Interview with Dr. Felix Wortmann
Big data is real, but is it the transformation technology that some claim it is? In the opening keynote of the ISC Big Data'13 conference in Heidelberg, Germany (September 25 – 26), Dr. Felix Wortmann offers his perspective on the big data phenomenon sweeping across the IT landscape. No stranger to the hype cycles of the computer industry, Wortmann, a former exec at SAP, is currently an assistant professor at the Institute of Technology Management, University of St. Gallen and the scientific director of the Bosch Internet of Things. We asked him to preview some of the themes of his upcoming keynote.
1. Data analytics and databases have been around for decades. How is big data different?
FW: Indeed, in the last 20 years companies have heavily invested into data analytics infrastructures. The corresponding business intelligence and data warehousing initiatives have addressed information needs of the whole enterprise, including production, sales, marketing, service, and finance. However, these data platforms mainly focus on internal well-structured data. Moreover, these infrastructures have inherent performance and latency constraints. Big data technology now offers new possibilities regarding data volume and speed of analysis. Moreover, there is a shift of focus on external and unstructured data. This shift goes beyond technology. Companies now have means to better understand and interact with their environment, for example, customers, competitors or partners.
2. What do you see as the enabling technologies for big data?
FW: Big data is often associated with technologies like Hadoop and NoSQL. Moreover, main memory databases are heavily discussed. Overall, there is a very fragmented market of available big data solutions. If you take a step back, these solutions have one common denominator. They all leverage the potential of today's hardware. Computing has changed fundamentally over the last 20 years. Basic ingredients of computing like processing power, memory, and networking bandwidth remain the same. However, multicore processors, main memory instead of disk, and high-speed networks have not been taken as the basis for software design 20 years ago.
3. Do you think this set of technologies will deliver the disruptive innovation that many proponents are promising?
FW: We definitely have seen disruptive innovation on the basis of big data. Just think about the large internet companies. However, if we talk about bringing big data technologies into other domains, we can be very optimistic, but should be careful. More data and low latency do not directly translate into additional business value. To facilitate disruptive innovation and new business models, you have to bring together business opportunities as well as IT capabilities. Therefore, business and IT have to collaborate and rethink how business is done tomorrow.
4. We often hear about these technologies are being used to surreptitiously gather private information -- the most recent example being the NSA PRISM program in the United States. How do you think this affects the public's perception of big data?
FW: Privacy is a major concern, which has to be taken serious. And for sure, cases like PRISM shape public's perception. However, people are willing to share data if they see a benefit. Moreover, trust becomes a major business asset and companies start realizing this. Sharing and exchanging information is a fundamental pillar of our information society. We definitely need to reconsider existing practices from different perspectives. Furthermore, it will not only be about regulation but also education and responsibility. Not only do enterprises and public agencies have to follow “good practices,” the same holds true for the individual. Just think about privacy issues around Google Glasses.
5. What comes after big data?
FW: Before jumping on the next big thing we should really harvest the business potentials of big data. We do not only have to understand and deploy technology but also understand and deploy value generating use cases. However, there are different fundamental developments which will change how we life and how we conduct business. One of them is the Internet of Things: The gap between the Internet and the physical world will diminish creating tremendous opportunity. We definitely have to be aware of these fundamental changes.
About ISC Big Data’13
The inaugural ISC Big Data conference aims to bring together IT strategies, architects, CTOs and CIOs to Heidelberg, Germany on September 25 and 26. This event is beneficial for representatives, managers and decision makers from industry and research and their staff, responsible for big data R&D and deployment within their organizations. The program is in particular designed for people covering data analytics, data storage and data center management, system architectures, systems and software engineering, big data software tools, and specialists who are implementing and running enterprise, scientific and engineering applications.
The conference is also meant for companies facing technological challenges in big data hardware, software and algorithms.
Experienced big-data practitioners from big enterprises like Paypal, British Telecom, Virgin Insights and Google as well as users will be sharing their case studies during these two days. Visit the website for the full program.
If you are travelling to the ISC Big Data Conference, it might also be worthwhile to travel a couple of days earlier to Heidelberg, for our fourth cloud computing conference, which offers a line-up of new and advanced HPC Cloud topics, with a focus on industry case studies. These will be presented by HPC cloud users and cloud service providers across industries, such as digital manufacturing, and life sciences which includes healthcare. Click here for the full program.
The registration is now open for both conferences and by registering early you can save up to 25 percent off a combo ticket. Don’t miss out!
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