What exactly is big data?

It’s hard to quantify a size of big data, so instead experts say think about it this way

To some, big data just seems like a big buzzword.

So what is big data, actually? Some say it’s any amount of data that can’t fit on a single computer

michael stonebraker p1120062 David Monniaux

Michael Stonebraker 

Michael Stonebraker knows a thing or two about big data – in fact he’s one of the forefathers of it. Stonebraker is an adjunct professor at MIT and helped create Vertica, the columnar database that HP bought. He has a new startup now named Tamr and last year won the ACM Turing Award, referred to as the Nobel Prize for computing. At the HP Big Data Conference in Boston this week Stonebraker described how he thinks about big data, and it all has to do with the three Vs. But by the way, this concept is not original nor unique to Stonebraker, however.

Big data can be summed up with the following three words:


There is a lot of data. Companies have a lot of data, and they’re constantly collecting more. As the big data name implies, one of the chief challenges with big data is the sheer scale of it


Not only is there a lot of data, but data is growing – fast. Companies have so much data coming at them that they don’t know what to do with it. The Internet of Things will only make this problem worse.


Another problem is not just that there’s a lot of data and it’s constantly growing, but there are increasingly a huge variety of sources of the data. It doesn’t just come from one place any more. The data comes from many different places, presenting a new challenge of getting it into a common format to be able to analyze it.

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