Last week was the standing room only Data Science Summit, brought to you by Venture Beat, and the message was clear: Big Data is here in force and the elite of the IT world are all over the opportunity. The tech is maturing, the applications are endless, and the results are staggering. The VCs smell money, the entrepreneurs see bragging rights, and it’s the revenge of the nerds. If you can legitimately lay claim to the title “Data Scientist,” this is your time to shine, everyone needs your mad skillz, yo. You can find the answer, then find the question. You can make your employer a fortune in new customer revenues. You can find them a fortune in operational efficiency savings. You can save them a fortune in eliminated risk of bad guesswork.
The problem is this: our saviors are not legion. Few people have the perfect blend of business savvy, IT wizardry, and analytical expertise. So what’s an organization to do? Three strategies are prominently emerging:
- Bid BIG: find the newly minted data masters and give them whatever they ask. Hire the best and brightest academic minds, and then hope they are half as good as promised.
- Buy BIG: select a team of experts from a management consultancy, systems integrator, or service provider. Sign the line with a team of hired guns and do everything you can to learn the dark arts before they ask for contract renewal.
- Go BIG: let your fingers do the walking and pick the product that does the talking for you. As big data becomes mandatory, a few companies are twigging on the fact that there’s got to be a better way. Enter MarkLogic and Alpine Data Labs.
These are two very different companies. One is a grand-daddy of NoSQL databases, the other is a newer collaborative analytics player with a burning desire to prove itself. What they have in common is that they are making it easier for everyone to benefit from big data. The core concept: why hire the geniuses when you could just simplify the problem.
MarkLogic's CMO Michaline Todd had an intriguing idea, build the "data-centered data center" and make it easy for anyone to pull the data they need from a schema-less mashup of data sources. You don't need twenty experts, you just need a better, more flexible database platform.
Alpine Data Labs's CMO Bruno Aziza, self-proclaimed "big data nerd," wants to know the cost to analyze a terabyte of data, and he's in good position to ask with a web-based tool that automates the workflow and collaboration between IT staff and business people around advanced analytics.
These are companies to watch, because they exemplify my favorite adage: “work smarter, not harder.”