"In God we trust. All others bring data." Teradata CTO Stephen Brobst - once again the star-turn of our Teradata EMEA CTO Road Show this year - got a lot of laughs when he delivered this line at our recent Teradata Universe conference in Dublin. But as he explained to the audience, it's actually the motto by which the CEO of a successful, major US entertainment company runs his business. The plaque on his desk that bears this legend is one of the first things that a visitor to the CEO's office sees and HIPPO managers – those that believe that they can overrule subordinates with a sound data-driven analysis because decisions should be made on the basis of the Highest Paid Person's Opinion – are sent away with a flea in their ears and left in no doubt about the boss's belief in his own maxim.
Of course, "Big Data" is a big noise at the moment, with technology vendors queuing up to re-brand their existing products as "Big Data" solutions. But the "Big Data" label rather misses the point, because it implies that what is interesting and new about "Big Data" is scale. We don't have "size envy" at Teradata, because we now have more than 25 members of our "Petabyte Club" – that is, we have more than 25 customers with a petabyte of data or more under management in Teradata. And because we understand that actually the defining characteristic of most of the new "Big Data" sets is not size, but the "multi-structured" nature of the data. Put simply: we can fairly easily get these data – weblogs, text documents, voice recordings, digitized images - into SQL database technology, but doing something useful with them when we have them there is more of a challenge. All of which is why the industry is so excited about the potential of the MapReduce programming model to extract insight from these data - and why we at Teradata are so excited about the potential of our Teradata-Aster technology to industrialise "Big Data" BI in the same way that Teradata technology has enabled our customers to industrialise "Lots of Data" BI during the course of the last 30 years. I will be talking about our strategy and plans for both technologies throughout this year's EMEA Road Show.
Doing something useful with data – of both the "regular" and the "multi-structured" variety – is key, because as Stephen has recently been quoted as saying: "Just collecting and storing 'Big Data' doesn't drive a cent of value to an organization's bottom-line." Or as an old boss of mine used to say: old process + new technology = expensive old process. If we use technology to gain insight but take no action, we have added cost to the business – but delivered no value.
To borrow a rather well worn phrase, delivering business value from data and analytics is a journey – and the technology is just a vehicle (yes I know it's a bit of a cliché, but stay with me here, I'm coming back to this metaphor in a moment). Even Google's driverless car needs a human to tell it where to go. Or as Bill Franks, Chief Analytics Officer for Teradata's global alliance programs and author of a new book that discusses the "Big Data" phenomenon said recently: "there is artistry all through the analytics process… The artistry is in how you define the problem, design the analysis, work with the data, and show the results. It is a mistake to ignore the creativity needed in an analytic professional." If that sounds unnecessarily poetic, take a look at this recent story in the Economist about the "gamification" of the hiring process. Is it the scientific analysis of the data that makes this solution so, ahem, game changing? Or is it the creativity inherent in the idea of using computer games to assess human potential that is most important? The question is moot, because this is the original "chicken-and-egg" question; there is a symbiotic relationship between the two and each is required to make the other possible. Stephen will be discussing the importance of data-driven experimentation to support the creative process and enable innovation at our Road Show event in Cairo. It's an inspiring presentation and I encourage all of our Egyptian customers and friends to come and listen to what he has to say.
But of course your choice of technology does have a major bearing on your ability to set out on your journey in the first place. Just as NASA's lunar rover would be a poor - not to mention expensive - choice for the school run, I rather doubt that my faithful BMW 118i would take me far on the surface of the Moon (now I come to think of it, it didn't take me so far in this year's snow, either). And it's precisely because just collecting and storing data doesn't drive a cent of value to an organization's bottom-line that Stephen will be explaining at this year's event how Teradata's industry-leading Cost-Based Optimization and Mixed-Workload Management technologies enable our customers to "do more with their data" - and stay ahead of their competitors in the process. We look forward to seeing you at one of the 14 stopovers in major cities throughout Europe and the Middle East that we will be making on this year's Road Show.
Director of Platform & Solutions Marketing, Teradata (EMEA)