Lysi-Strata - Big Data’s Act I

This was my first visit to the O’Reilly Strata Conference, and I was impressed by the energy. Many IT industry tradeshows feel like they are in a slow decline, so it was refreshing to see all the buzz around the big data market. Judging from the sheer number of exhibitors, the quality of the talks, and the quality of attendees, the world is now ready to get serious on innovating and implementing new solutions.

So if “the medium is the message,” as Marshall McLuhan says, the theatrical performance was an instant Greek classic, complete with star cameos, love sub-plots, and a couple of good wars.


  • Geoffrey Moore updated his famed “Crossing the Chasm” technology adoption curve for the big data era, clearly showing he believes there is another monumental shift taking place today.
  • David Epstein explained why 10,000 hours to expertise is the wrong measure, and how the right science can shortcut the path to optimal results, illustrated with shotputs and long jumps.
  • Rodney Mullens spoke of finding the critical balance and feeling the inflection point that makes the difference in skateboarding. This may have been a clever metaphor for pattern recognition and taking action on big data insights, or he may have just been talking about skateboarding, it wasn’t clear.
  • James Burke took us through the connections between Mozart and the Sikorski helicopter, just to show that history can be mesmerizing and the right answers are out there if you only know how to search properly.

Frankly, it all felt like a mini-MBA in data-driven business, with great lectures ranging from deeply technical to architectural to entrepreneurial to whimsical. Microsoft’s excellent Chris Harland gave a talk on “Chicago Bars, Prisoner’s Dilemma and Practical Models in Search” which probably covered the whole range by itself.

The key takeaway for me was this: big data just got real. It’s not taking itself too seriously, but it can bring serious value to almost any organization. O’Reilly’s event showed the market is now at a level of maturity where there is huge innovation, but also enterprise-class solutions ready to deploy.

We just need to figure out a creative way to end the metaphorical Peloponnesian War over open source versus proprietary, but that’s for another blog post….

Topics: Data Platforms, Analytics, & AI