Wednesday, January 16, 2013
Every few months, a new technology offering or industry opportunity comes along, seemingly from out of nowhere, and myriad pundits and researchers espouse its merits to the entire channel. From the latest vertical market practice to a new solution delivery method, each undergoes months of close examination and experimentation before it gains traction with the greater provider audience. That process has been instrumental in vetting and promoting the opportunities in cloud and managed services, but it has also revealed the limitations of other channel-targeted offerings over the years.
This process is currently playing out with Big Data. The term is still fresh in the minds of most IT professionals, emerging in media reports and at trade shows as the supposed latest-and-greatest channel solution available. Loosely defined, it refers to a massive volume of digitized information – structured and unstructured – so large that it’s difficult to process using traditional database and software techniques. While Big Data may be considered by some just the latest in a long line of buzzwords targeted at the SMB technology community, its application actually dates back to World War II, when allied engineers developed the Colossus machine to search for patterns in intercepted messages. Using Colossus, code-breakers were able to reduce a process that had previously taken weeks to just a few hours.
Since then, enterprise organizations have been using Big Data applications to manage vast quantities of stored information – and that mountain of data continues to grow. A recent IDC report estimates that it doubles every two years and its rate of expansion is accelerating rapidly. That’s why so many businesses are looking for a better way to control, process, decipher and leverage their information. Just like with other technologies, what started as an opportunity for the enterprise is now making its way to the SMB segment and the IT channel.
So, why should solution providers invest their time and energy now to create a practice around what many consider an enterprise application? The answer is two-fold:
- These solutions allow any information-laden business to improve their incoming data analysis capabilities, email marketing opportunities, customer profiling abilities and overall forecasting skills.
- Companies interested in Big Data applications are also more likely to need a variety of complementary solutions and services to build and maintain an effective system. Those offerings include: storage, backup and data recovery, networking, IT security, and vertical-market-specific solutions and support.
Those are just a couple highlights from the 2012 CompTIA Big Data Insights and Opportunities
study, which surveyed more than 900 IT and end-user business executives on their thoughts and experience with the technology. Respondents suggest that the largest challenge for both providers and consumers is determining exactly what “Big Data” is and how it differs from the complementary technologies such as analytics and data management.
The study reports that only 6 percent of businesses are satisfied with how they manage and utilize their data, with 47 percent moderately close and another 15 percent nowhere near their objectives. That may mean lower productivity and operational efficiencies, as well as significant opportunity costs to the organization. Big Data applications allow information to be leveraged to improve sales and marketing programs, typically boosting revenue and profits along the way. Companies that control a significant amount of data without these applications are likely to be less competitive that their counterparts that do.
While solution providers often have greater knowledge of and experience with new technologies than customers, with Big Data, that scenario may be somewhat reversed. Many businesses store large volumes of customer and supplier information, but until they attempt to leverage that untapped resource, it just sits in a fairly inexpensive storage silo. While solution providers typically offer a variety of services to help customers manage and back-up these depositories, suggestions and questions on how to better utilize all that data often originate from the client side. With a new year and new Big Data channel-delivered solutions available, it’s time to turn the tables.
Last week, HP rolled out a new certification program
to help solution providers demonstrate their ability to optimize and monetize Big Data analytics for their customers. To help its channel partners better promote their capabilities in this field, IBM created its own “Big Data Ecosystem
” program in 2012. With at least 11 other vendors tooling up these offerings for different sized businesses and a variety of markets, according to Information Week
, solution providers can select from a growing list of options and potential partners. The major IT vendors’ Big Data channel programs not only validate the real business opportunities for providers in this arena, but offer a variety of resources and support that they and their customers will need to be successful. Brian Sherman is founder of Tech Success Communications, specializing in editorial content and consulting for the IT channel. His previous roles include chief editor at Business Solutions magazine and industry alliances director with Autotask. Contact Brian at Bsherman@techsuccesscommunications.com.