Execs Confused Over “Big Data” Definition, But Want It Anyway: Survey

A new survey by SAP suggests that nearly 76 percent of executives see “Big Data” as an opportunity. However, respondents’ definition of “Big Data” varied to a considerable degree.

Nearly a quarter of the 154 C-suite executives felt that “Big Data” was the technologies designed to handle the massive amounts of data swamping organizations. Another 28 percent defined “Big Data” as that flood of data itself. Still another group (19 percent) equated “Big Data” with storing data for regulatory compliance. Around 18 percent viewed “Big Data” as the increase in data sources, including social networks and mobile devices.

Even if they have trouble settling on a common definition, it seems these executives want “Big Data” turned to some very specific uses, whether making business operations more efficient (59 percent), ringing up more sales (54 percent), lowering the costs associated with IT infrastructure (50 percent), becoming “more agile” (48 percent), and pulling in more customers (46 percent).

“Big Data is the unprecedented growth and convergence of social, device, equipment and corporate data,” Steve Lucas, executive vice president and general manager of Database & Technology for SAP, wrote in a June 26 statement. “There is an incredible amount of noise being created and without a strategy, companies will get lost in the noise.”

SAP, of course, has something of a vested interest in businesses crunching massive amounts of data: HANA, its in-memory database technology, is designed to aggregate fata, execute parallel searches, and rapidly deliver answers to queries. SAP has invested a good deal of money and marketing into the platform, a significant bet on businesses’ desire for analytics.

Research firm Gartner named SAP the top B.I., analytics and performance management (PM) software vendor in 2011, with 23.6 percent market-share based on revenue. Oracle came in second with 15.6 percent, followed by SAS Institute with 12.6 percent, IBM with 12.1 percent, Microsoft with 8.7 percent, and “Other Vendors” with 27.5 percent.

Gartner also predicted that spending on enterprise application software, including business intelligence applications, will increase 4.5 percent in 2012. That’s a slight tick downward from the 5 percent the firm predicted in the first quarter of 2012, something it blamed on “limited signs of improvement” in the global marketplace. Nonetheless, it seems clear that businesses clearly want to get a handle on their data—even if they exhibit a bit of confusion over the definition of “Big Data.”


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