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How Gulf Air adopted do-it-yourself Big Data

Ben Rossi | July 9, 2013
There is no doubt that Big Data is the hottest IT topic of 2013. Everybody is talking about it as the next big technology to revolutionise the enterprise.

There is no doubt that Big Data is the hottest IT topic of 2013. Everybody is talking about it as the next big technology to revolutionise the enterprise.

Unsurprisingly, then, every man and his dog wants a piece of the action. All the industry heavyweights have been touting their own solutions, ranging from hefty appliances to in-built analytics technology.

Many are saying the truly mammoth frequency of data being generated by organisations warrants a completely new approach to IT infrastructure. Others are saying the related skills are so sought-after that 'data scientists' -- a job spawned from the trend -- are now amongst the most in-demand and, subsequently, highly-paid professionals in the IT world.

The trouble is, it's expensive. Very expensive. Which is fine when the business case and ROI is clear -- but right now, that is not the case.

Yes, we all get the benefits in principal. The data is at the disposal of the organisation and can be turned into actionable information thus generating business value. But "in principal" isn't enough to get senior management to sign off the budget for an extremely pricey project.

What they need is guarantees; clear use-cases of enterprises that have made the investment and seen the returns.

So therein lies the hurdle. Big Data is so young in its infancy, that CIOs -- whilst enthused by the technology -- simply cannot justify the investment it warrants at this stage.

In step Dr Jassim Haji, IT Director of Gulf Air, the national carrier of the Kingdom of Bahrain.

Like everyone else, Dr Haji took an interest in the subject. "You won't find any issue of any IT magazine these days that does not have an article or piece of news about Big Data," he says. "Its growing popularity is very interesting and shines the light into its wide and attractive potential.

"However, we have to be careful not to lose our way in this big hype. It is easy for IT managers to become over-excited about such hypes and dive directly into the implementation of Big Data without aligning it with the business vision. Everyone is eager to get a piece of the action, but this has to fit into the greater picture of the business."

Dr Haji took the standard approach when in the initial stages of an IT implementation, and looked at what was on the market. One initially took his eye. "To be honest," he says, "we tried with Microsoft.

"But with Microsoft, like others, there were lots of hidden costs, and it was going to take time, and we were restricted with lots of technological restraints from Microsoft.

"So we came to a stage where we said, if doesn't work with Microsoft and it doesn't work with others, maybe it's not worth going for."

 

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