Data analysis, once chiefly the provider of numbers for PowerPoint presentations and executive dashboards, is increasingly shaping the strategies and operations for many organizations.
Of course, data-guided business decisions are nothing new. What is new is a new depth in the kind of insights that analysis can provide, as well a greater range of data that can be put to computerized scrutiny.
IBM, among other companies, has been ambitiously pursuing the additional ways data can be parsed through cognitive computing, which harnesses techniques of machine learning, neural networks and other approaches to better mimic the ways humans intuit insight from data.
And thanks to the open-source Hadoop data-processing platform, the use of which is growing in the enterprise, additional types of data can be mined for potential knowledge.
Hadoop excels at churning through vast reams of unstructured data, data not stored in a relational database but captured in text files or log files--all the stuff IT staff used to largely ignore, then routinely delete once it filled its coffers. But e-mail, the Web surfing habits of customers or server log files can provide insight into long term trends, daily operations or heretofore undiscovered customer preferences.
One such company that found a competitive edge with such big data, as it is often called, has been enterprise security services company Solutionary, which used a MapR-based Hadoop distribution to enlarge the set of services it offers for its customers.
Solutionary uses Hadoop to store and analyze the security and events logs of its corporate customers, so they can be alerted when suspicious activity may be taking place on their systems. Hadoop allows the company to store more data, at a cost considerably less than if it were to be stored on a data warehouse.
Using this additional data allows the company to offer a longer-view analysis to its customers about what is happening on their networks. It also allows them to perform predictive modeling on the data, potentially giving its customers earlier warning about security issues.
Hadoop allowed Solutionary "to get off an architecture where you had to be careful about what to put into it, and to a model where you could store everything," said Scott Russmann, Solutionary's director of software engineering.
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