Big data: What’s it good for?

The second study in a week just passed my desk indicating that while many companies have jumped on the big data bandwagon, they don’t know exactly why.

I’ll start with the most recent. BMC today released results from a survey that it conducted among its mainframe customers (more on the mainframe topic below).

confusion_0.jpgImage credit: Flickr/amitp

Among the 1,200 respondents, 31 percent said that identifying the business use cases for big data is their primary challenge in managing their data. Other responses all revolved around costs and challenges with moving data to a centralized data warehouse.

The survey is in line with one released last week by Gartner that was reported on by Read Write. Gartner found that 56 percent of 720 respondents said determining how to get value from big data was in their top three biggest big data challenges. Forty-one percent listed defining strategy among their top three challenges.

Despite that, businesses are continuing to plan to invest in big data. Gartner found that 64 percent of the companies surveyed either invested in or planned to invest in big data technology this year, up from 58 percent last year.

Still, Gartner concluded that this year is still a year of experimentation and early deployment. Despite all the hype around big data, both studies should give the tech community pause. It’s very early days yet in a market that is still shaking out.

Which brings me to the topic of mainframes. I’ll take much of the BMC survey with a grain of salt. The report surveyed current mainframe users, so it’s no surprise that the bulk of them (93 percent) said that mainframe is a long-term business strategy. The technology is expensive so many businesses are keen to make the investment work as long as possible.

That’s not to say that mainframe technology is antiquated. A fair number of IT professionals I talk to tell me they still have mainframes and intend to keep using them. In fact, IDC found that in the second quarter IBM’s System z mainframe saw its third consecutive quarter of growth and representing 9.8 percent of all server revenue in the quarter.

For some applications, they still make sense. It’s just that mainframe technology tends to get buried in the migration toward cloud technology.

Read more of Nancy Gohring's "To the Cloud" blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Nancy on Twitter at @ngohring and on Google+. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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