The news beneath the news at Strata


Last week during the Strata/Hadoop World shindig, I dutifully brought you highlights of "Vendor X said" product news. It's important to keep abreast of developments in the industry and changes in the options available to you, after all. But now that the vendor announcing, product launching and general crowing at the conference is done, it's time to look at the news beneath the news. The undercurrents that lurk there show us any turmoil in the industry and the direction in which things are flowing.

The largest undercurrent was that the news at Strata was decidedly unsexy for the most part. The flash of recent years had succumbed to the shine of more polished work. That was obvious in the announcements of so many vendors that amounted to improvements to the status quo rather than pioneering on a new frontier.

In other words, the industry is beginning to settle. You could even call it maturing, although it is far from being anywhere close to mature.

Settling is good. It means the industry is beginning to sort out what works and what doesn't. It is the process necessary to reducing risk for users and moving the use of big data from exploratory to the "business as usual" category.

When it comes to tech, sexy is fun but unsexy is infinitely more practical and profitable. 

Another notable undercurrent was in the mindset of the average enterprise buyer. Most were drawn to the practical, yet few still understand fundamental changes not only in the big data industry but in computing at large.

"They want us to hand them a box. A virtual box or a real one. They expect us to hand them a box when they buy," lamented Yan Fisher, senior product marketing manager at Red Hat.

Now, it is important to understand that Fisher was NOT dissing enterprise buyers. He and other vendors were only expressing dismay that such a large miscommunication exists over the basics in product offerings, much less the nuances. Such can only mean one thing: the average enterprise buyer is still struggling to understand big data alright, but on a far more basic level than vendors first thought.

It is this lack of understanding, despite the obvious zeal for it, which prevents the average enterprise from mastering big data. This is why so many are hoarding data and so few are doing much with it.

In other words, the industry is far ahead of the users.

"Data literacy, not only among those in the C-suite but throughout an organization is incredibly important," Tony Salvador, a social scientist and researcher at Intel, told me.

The typical enterprise is looking for a magic button that will deliver the answer they seek instead of a tool that will deliver the means to ask or define a question. Until this gap is bridged, we will not see the promises of big data manifest in reality. - Pam