Jean-Luc Chatelain, executive VP for strategy and technology at DataDirect Networks, is excited about the opportunities in big data both for his company, related startups, and today's students who are learning to become tomorrow's big data experts. “The opportunities are limitless,” he told SiliconAngle Founder John Furrier on his Webcast interview program, “Extraction Point”. “And that's because information is the new currency. So think of massive amounts of oil flowing, and we can all play with that, and we can do something with that oil, and we will get wealthy and successful doing that. We can do the same with information. Our lives in 5-10 years will be completely driven by how that information is being used.”
For students now in high school or university, he has some good news. “A lot of new jobs are going to be created around information.” To qualify for those jobs, he says, students should major in math or computer science for a technical career. “Now if you’re a business guy, be very aware of your business processes and educate yourself on the turning points of your business so you can translate how you can optimize your business to the math geek and to the computer science geek so they can do the magic behind the scene.”
Math, he says, is the basis for the new role of data scientist. They “figure out the formulas that make the magic” to turn big data into valuable business information. But, “generally they have no clue about how to implement the formula. That’s where the CS guys are coming in. And that’s why I said these two fields are fairly complementary.”
He predicts that several new career paths will be created that will involve applying these and related skill sets in the new data-driven business future. These will include the information architect as distinct from the data warehouse architect who created data schemas. In the new business environment, the demands for near real-time analysis do not allow time for tightly organizing data into schemas, and in any case much of the data is semi-structured and unstructured and resists that approach. Instead the information architect will evolve from a librarian-like role and involve librarian skills with business, math, and technical knowledge to manage the data and organize it to support the analysis that will answer the vital questions on which business strategy will turn, often very quickly as conditions change.
Another will be information steward, who will manage the data and provide governance. They will not own the data, but they will manage and care for it.
He is also very excited about the opportunity for DDN and other companies, including many startups, working at all levels of the big data environment. Hardly a startup itself, DDN is well known for its high-performance storage systems that are used in some of the most demanding environments. That alone provides it with a continuing high-growth profile. However, Mr. Chantelain sees a major new opportunity for DDN to build a new kind of storage appliance that combines very large storage capacity with compute power to run analytics against the big data database it will contain. This fits into the developing Hadoop-style big data architecture. The size of these databases makes the normal strategy of sending the data to a server for analysis across the network impractical. By comparison, the analytics code for a specific analysis is small, making it logical to reverse this pattern and send the analytics application to the data. But that demands a data storage appliance that contains adequate compute capabilities to support that analysis. That is what he anticipates DDN will build in response to the opportunity that big data provides.
This also involves a massive investment on software, and he says, “We’re hiring like crazy” both at DDN's new headquarters in Mountain View, Calif., and at its Colorado facility, which focuses on development of its RAID operating system, and its facility in Columbia, Md.
“I’m really excited about all the work we do around vectorization of compute loads,” he says. “I want to enable function shipping. I wanted to make it trivial for somebody to take their algorithm and almost transparently distribute the work to multiple devices.”
Then hybrid and private clouds that enterprises are beginning to build offer more opportunities. He envisions the development of vertical industry clouds optimized to the needs of a single industry rather than one company. The cloud allows a company to hire compute, network, communications, and storage capabilities as needed either to supplement an internal cloud or to run the entire infrastructure of a start-up company.
And he sees opportunities at all levels for a multitude of companies. “Today we can see more start-ups than ever” springing up in response to the birth of big data.
”Information Will Find Us”
And this is only the beginning. The big-data-driven world is going to have an impact not just on business but on society in general at least as great as the PC revolution of the 1980s had. One of the huge changes Mr. Chantelain foresees is that in ten years, instead of people searching for information, “information will find us and insight will find us, so it’s no longer the Google model.”
And it will find us based on the context. So, for example, “you’ll be landing in Moscow and getting money at an ATM machine, and along with the receipt will be a map for the nearest McDonalds. for example, because the information knows that you’re a McDonalds lover, and that’s what you want when you land to a foreign country.”
That will make a huge difference both in how companies do business and in how all of us live.
Action Item: The data-driven future and big data offer major opportunities for individuals and companies. But the time to start preparing for that future and to define your and your company's place in it is now because the pace of change is increasing, and those who wait too long will be left behind.