Big data is a term that describes large, hard-to-manage volumes of data – both structured and unstructured – that inundate businesses on a day-to-day basis. But it’s not just the type or amount of data that’s important, it’s what organizations do with the data that matters. Big data can be analyzed for insights that improve decisions and give confidence for making strategic business moves.
Big data analytics is the use of advanced analytic techniques against very large, diverse big data sets that include structured, semi-structured and unstructured data, from different sources, and in different sizes from terabytes to zettabytes.
Big data benefits:
Types Of Big Data
Any data that can be stored, accessed and processed in the form of fixed format is termed as a ‘structured’ data. Over the period of time, talent in computer science has achieved greater success in developing techniques for working with such kind of data (where the format is well known in advance) and also deriving value out of it. However, nowadays, we are foreseeing issues when a size of such data grows to a huge extent, typical sizes are being in the rage of multiple zettabytes.
Any data with unknown form or the structure is classified as unstructured data. In addition to the size being huge, un-structured data poses multiple challenges in terms of its processing for deriving value out of it. A typical example of unstructured data is a heterogeneous data source containing a combination of simple text files, images, videos etc. Now day organizations have wealth of data available with them but unfortunately, they don’t know how to derive value out of it since this data is in its raw form or unstructured format.
Semi-structured data can contain both the forms of data. We can see semi-structured data as a structured in form but it is actually not defined with e.g. a table definition in relational DBMS. Example of semi-structured data is a data represented in an XML file.
Characteristics Of Big Data
Big data can be described by the following characteristics:(i) Volume – The name Big Data itself is related to a size which is enormous. Size of data plays a very crucial role in determining value out of data. Also, whether a particular data can actually be considered as a Big Data or not, is dependent upon the volume of data. Hence, ‘Volume’ is one characteristic which needs to be considered while dealing with Big Data solutions.
(ii) Variety – The next aspect of Big Data is its variety.
Variety refers to heterogeneous sources and the nature of data, both structured and unstructured. During earlier days, spreadsheets and databases were the only sources of data considered by most of the applications. Nowadays, data in the form of emails, photos, videos, monitoring devices, PDFs, audio, etc. are also being considered in the analysis applications. This variety of unstructured data poses certain issues for storage, mining and analyzing data.
(iii) Velocity – The term ‘velocity’ refers to the speed of generation of data. How fast the data is generated and processed to meet the demands, determines real potential in the data. Big Data Velocity deals with the speed at which data flows in from sources like business processes, application logs, networks, and social media sites, sensors, mobile devices, etc. The flow of data is massive and continuous.
(iv) Variability – This refers to the inconsistency which can be shown by the data at times, thus hampering the process of being able to handle and manage the data effectively.
Big data challenges
While big data holds a lot of promise, it is not without its challenges.
First, big data is…big. Although new technologies have been developed for data storage, data volumes are doubling in size about every two years. Organizations still struggle to keep pace with their data and find ways to effectively store it.
But it’s not enough to just store the data. Data must be used to be valuable and that depends on curation. Clean data, or data that’s relevant to the client and organized in a way that enables meaningful analysis, requires a lot of work. Data scientists spend 50 to 80 percent of their time curating and preparing data before it can actually be used. Finally, big data technology is changing at a rapid pace. A few years ago, Apache Hadoop was the popular technology used to handle big data. Then Apache Spark was introduced in 2014. Today, a combination of the two frameworks appears to be the best approach. Keeping up with big data technology is an ongoing challenge.
How big data works?
Big data gives you new insights that open up new opportunities and business models. Getting started involves three key actions:
Big data brings together data from many disparate sources and applications. Traditional data integration mechanisms, such as extract, transform, and load (ETL) generally aren’t up to the task. It requires new strategies and technologies to analyze big data sets at terabyte, or even petabyte, scale.
During integration, you need to bring in the data, process it, and make sure it’s formatted and available in a form that your business analysts can get started with.
Big data requires storage. Your storage solution can be in the cloud, on premises, or both. You can store your data in any form you want and bring your desired processing requirements and necessary process engines to those data sets on an on-demand basis. Many people choose their storage solution according to where their data is currently residing. The cloud is gradually gaining popularity because it supports your current compute requirements and enables you to spin up resources as needed.
Your investment in big data pays off when you analyze and act on your data. Get new clarity with a visual analysis of your varied data sets. Explore the data further to make new discoveries. Share your findings with others. Build data models with machine learning and artificial intelligence. Put your data to work.