Developing a Successful Big Data Strategy for Your Business
Author: Mark van Rijmenam
Pub Date: April 2014
Print Edition: $27.95
Print ISBN: 9780814434154
Page Count: 288
e-Book ISBN: 9780814434161
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Of all the data in recorded human history, 90 percent has been
created in the last two years. However, the need to use and interpret
such Big Data has been around for much longer. In fact,
the earliest examples of using data to track and control businesses date
back 7,000 years, when Mesopotamians used rudimentary accounting
to record the growth of crops and herds. Accounting principles
continued to improve, and in 1663, John Graunt recorded and examined
all information about mortality rolls in London. He wanted to
gain an understanding of and build a warning system for the ongoing
bubonic plague. In the first recorded example of statistical data analysis,
he gathered his findings in the book Natural and Political Observations
Made upon the Bills of Mortality, which provides great insights
into the causes of death in the seventeenth century. Because of his work,
Graunt can be considered the father of statistics.
The nineteenth century witnessed the start of the information age.
Modern data was first gathered in 1887, when Herman Hollerith invented
a computing machine that could read holes punched into paper
cards to organize census data.
THE TWENTIETH CENTURY
In 1937, during Franklin D. Roosevelt administration, the United States
created the first major data project to keep track of contributions by
more than three million employers and 26 million employees under
the new Social Security Act. IBM was awarded the contract to develop
a punch card-reading machine for this immense bookkeeping task.
The British developed the first data-processing machine in 1943
to decipher Nazi codes during World War II. The device, named Colossus,
searched for patterns in intercepted messages at a rate of 5,000
characters per second. This reduced the time required to perform the
task from weeks to merely hours. It was a huge step forward.
In 1952 the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) was created
and, within 10 years, it had contracts with more than 12,000 cryptologists.
They were confronted with information overload during
the Cold War, as they started collecting and processing intelligence
In 1965, the U.S. Government decided to build the first data center
to store its more than 742 million tax returns and 175 million sets
of fingerprints. Employees transferred all those records onto magnetic
computer tape that was stored in a single location. The project
was later dropped out of fear of “Big Brother,” but it represented the
beginning of the electronic data storage era.
Then, in 1989, British computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee developed
what eventually became the World Wide Web. He wanted to
facilitate the sharing of information through a “hypertext” system.
Little could he know at that moment the impact his invention would
have on everyone.
Beginning in the 1990s, data was created at an amazing rate as
more and more devices were connected to the Internet. In 1995, the
first supercomputer was built; it performed as much work in a second
than a calculator operated by a single person could do in 30,000
THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY
In 2005, Roger Mougalas of O’Reilly Media coined the term “Big
Data,” a year after the company created the term Web 2.0. He used
the term to refer to a large set of data that is almost impossible to
manage and process using traditional business intelligence tools.
In that same year, Yahoo! created Hadoop on top of Google’s
MapReduce. Its goal was to index the entire World Wide Web;
nowadays, many organizations around the world use the open-source
Hadoop to crunch massive data sets.
As more and more social network sites appeared and Web 2.0 took
flight, more and more data was created daily. Innovative startups slowly
mined this vast amount of data and governments also began Big Data
projects. In 2009, the Indian government decided to take an iris scan,
fingerprint, and photograph of all of its 1.2 billion inhabitants. All
this data is stored in the largest biometric database in the world.
By 2010, when Eric Schmidt, the Executive Chairman of Google,
spoke at the Techonomy forum in Lake Tahoe, California, he put
the information revolution in perspective by stating that “every two
days now we create as much information as we did from the dawn of
civilization up until 2003. . . . That’s something like five exabytes of
data. . . .”
In 2011 the well-received McKinsey report on “Big Data: The Next
Frontier for Innovation, Competition, and Productivity,” concluded
that by 2018, the United States would face a shortage of 140,000 to
190,000 data scientists, as well as 1.5 million data managers. The
job Big Data Scientist is therefore often coined the sexiest job of the
In the past few years, there has been a massive increase in the
number of Big Data startup companies. All are trying to help organizations
manage and understand this explosion of Big Data. As more
companies are slowly adopting Big Data, just as with the Internet in
1993, the Big Data revolution is still ahead of us, so a lot will change
in the coming years.
In fact, the amount of data is growing at such an explosive rate
that we have gone past the decimal system. Today, U.S. agencies, such
as NSA and the FBI, are talking about yottabytes when calculating the
size of their files. In the (near) future, we will be talking about brontobytes
regarding sensor data. Therefore, new terms have been created
to describe the amount of data that is expected to be created in
Big Data will completely change organizations and societies
around the world. It is expected that the amount of data currently
available will double every two years worldwide. So, let’s take a
closer look at what Big Data exactly is.
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