Big Data

What’s more valuable? Big data or ‘people data’?

Above: Turin, Italy, from space.

Image Credit: NASA

This sponsored post is produced by Leo Leung, the VP of product at Oxygen Cloud.

There’s been a lot of talk about big data.

Yes, you have mounds of customer and usage data to analyze. Web browsing, app usage, and location data were already exploding. Adding machine and sensor data to the mix made it abundantly obvious that the existing tools were inadequate, so the technology industry responded aggressively with Hadoop, NoSQL, and other technologies, and “big data” was born. Big data and related concepts like the Internet of things and the Industrial Internet have sparked the formation of hundreds, if not thousands, of businesses and products.

In the hubbub about big data, we forgot about ‘people data’

What about the analysis and proposals that are created before we even determine what big data to capture? What about the insight that we get from big data? What about the whole supply chain of product definitions, code, marketing, and sales materials that are created day in and day out? I call this “people data.” People data consists of the files that people create, modify, publish, access, share, and deliver. People data is the intellectual property that the workflows of millions of people generate every day.

People data, like big data, is growing fast

Analysts have tried to put a number on digital data’s reach. The University of California at Berkeley made the first attempts in 2000 and 2003, estimating that 5 exabytes of information was created in 2002. University of San Diego followed up, proposing that almost 10 zettabytes of data was served by enterprises in 2008 alone, or 3 terabytes per worker. IDC has been using every statistic in their arsenal to size the “digital universe.” Its last tally estimated 2.8 zettabytes created in 2012, or 563 times what Berkeley estimated 10 years before.

You can split the data into three rough categories: application data, people data (“files”), and machine data. Of the three, application data has plateaued while people data and machine data are growing explosively.

Yet people data is still vastly underserved

No one has solved the challenge of files and file-based workflows. Digitization is only now driving purely digital workflows into the mainstream, which only means the problems with current approaches will only become more obvious.

To date, there have been many data management products created: systems to store the files with ever greater efficiency, storage to share the files, software to organize the files, software to send the files … too many products really. All of them overlap in some way, yet none of them overlap enough to replace an adjacent product or to create a holistic approach. This has created a sea of bad choices for people:

OxCloud

This has also created an absolute management mess for companies:

OxCloud3

What’s more valuable? 100PB of clickstream data or the analysis of that data?

Both are important, but one is critical. I don’t doubt the potential value of customer, app, and machine usage data. But what about the value of the analysis of that data, or the process of even figuring out what to measure? What about getting the right information product into a customer’s hands whenever you need to, the extra productivity of working wherever you need to work, the capability to share work in progress and insight with your team, and the protection and recoverability of every file that every information worker creates?

Your people data strategy needs a hard look

As much as companies and people need to understand how their products are perceived and used through big data, there may be a bigger gap: how their analysis, ideas, and insights are generated, circulated, and retained. Much like how the fast accumulation of a few petabytes of log data challenges the traditional data warehouse approach to data capture, ETL and analysis — so too does the fact that while one-third of people are now remote workers and the PC form factor is now in the minority, a huge amount of data, perhaps the majority of it, is still in antiquated systems built for the opposite realities.

Before you plunge into your big data strategy, take a look at what you’re doing for people data. Are you truly remote-friendly and mobile-friendly? Is sharing information as simple and rich as Facebook, Twitter, and Dropbox? Or do your people have to “figure it out” for every single task and project? You may find that having a real strategy for people data may give you some of the big results you’re looking for, without even touching big data.

Leo Leung joined Oxygen Cloud to change the world as the head of products and marketing. Prior to Oxygen Cloud, Leung built one of the first enterprise cloud storage services at EMC and had senior roles working on service provider platforms, media technologies, high-performance NAS, peer-to-peer storage, grid computing, and iSCSI. Leo blogs frequently about technology disruption. He is also fond of unicorns. Follow Leo on Twitter @lleung.


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