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Big Data Leading to New Breed of Service Provider

By Allen Bernard, CIO
October 31, 2012 01:21 PM ET

CIO - From healthcare to marketing, analytics, Twitter, social radar and sentiment analysis-and, it seems, just about everything in between-new and old service providers alike are emerging to bring big data to the masses of yearning business users who don't even know they want, let alone need, big data services yet.

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Today, companies are faced with overwhelming IT demands aimed merely at keeping the lights on. Many can ill-afford the time or the resources to hire data scientists, assemble massive data sets and deploy Hadoop, R, MapReduce and all the other technologies needed to crunch very large, often non-relational data sets.

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The insights waiting to be gleaned from big data, can only be ignored at great peril. Organizations of all shapes and sizes therefore find themselves in the midst of yet another technology-led evolution, the vastness and reach of which is only now starting to be appreciated.

Service Providers Help Companies Address Big Data Skills Shortage

Fueled by the many technological advances of the past decade-cloud computing, mobile devices, Wi-Fi, 3G, 4G, LTE and the continued trajectory of Moore's Law-big data is giving rise to companies that supply raw data sets, cleansed data sets, data scientists, storage and, perhaps most importantly, analytics.

Some companies have been in the business for years. Data as a service (DaaS) providers such as Dun & Bradstreet, LexisNexis or Thomson Reuters have been around for a long time. (They just lacked the buzzword.) For firms such as Opera Solutions, this is outsourcing on steroids. It's an opportunity not to do what companies already do for themselves but, rather, to offer companies a solution to a problem they are not prepared to take on themselves-at least, not without another big investment in new technologies, new infrastructure and more processing power.

"Companies want and need to get insights from exponentially growing amounts of diverse data, but most lack the skill and computing infrastructure needed," says Gartner Analyst Rita Sallam. "One way to fill the gap is through service providers."

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According to Dun & Bradstreet CIO Walt Hauck, these service providers will be very good at helping you with first-order business problems, such as whether a marketing campaign is selling more products or what features customers are using in a particular product. However, he says, that's unlikely to happen with industry-specific questions that involve complex intensive analysis to find cause-and-effect relationships?

"You think an oil company's going to send [a service provider] a bunch of seismic data and say, 'Should we drill here?' Probably not," Hauck says.

Aside from the technology limitations, a shortage of data scientists drives this trend. The propeller heads who used to do regression and cohort analysis for the marketing department now find themselves in high demand and short supply. Great for them. Bad for you.

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