TDWI Best Practices Report on Hadoop: A good report for IT, not executives

The latest TDWI Best Practices Report is concerned with Hadoop. Philip Russom is the author and the article is worth a read. However, it has the usual issue I’ve seen with many TDWI reports, very strong on numbers but missing the real business point. In journalism, there’s an expression called burying the lede, hiding the most important part of a story down in the middle. Mr. Russom gets his analysis correct, bit I think the priorities or the focus needs work. It’s a great report to use as a source by IT, it’s not a report for executives.

Why am I cranky? The report starts with an Executive Summary. The problem is that it isn’t aimed at executives but is something that lets technical folks think they’re doing well. It doesn’t tell executives why they should care. What are the business benefits? What are the risks? Those things are missing.

First, let’s deal with the humorous marketing number. The report mentions the supposedly astounding figure that “Hadoop clusters in production are up 60% in two years.” That’s part of the executive summary. You have to slide down into the body to understand that only 16% of respondents said they have HDFS production. It’s easy for early adopters to grow a small percent to a slightly larger small percentage, it’s much tougher to get a larger slice of the pie.

Philip Russom accurately deals with why it will take a bit for Hadoop to grow larger, but it does it past the halfway point of the article. Two things: Security and SQL.

Executives are concerned that technology helps business. Security ensures that intellectual property remains within the firm. It also ensures that litigation is minimized by not having breaches that could be outside regulatory and contractual requirements. Mr. Russom accurately discusses the security risks with Hadoop, but that begins down on page 18 and doesn’t bubble up into the executive summary.

So too is the issue of SQL. After writing about the problems in staffing Hadoop, the author gives a brief but accurate mention of the need to link Hadoop into the rest of a business’ information infrastructure. It is happening, as a sidebar comment points out with “Hadoop is progressively integrated into complex multi-platform environments.” However, that progress needs to speed up for executives to see the analytics from Hadoop data integrated into the big picture the CxO suite demands.

The report gives IT a great picture of where Hadoop is right now. As expected from a technical organization, it weighs the need, influence and future of the mystical data scientist too highly, but the generalities are there to help mid-level management understand where Hadoop is today.

However, I’ve seen multiple generations of technology come in, and Hadoop is still at an early adopter phase where too many proponents are too technical to understand what executives need. It’s important to understand risks and rewards, not a technical snapshot; and the later is what the report is.

IT should read this report as valuable insight to what the market is doing. It’s, obviously, my personal bias, but the summary is just that, a summary. It’s not for executives. It’s something that each IT manager will use for its good resources to build their own messages to their executives.

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