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Challenging the status quo with big data analytics

BigData_Guest ‎05-28-2015 09:35 AM - edited ‎06-01-2015 10:54 AM

Guest blog post by Joy King, VP, Communications & Enablement, HP Software Big Data


I was very proud when Michael Stonebraker, co-founder of Vertica, was named the winner of the Turing Award, granted annually to "an individual selected for contributions of a technical nature made to the computing community." More simply, the Turing Award is recognized as the Nobel Prize of computer science. But to me, the Turing Award is a testimony to the power of vision, innovation, and most of all, determination.


In the world of business, experience is highly valued. Every job posting, every resume created, and every discussion about hiring and promotion is heavily biased toward experience. Knowing how things are done and relying on knowledge from previously successful programs and processes guide many of us in our day to day decision making. But then there are those who see things differently.


During World War II, the British relied upon a carefully selected group of mathematicians who worked tirelessly using skills and experience to decrypt the content of German communications. The Germans regularly changed the cryptography algorithms, to a point where the processes being used were having minimal success. Alan Turing challenged this approach with his vision of a machine known as the Bombe, a computer technology that was greeted with cynicism and resistance by levels of “experienced” leadership in the British military.


That didn’t stop Alan Turing. Vision combined with relentless determination eventually led to the successful decryption of German Enigma communications, and is today credited with playing a material role in the successful conclusion of WWII for the Allies.  Challenging the way things had always been done with an entirely new approach to how things should be done changed our world.


Today, there are those who rely on intuition, experience, and historical strategies to make business decisions. And then there are those who rely on data.


One of my favorite stories in this regard is the emphasis on data analytics in the 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns. As described in the MIT Sloan Management Review, the Obama campaign had a very clear mandate to measure everything. Using massive amounts of publicly available and campaign specific data, the analytics team used the HP Vertica Big Data Analytics engine to help Obama raise $1 billion, change the process of TV ad placement and increase the effectiveness of everything from phone calls and door knocks to direct mailings and social media.


Meanwhile, the Republican candidate and his team relied on their past successes and gut instinct. They weren’t alone - most of the big media brands called for a very close race, while some declared that Romney would win.


But Nate Silver, the New York Times' FiveThirtyEight blogger, and a guest speaker at the upcoming HP Big Data Conference in Boston, utilized a huge database of polling data to predict the winner of all 50 states on the night of the 2012 election. He also gave Obama a 91% chance of winning in 2012, and in 2008, Silver correctly predicted the winner of 49 out of 50 states.


So how are Alan Turing, Michael Stonebraker and Nate Silver connected? These are men who look forward, not backward, who challenge the status quo with ideas based on data, not instinct, and who are not afraid to push against resistance. As a result, Alan Turing played a material role in saving millions of lives, Michael Stonebraker personally advanced the world of database technology that today allows us to leverage data for the greater good of human health, the environment and the economy, and Nate Silver continues to be a beacon of both creativity and data insights in a data driven world. I’ll be in the front row at the HP Big Data Conference with this in mind.

Register for the HP Big Data Conference here


Read more from the HP Big Data team:
On the road to Big Data – Harnessing analytics to create disruption by Chris Surdak
The Goldilocks Scenario: Finding Big Data technologies which are “just right” for business by Walt Maguire
The Big Data shift in a data-driven world by Colin Mahony


Images courtesy of,,

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Shelley Jeffcoat
on ‎06-01-2015 06:29 AM

Great post and insight given here. Looking forward to what HP Vertica has to offer!

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