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Decision makers plan to spend big on 'big data' projects

Two surveys found that many companies are moving to become more data-driven and that "big data" initiatives are among the items on their to-do lists.

Companies today are increasingly striving to base decisions on cold hard facts -- as opposed to what their guts tell them -- and more than half plan to increase spending on “big data” projects in the coming years, according to the results of two new surveys.

The first survey, which was conducted by The Economist Intelligence Unit, went out to more than “600 business leaders” across the globe -- including 168 North America executives -- and found a growing appetite for data and, perhaps more important, a growing emphasis on data-driven decision making.

Among the survey’s key findings, about two-thirds of North American respondents said big data will be a major issue over the next five years, while 58% expect their organizations to increase spending on big data initiatives within the next three years. About 85% of North American respondents indicated a desire to do a better job of analyzing and acting on data in real time.

“Big data is really about more than just sheer volumes,” said Scott Schlesinger, the vice president and head of business information management, at Capgemini U.S., a systems integration consulting firm and sponsor of the Economist Intelligence Unit survey. “It’s really the complexity of the data that organizations are trying to get their arms around to make informed, forward-looking decisions.”

The survey also shed light on some of the perceived challenges associated with big data projects and data management initiatives in general. About 54% of North American respondents said finding the right people with the right skills is the No. 1 obstacle to launching a successful big data project.

Unstructured data -- which includes everything from the text found in email and on social media sites to machine-generated logs -- presents another big challenge. According to the survey, 39% of North American executives think that unstructured data is too difficult to interpret. But most of them will still try, said Schlesinger, who offered some advice for those attempting to gain business insights from unstructured information.

“I think they need to maybe slow down a little bit and understand their environment, their landscape, where they want to go and what they aspire to be and engage people that have done this before,” he said. “There are great tools out there from a technology standpoint, but I don't think it's just a technology play. I think it’s really about people, technology and process.”

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More workers making data-driven decisions

The second survey, which was conducted by Avanade and went out to 569 C-level executives and IT decision makers, found that a growing number of workers -- and not just IT workers -- are using tools and employing best practices in an effort to make data-driven decisions. Avanade is a business technology consulting firm founded by Accenture and Microsoft.

About 58% of respondents reported that widely accepted data management best practices are now embedded in key business processes and workflows. Meanwhile, 59% of respondents say more employees are involved in making business decisions as a result of more widely available company data.

“Big data has gained a top spot on the agenda of business leaders for the real value it has begun to create,” according to a statement by Tyson Hartman, Avanade global chief technology officer and corporate vice president.

MapR 2.0 hits the streets

Speaking of big data projects, MapR Technologies Inc. has unveiled Version 2.0 of its MapR Distribution, an open source, enterprise-grade Apache Hadoop distribution.

The latest version of the distribution offers increased security and allows organizations to run Hadoop as a service with multi-tenancy, according to MapR Technologies. It also offers advanced monitoring and management capabilities.

Among its new features, version 2.0 includes advanced job management capabilities, which allow administrators to have full control over clusters, jobs and tasks. The company says job and data placement control helps users make sure that job execution can be isolated to different areas of a cluster for performance, security or cost-control purposes.

In a separate announcement, MapR Technologies announced that its distribution is now available as an option within the Amazon Elastic MapReduce Service.

“MapR has optimized the management and performance to ensure an easy and successful deployment,” Jack Norris, vice president of marketing at MapR Technologies, said in a statement.

Kognitio unveils Hadoop connector

Analytical platform provider Kognitio is the latest software vendor to offer a Hadoop connector. The company says the connector will allow users to import data into Kognitio from Hadoop clusters for ad hoc queries.

Other vendors that have unveiled Hadoop connectors in recent months include Oracle, IBM, Informatica and Talend.

In addition to connectivity, the new option from Kognitio offers an external tables feature that embeds software agents inside of Hadoop clusters. The company says this feature effectively allows Kognitio to become an in-memory accelerator for Hadoop.

“The Kognitio Analytical Platform [accelerates] Hadoop and [allows] it to work with standard BI and OLAP tools, enabling results that make a difference on the bottom line,” Roger Gaskell, Kognitio’s  chief technology officer, said in a statement.

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