New Year.

Of course, not everyone is convinced that Big Data is worthy of the big buzz. "Big Data will be the big buzz word of 2012 and pretty soon we're all going to be sick of hearing about it (if we aren't already)," says Ron Miller, columnist at Fierce Content Management. Ron explains, "How we end up using that data will probably have less to do with your IT and data center, however, and much more to do with tapping into public and private Big Data stores to combine it with your own data to try and build advantages for your business."

Who will be hot? How about Hadoop, the open source programming framework, a.k.a. the core platform for Big Data. IDG's Chris Kanaracus says we should expect more companies to roll out Hadoop-related consulting services, modeling tools, and other products in 2012. Cloudera, MapR, 10Gen, Hortonworks, and Splunk look promising, too. And with Linux at the heart of high performance computing, it's certain to have a big role in Big Data. But which Linux flavors will go big in Big Data in the New Year?

Computer forensics and information security expert Hal Pomeranz says, "What we consider 'Big Data' in 2011 will seem trivial by the end of 2012." At the rate things are going, he's probably right.

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