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Will the cloud save big data?

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Employees up and down the value chain are eager to dive into big data, hunting for golden nuggets of intelligence to help them make smarter decisions, grow customer relationships and improve business efficiency. To do this, they’ve been faced with a dizzying array of technologies – from open source projects to commercial software products – as they try to wrestle big data to the ground.

Today, a lot of the headlines and momentum focus around some combination of Hadoop, Spark and Redshift – all of which can be springboards for big data work. It’s important to step back, though, and look at where we are in big data’s evolution.

In many ways, big data is in the midst of transition. Hadoop is hitting its pre-teen years, having launched in April 2006 as an official Apache project – and then taking the software world by storm as a framework for distributed storage and processing of data, based on commodity hardware. Apache Spark is now hitting its strides as a “lightning fast” streaming engine for large-scale data processing. And various cloud data warehousing and analytics platforms are emerging, from big names (Amazon Redshift, Microsoft Azure HDInsight and Google BigQuery) to upstart players like Snowflake, Qubole and Confluent.

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