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The unvarnished truth about Big Data

Debarati Roy | May 23, 2013
There are plenty who believe that beneath big data’s shiny exterior, companies will find a hollow ring of tin plating. Will big data reveal itself to be just another IT fad?

In answer to that problem, Batra, who has been on the big data road since mid-2009, has tried to use open-standards platforms as much as possible. This, he says, makes it easier to swap out obsolete and outdated components and add new ones, move data over as necessary, and keep working with as little disruption as possible.

"The technology space has also evolved. Most new technologies are more of plug-and-play and are built on open standards specifications," says Batra. He believes that vendors will keep integration and flexibility issues in mind as they keep developing new products.

Bahl's suggestion that CIOs adopt an incremental, open-source approach to big data resonates with Batra's decision. "The evolving open source big data ecosystem around technologies such as Hadoop, Cassandra and Solr and platforms like Cloudera, Hortonworks, etcetera, is an increasingly attractive option for CIOs," says Bahl.

But what about big data skill sets, ask cynics? According to Gartner, by 2015, nearly 4.4 million new jobs will be created globally by the big data demand--and only a third of them will be filled. In India, the skill-set crunch has started seeping into the list of a CIO's biggest challenges, even among those who have just started planning their big data debuts.

"Skill sets was and will remain a major pain point, be it BI or analysts or data scientists," says Peddada.

In response, a number of training academies have mushroomed to fill the demand. Jigsaw Academy, a start-up based in Bangalore can train up to 4,000 students in a year, says Sarita Digumarti, founder, Jigsaw Academy. Courses include basic statistics (required to summarize, visualize and analyze data), analytic techniques (for descriptive and predictive modeling), and the use of analytic tools like SAS, Excel and others. Another Bangalore-based academy, Analytics Training Institute can train up to 1,200 students annually. Course fees range between Rs 27,000 to 36,000 (Jigsaw) per student.

But Gupta, among others, is not convinced. "Indian engineering schools produce a million engineers every year. Having a degree doesn't mean one is employable," he says.

This lack of experienced and skilled data scientists is what drove Malupillai to look within Target for people, from both business and IT, who could be cross-trained. Iyer, on the other hand, has been lucky: Out of the 3,800 employees at CRISIL, almost 3,200 are analysts. For CIOs who suspect they will face staffing challenge, Iyer suggests enrolling the services of an analysts firm.

Looking Forward

Clearly, a large majority believe that big data is the next frontier of business-IT innovation, competition, and productivity. But the fact is that most analysts and Indian CIOs believe that mainstream adoption of big data is going to take another two to five years. Chui from McKinsey Global Institute puts that number at a conservative 10 years. So why all the carpe diem? Because no one wants to get left behind.


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