What Is Big Data?

Timo Elliott

This is [ big data ]. (More serious answer after).

big data

What does Big Data mean?

(1) The current use of the term big data took off because it was used to refer to new technologies like Hadoop and MapReduce

(2) Most definitions refer to the data characteristics outlined by analyst Doug Laney in 2001: the 3Vs: extremes of volume, velocity, or variety (other Vs sometimes evoked include Validity or Veracity for data quality, and the importance of business Value). Wikipedia’s definition of big data is along these lines.

(3) Others prefer emphasizing the difficulties of manipulating the data in different phases such as Sense, Collect, Store, and Analyze.

(4) Finally, for many business people, “Big data” is now becoming a generic term for “analytics”, except it’s done by “data scientists” rather than “business analysts”. Business people appear to be more comfortable with the term “big data” than some of its predecessors (DSS or Decision Support Solutions, anyone?), its use is rising in popularity very quickly, and folks like McKinsey and the Harvard Business Review have used it to describe pretty much any business opportunity related to data.


About Timo Elliott

Timo Elliott is an innovation evangelist and international conference speaker who has presented to business and IT audiences in over forty countries around the world. A 23-year veteran of SAP BusinessObjects, Elliott works closely with SAP development and innovation centers around the world on new technology directions. His popular Business Analytics blog at tracks innovation in analytics and social media, including topics such as big data, collaborative decision-making, and social analytics. Prior to Business Objects, Elliott was a computer consultant in Hong Kong and led analytics projects for Shell in New Zealand. He holds a first-class honors degree in Economics with Statistics from Bristol University, England.