Category Archives: big data

P-values and what they mean for business intelligence and data scientists

I’d been thinking of writing a column on p-values, since the claim that data “scientists” can provide valuable predictive analytics is a regular feature of the business intelligence (BI) industry. However, my heavy statistics are years in my past. Luckily, there’s a great Vox article on p-values and how some scientists are openly stating that P<.05 isn’t stringent enough.

It’s a great introduction. Check it out.

DBTA Webinar: Too many cooks, yet again

Sadly, DBTA is becoming known for taking interesting companies, putting them in a blender and having each lose their message. A recent webinar included Cask, Attunity and HPE Security – all in a one hour time slot – again shows the problem. It was a mess.

Cask is a young Hadoop company with an interesting opportunity (Disclosure: As I’m discussing marketing, I need to mention I recently interviewed for a position at Cask). The company is working to put wrappers around Hadoop code to make it easier for IT to use the data platform. One of their products is Cask Hydrator, to help populate the database. That begins to move the message of Hadoop out of the early adopter phase and into a business message, but the presentation was still far to technical.

Attunity then presented and a key point was that they make data ingest easy. If that sounds like a similar message to Cask’s, you’re right. Why the two were together on the webinar when much of what they said sounded like competition wasn’t clear. On the good side, Attunity did a far better job at presenting a business message, both in how the presenter talked about the products and in which case studies were used.

HPE Security made another appearance, tacked onto the end of a presentation. Data security is critical, and HP has put together a very good message on it, but it didn’t vaguely fit the tone and arena of the previous presenters.

When Companies Should Share a Stage

The smaller companies seem to have a problem. It’s simple: Their involvement in webinars might be driven by marketing, but it’s being controlled by bean counters. Each of the three companies had something good to say, and each should have taken the time to say it in a stand-alone webinar. However, sharing costs was made to be the primary issue and so the mess ensued.

When should firms share the spotlight? That should happen when the item missing from the top of my presentation is there. The missing piece is having a joint story to tell. None of the case studies mentioned the companies working in partnership. None. When multiple vendors work to provide a complete solution to a client, even if the vendors might sometime compete, there’s a strong case for multiple companies in a webinar.

This webinar was not that. It was companies not feeling strongly enough about themselves for the other executives to overrule the COO’s or CFO’s and push a solid webinar about themselves.

All of these companies are worth looking at within the big data arena, just not in such a forced together setting. Stand on your own or show a joint project.

Webinar Review: Oracle Big Data Cloud, Understanding Business

People at technology startups love to call the industry giants dinosaurs. The analogy fails for a number of reasons. The funniest is that the dinosaurs existed for many millions of years. As the large companies exist now, are the startups are saying the big companies will only disappear if we’re hit by a meteor? Companies became large by filling a need. While many might not be as nimble, their experience, especially in enterprise software, means they often see the needs of the business community while the small companies are focused too much on their “cool” technology.

This week’s Oracle webinar, hosted by the DBTA, was a good example of that. The speakers were Rich Clayton, VP Business Analytics Product Group, and Omri Traub, VP Software Development, and the subject was, no surprise, Oracle Big Data Cloud Service (OBDC. Yeah, I know. Too close to ODBC…). Before we get into the details, people need to be aware that Oracle is fully committed to the cloud, as pointed out in a recent advertorial in Forbes. Oracle is clearly competing with Amazon for enterprise cloud business. Big data is only one part of that.

Rich Clayton began the presentation by pointing towards Thomas Edison’s laboratory as an example of using the ideas from many people to not only invent things but also to figure out how to market those inventions. He brought that directly into the evolution of corporate data labs. The biggest problem, Rich stated, is that that labs are usually only populated by very technical people while they require a broader array of talents. That requirement is one of the data labs principles he defined and one I’ve also described as the missing component of many corporate data labs.DBTA Webinar - Oracle - Principles of the Data Lab

A related problem is that most products are so complex and silo’d that very technical people are needed. At this stage in business intelligence and big data, that’s the horse that needs to be addressed before the broad access cart can move.

Omri Traub then took over for the demonstration portion of the presentation. Unfortunately, he unintentionally proved the point about technical folks missing business needs by the setup he used for the demonstration. The demo was built around an enormous amount of information on New York City taxi information. While manipulating a billion record data set is cool and powerful, he never presented a business message. He pointed to the large volume of data, talked about other data sources he combined, and then played with the data to show correlations.

The problem? Omri, claimed we were gaining insight. Correlations aren’t insight. Understanding how those correlations might impact your business and ideas how to adapt business to meet what you find is insight. Nothing in the demonstration pointed towards insight.

Fortunately, Rich Clayton earlier had given a couple of case studies showing business insight gained by OBDC early customers. It would have been much better if Mr. Traub had focused on one of those cases or something similar.

The best point of the demonstration was when Omri showed how, in the middle of playing with some relationships, he easily incorporated some analysis created by a different person. As mentioned above, collaboration is critical and it looks like Oracle hasn’t limited that to just a marketing message but has worked to make sure that Oracle’s product helps the team. As many companies claim to do that and it was only an overview, your mileage might vary. Make sure when you talk to them to follow through and see whether the collaboration (not to mention the entire product…) meets your needs.

The final section was the Q&A. I’m a marketing person, so I have to be honest and state that it sounded like canned questions they wanted to address, as there was way too much about the full Oracle ecosystem brought into discussion at this point compared to what I’d expect from customers. Still, there was one important point.

A question was asked about what advanced analytics might be added. Mr. Taub had the perfect response. After quickly mentioning that, yes, Oracle was always looking at advanced analytics and how to add them, he made a much more important point. Collobaration is key and OBDC is designed to get business people involved. All analytics need to be added in a usable manner, in a way that is understandable and can be leveraged by more people than just the technical resources.

That is the critical viewpoint that a large, enterprise focused company can bring to BI, the cloud and big data. That’s why it’s foolish to write off the large companies, the ones with expertise in not just technology, but in business and business relationships. They might not move as fast, but they can move to the right places with the right products and the right business messages.

DBTA Webinar Review: Leveraging Big Data with Hadoop, NoSQL and RDBMS

A presentation last week, hosted by Database Trends and Applications (DBTA), was a great example of some interesting technical information presented poorly. As that sentence implies, this column is one about the marketing of business intelligence (BI), not about the technology – well, not much…

There were three presenters: Brian Bulkowski, CTO and Co-founder, Aerospike; Kevin Petrie, Senior Director and Technology Evangelist, Attunity; Reiner Kappenberger, Global Product Management, HPE Security – Data Security.

Aerospike

Brian was first at the podium. Aerospike is a company providing what they claim is a very high speed, scalable database, proudly advertising “NoSQL!” The problem they have is that they are one of many companies still confused about the difference between databases and SQL. A database is not the access method. What they’re really focused on in loosely structured data, the same way Hadoop and other newer databases are aimed. That doesn’t obviate the need to communicate via SQL.

He also said that the operational in-memory market is “owned by NoSQL.” However, there were no numbers. Standard RDBMS’s, columnar and NoSQL databases all are providing in-memory storage and processing. In fact, Information Management has a slide show of Gartner’s database analytics vendor report and you can see the breadth there. In addition, what I constantly hear (not statistically significant either…) is that Hadoop and other loosely-structured databases are still primarily for batch. However, as the slide show I just mentioned is in alphabetical order, and Aerospike is the first one you’ll see. Note again that I’m pointing out flaws in the marketing message, not the products. They could have a great in-memory solution, but that’s doesn’t mean NoSQL is the only NoSQL option.

The final key marketing issue is that he kept misusing “transactional.” He continued to talk about RDMS’s as transactional systems even while he talked about the power of Aerospike for better handling the transactions. In the later portion of his presentation, he was trying to say that RDBMS’s still had a place, but he was using the wrong term.

Attunity

Attunity’s Kevin Petrie was second and his focus was on Attunity Replicate. The team of Aerospike and Attunity again shows the market isn’t yet mature enough to have ETL and databases come smoothly together. Kevin talked about their 35 sources and it seem that they are the front end in the marketing paring of the two companies. If you really need heterogeneous data sources and large database manipulation, you’ll need to look at the pair of companies.

My key issue with this section was one of enterprise priorities. Perhaps the one big, anonymous reference they both discussed drove the webinar, but it shouldn’t have owned the message. Mr. Petrie spent almost all his time talking about Hadoop, MongoDB and Kafka. Those are still bleeding edge tools while enterprise adoption requires a focus on integrating with standard and existing sources. Only at the end, his third anonymous case, did Kevin have a slide that mentioned RDBMS sources. If he wants to keep talking with people running experimental and leading edge tests of systems, that priority makes sense. If he wishes to talk to the larger enterprise market, he needs to turn things around.

The other issue was a slide that equated RDBMS, Data Warehouse and Hadoop as being on equal footing. There he shows a lack of business knowledge. The EDW, as an old TV would declare, is the one of these things that is not like the other. It has a very different purpose from the two database technologies and isn’t technology dependent.

HPE Security

Reiner Kappenberger gave a great presentation but it didn’t belong. It seems the smaller two firms were happy to get HP to help with the financing but they didn’t think about staying on message.

Let me make it very clear: Security is of critical importance. What Mr. Kappenberger had to say was very important for people to hear. However, it didn’t belong in this webinar. The topic didn’t fit and working to stuff three presenters into forty minutes is always tough. Another presentation where all three talked about how they work to ensure that the large volumes of data can be secure at multiple levels would have been great to hear – and I hope the three choose to create such a webinar.

Summary

This was two different webinars stuffed into one, blurring the message. In addition, Aerospike and Affinity either need to make sure they they’re not yet trying to address the mass market or they need to learn how to stop speaking to each other and other leading edge people and begin to better address the wider enterprise market.

The unnamed reference seemed to be a company that needed help with credit card transactions and fraud detection, and all three companies worked to provide a full solution. However, from a marketing standpoint I don’t think they did proper service to their project by this webinar.

TDWI & Teradata: An overview of data-centric security

Yesterday’s TDWI webinar was focused on data-centric security. The tag team was Fern Halper, Research Director for Advanced Analytics, TDWI, and Jay Irwin, Director of InfoSec, Teradata. It’s always nice when the two halves of a sponsored presentation fit well. For that reason and for the content, this was a nice presentation.

Everyone in the industry knows that data breeches happen, and we all talk about the issue. I’ve seen a few articles and lists about the number of successful attacks, but Fern Halper pointed us to a nice graphic from Information is Beautiful. She also pointed to another study that showed that “In 2013, 33% of respondents said their company had a data breach. In 2014 the percentage has increased to 43%.” It’s always a race between black hats and white hats, so it’s important to minimize not only your chance of getting hacked, but also to minimize the importance and usefulness of data gained from successful hacks.

Ms. Halper than discussed four types of data security:

  • Perimeter security: monitoring network access for intrusion detection.
  • Authorization and Access: Password and role based data protections.
  • Encryption: Using cryptography to encode data.
  • Logging and monitoring: Analyzing access patterns.

Each part is necessary but insufficient. Authorization is only as strong as people’s passwords. If it’s easy to steal the encryption key, encryption doesn’t matter. A robust security system leverages all the types.

One important note: Later in her presentation and throughout Jay Irwin’s section, encryption didn’t exist alone but alongside tokenization. The later is a different security technology, where characters, words, numbers and fields are replaced with other symbols, or tokens, that still look as if they’re real and can still be used in analysis. Mr. Irwin pointed out he prefers “data protection” as a rubric that covers all the techniques of data level security.

Along with that clarification, Jay Irwin also described the multiple layers as “Defense in Depth,” a concentric ring of security to ensure there’s no single point of failure. Jay also provided my favorite slide of the presentation. While it’s too wordy, it’s a pretty clear view of Teradata’s top-down approach.Teradata data security top-down pyramid

An organization must start with understanding the rules and regulations that drive data security. Only then can you identify the data assets that need special attention in order to protect them from hackers.

Jay has a lot more to say in a lot more detail, and I won’t cover it all. While I blog about webinars so you don’t have to watch, this one’s an exception. If you want to get a good, broad view of core data security issues, take some time and listen to the webinar.

TDWI Webinar: Innovations and Evolutions in BI, Analytics, and Data Warehousing

TDWI held a webinar to announce their latest major report. While there are always a lot of intriguing numbers in the reports, it’s also important to remember the TDWI audience is self-selecting. People interested in the latest information lean towards the leading edge so their numbers should be taken as higher than would be in the general IT market place. Still, the numbers as they change over time are valuable and the views of the analysts are often worth hearing.

As the webinar was pushing a major report, the full tag team was in attendance: David Stodder, TDWI Director for BI, Fern Halper, TDWI Director for Analytics, and Philip Russom, TDWI Director for Data Management.

David Stodder presented his section first, and one important point he made had nothing to do with numbers. He briefly discussed one quote and user story and it was from a government employee. Companies using Hadoop to better understand internet business and relationships tend to get almost all the press, but David pointed out the importance of data and analytics in helping governments better address the needs of their citizens.

A very intriguing set of numbers David provided was on how many responders were on current versions of software versus older versions. While you can see that some areas are more quickly adopting the SaaS model, that’s not the key the he pointed out. Only 27% of respondents said they’re on the current version of their data security software. A later slide shows that security is one reason for hesitation in the move to mobile, but Mr. Stodder rightly points out that underlying all the information channels is the basis of data security. It’s not a question of if you’ll get hacked but when, so data security should be kept updated.

The presentation was then turned over to Fern Halper. I look a bit askance at the claim that the Internet of Things (IoT) is a “trend.” Her data shows only 18% taking advantage of it today and 40% might be using in within three years. We’ve been talking about IoT for a while, and it’s clearly being slowly integrated into business, I wouldn’t say it’s as fashionable as the word trend would imply.

On the more useful side is the table she showed that’s simply titles “Analytics hits mainstream.” It not only shows that massive adoption of the last decade’s focus on dashboards and BI tools, but around 30% of respondents are using many of the newer tools and techniques and the next three years indicate a doubling in usage.

Philip Russom gave the final segment of the presentation. His first slide on the adoption of newer technologies for data warehousing showed something that many have finally admitted in the last year or no: No-SQL is an excuse made by people who don’t understand how business technology works. While the numbers show 28% of respondents using Hadoop, it also shows 22% using SQL on Hadoop. The number over the next three years are even more interesting: 36% say they’ll be using Hadoop and 38% will be using SQL on Hadoop. That means existing No-SQL folks will be moving to SQL.

The presentation ended with the team of analysts presenting their list of ten priorities for those people interested in emerging technologies. To me, the first isn’t the first among equals, it is set far above all the rest: Adopt them for their business benefits. All the other nine items are how IT addresses the challenges of new technologies, but those things are useless unless you understand how technologies will support business. Without that, you can’t provide an ROI and you can’t get business stakeholders to support you for long. That’s strategy, all the other points are just tactics.

As usual, get the report and browse it.

TDWI Webinar Review: Fast Decision Making with Analytics

This is more of a marketing flavored post as the recent presentation seemed to miss its own point. The title implied it was about fast decision making, but Fern Halper, TDWI Research Director for Advanced Analytics, gave a rather generic presentation about the importance of operationalizing analytics.

Fern gave a nice presentation about operationalizing analytics, but it was not significantly different than her last few. In addition, some of the survey issues discussed were clearly not well thought out. For instance, Ms. Halper listed the expected growth of predictive analytics and web/mobile analytics as if they belonged in the same discussion. The fact that web and mobile are methods of display doesn’t overlap with whether they are used to display descriptive or prescriptive analytics. The growth of those display methods also don’t move away from the use of dashboards in CRM and ERP applications, as was implied, since those applications will migrate views to the new display methods.

The best thing mentioned by both Fern Halper and the SAP presenters was the fact that there were multiple references to that need for multiple data sources. Seeing the continued refocusing of many firms on wide data rather than big data is a good thing for the industry. Big data is more of a technical issue while wide data more directly addresses complex business environments.

Now I’m hoping for more people to begin to refer to loosely structured data rather than unstructured data. Linguists, I’m sure, are constantly amused at hearing languages referred to as unstructured.

The case study was by Raj Rathee, Director, Product Management, SAP. It was an interesting project at Lufthansa, where real-time analytics were used to track flight paths and suggest alternative routes based on weather and other issues. The business key is that costs were displayed for alternate routes, helping the decision makers integrate cost and other issues as situations occur. However, that was really the only discussion of fast decision making with analytics.

The final marketing note is that the Q&A was canned but the answers didn’t always sync up. For instance, the moderator asked one question of Fern, she had a good answer, but there was no slide in the pack about her response, just the canned SAP slide referenced by Ashish Sahu, Director, Product Marketing, SAP, after Ms. Halper spoke.

I think the problem was that the presenters didn’t focus down on a tight enough message and tried to dump too much information into the presentation. The message got lost.