Gartner, Ovum offer mixed views on state of 'big data' hype

Social media users loved the buzzword and trend last year, but are darker times on the way?

The 'big data' buzzword and industry trend had a pretty good year perception-wise in 2012, but the hype may soon fade into a period of disillusionment among users, according to analyst firms Ovum and Gartner.

Big data refers to the ever-larger amounts of information being generated by social media, sensors and other sources, as well as the growing range of tools such as Hadoop that are used to process it for business insights.

"Because -- or in spite -- of the hype, sentiment about Big Data vendors was generally bullish in 2012," Ovum analyst Tony Baer said in a blog post this week.

A firm called DataSift "conducted a retrospective analysis of vendor mentions on Twitter during 2012 for Ovum," Baer wrote. "By restricting the search to vendors, the analysis focused on perception of the Big Data market, as opposed to the perception of Big Data among the general public. In all, the analysis reflected 2.2 million Twitter interactions from more than 981,000 authors."

On a country-by-country basis, the data "was not necessarily uniform," Baer wrote. "While conventional wisdom is that the U.S. is the leading market for Big Data platform installs, the Japanese, Germans, and French were often far more vocal on Twitter."

Big data got so much attention that even business media, not just the tech press, began running stories on it last year, according to Ovum.

In addition, there were three times as many positive mentions of vendors associated with Big Data as negative ones, although assorted bad news over HP's acquisition of Autonomy caused a spike in negative mentions during November, Baer wrote.

But big data may be entering a much darker phase, albeit one that eventually leads to maturity.

"Big data is falling into the trough of disillusionment," Gartner analyst Svetlana Sicular wrote in a blog post this week, referring to one of the stages on the "Hype Cycle" scale Gartner uses.

"I realized it earlier today, when I was describing a recent Elephant Riders meetup to my colleagues at Gartner," she wrote. "MapR, HortonWorks and Cloudera were debating the state of Hadoop. And I heard from the very core of the Hadoop movement that MapReduce has always been Hadoop's bottleneck or that Hadoop is 'primitive and old-fashioned.'"

Among Sicular's clients, those most advanced with their Hadoop usage "are also getting disillusioned," she added. "They do not realize that they are ahead of others and think that someone else is successful while they are struggling. These organizations have fascinating ideas, but they are disappointed with a difficulty of figuring out reliable solutions."

But good news for big data fans: The Hype Cycle's next and final stages have the promising-sounding names of "the Slope of Enlightenment" and "the Plateau of Productivity."

The "plateau of productivity will be reached when tools and product suites saturate the market," Sicular wrote. In the meantime, "the next stop for big data is negative press."

Chris Kanaracus covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Chris' email address is Chris_Kanaracus@idg.com

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