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Big Data: Back To The Future

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There is a big data narrative that new technology will sweep all that has come before it, eradicating older technology. The problem is, it might not do as great of a job as it’s supposed to. For an alternative view, I talked to Rohit De Souza and Jeff Veis of Actian Corporation about their concept of hybrid data which goes beyond big data, and at the same time, gives new life to some very established technology.

Alastair Dryburgh: Tell me, just to start off, a little bit about the history of Actian, where it started, how it started, why you started it, and where you’ve currently got to.

Rohit De Souza: Actian was started quite some time ago by a private equity firm that bought Ingres. Ingres was one of the early relational database pioneers, in fact arguably the superior relational database technology that lost the marketing war to Oracle. About a couple of years ago, the company went through some internal soul-searching. Big data was all the rage, and they were trying to understand whether or not these core data management assets that still ran thousands of core business systems were going to be relevant. The company looked at new emerging use cases to harness the growing sea of data we see today.

The investors in the firm at the time then decided that the old data assets were interesting, but they decided to pivot to the shiny new object on the hill called big data. Fast-forward to the end of last year, and the discussion I had with them at that time was, “Look, big data by itself is meaningless. Yes, data is growing, we know all of that. The issue is, because it’s getting so diverse and diffuse in both how it is created and consumed, it’s not just the analytics that’s important, it’s the fundamental management of these data assets, and the ability to harness information in any form and extract actionable insights from this data that’s really a consequence.”

Dryburgh: What would the different forms of data be typically?

De Souza: You’ve got data in relational tables, SQL engines, Hadoop lakes, or Hadoop swamps as I might call them, and the list goes on. You’ve got embedded data, because as computing moves down to the edge of devices with the latest Internet of Things movement, you now need a control system down at the edge, so that your thermostat isn’t pinging you every 30 seconds saying, “I’m here, I’m here, I’m here.”

All that data takes very different forms. There is unstructured data in the form of rich media and social texts. There is machine data generated by millions of devices large and small. There are new forms including graph data that provide insights regarding the relationships between people’s interactions. But the idea that you’ve got hybrid data, and you’ve got data that takes various different forms, is here to stay.

I need to be able to manage this hybrid data in place. I need to then be able to connect the dots between these various different pieces, and I need to analyse it at scale.

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Article Credit: Forbes

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