Big Data Semantics

If you work in IT, computing or even business, there’s a good chance you have heard of the term ‘Big Data’ – the latest business “catchphrase du jour” according to Information Week columnist and co-founder and principal of MediaArchitechs, Patrick Houston.

In the InformationWeek Global CIO blog, Houston suggested that big is bad when it comes to data, questioning the appropriateness of the term Big Data, which, he claims, “falls far short of not only describing the phenomenon, but also its applications, opportunities and ramifications–for IT, business, the way we live and work, too”.

While I don’t agree with everything he says in that article, Houston certainly has a point about the expansion of the term. After all, we have already seen that the rapid way that the term Big Data has latched on to associative terms, giving life to terms like Big Data expert, Big Data technologies and Big Data analytics, but how has it managed to stick? How has this “catchphrase du jour,” gained such a broad adoption so fast?

Here are my musings over why the term big data has stuck, and why it may be appropriate, after all.

Foundational

It all started with data processing going decades back. Over the years, we have seen the Big Computer, monolithic behemoths – or in today’s terms, legacy platforms; the Big Network, local and wide area networks; the Big Connector, the Internet that facilitated meaningful access with a purpose to consumers across the globe; and the Big Communicator, social media that has fostered communication beyond our imagination. Look at the route that these have taken us – leading up to the generation and consumption of Big Data driven by presence. It was all about data to start with, and we have come back full circle to data again.

Pervasive

Big Data will pervasively promote a holistic approach across all architectural elements of Cloud Computing. For example, think for a second about the complex data processing algorithms involved, the networking implications, transferring high volumes of timely data and the consequences of storing various media to house countless bytes of data.

Synthetic

Thomas C. Redman introduces a term “Informationlisation” in the Harvard Business Review blog titled, “Integrate data into product, or get left behind.” To me, the term Big Data is also about the synthesis of individual pixels on the display device coming together to present a cohesive, meaningful picture.

Familiarity

For the modern man, big is a common part of compound associations, whether a Big Mac (hamburger), Big Brother or The Big Dipper. It is a big deal, shall we say? Data has always been generated and consumed with continued emergence of evolutionary technologies. You say Big Data and pictures of data rapidly growing like a balloon or spreading like water come to mind. It has something to do with data. There is something big about it, yet also something so beautifully simple.

Simplicity

You cannot get simpler than a three-letter word paired up with a four-letter word to mean something by itself. Especially when neither one is a TLA (three-letter acronym) for something very difficult to pronounce! Children in their elementary grades start learning these simple words before moving on to complex spelling bees with an abundance of vowels and y and x and q letters. Big Data rolls off the tongue easily with a total of three syllables.

As humans, we tend to gravitate towards simplicity. This has always been the case with pop music – just look at the way that the whole world chimes in and sways back and forth when Sir Paul McCartney sings “Hey Jude!” The line that sticks in our mind is the simplest line in the whole song – easy to render – one that we hum along to in our heads.

In its sheer straightforwardness, Big Data provides the most simplistic interpretation possible for a really complex world out there. In his piece for Information Week, Houston proposes an alternative to Big Data, gushing data. However, I am not convinced that, as a term, gushing data could ever enjoy the attention that Big Data gets. It represents a domain that needs to be addressed globally across all architectural layers by everyone including the consumers, administrators and orchestrators of data. Therefore, Big Data is not just good enough – it is apt.

SHARETweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on FacebookShare on Google+Pin on PinterestDigg thisShare on RedditShare on TumblrShare on StumbleUponEmail this to someone

HP Distinguished Technologist and Cloud Advisor, E.G.Nadhan has over 25 years of experience in the IT industry across the complete spectrum of selling, delivering and managing enterprise level solutions for HP customers. He is the founding co-chair for The Open Group SOCCI project and is also the founding co-chair for the Open Group Cloud Computing Governance project.