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3 tips from Facebook that will help your Big Data journey

on ‎07-24-2014 04:52 PM

Wherever you are in your journey to extracting maximum value from your business data, there’s always something new to learn from peers. One company to learn from is Facebook. A little while ago I heard Facebook CIO Tim Campos give advice to organisations about using Big Data. I thought I would share some of his insights.


Facebook is really a trailblazer in using big data (and we’re excited to have them as an HP Vertica customer). Now, people understand what Facebook is, and they know there are lots of users. But I’m not sure people understand the degree to which Facebook is grounded on big data. The volume alone is astounding: a 200PB database to which 500TB is added every day.


Tim is very good at making these numbers and concepts feel very real. And after looking at a map of the world with every Facebook user represented (as well as their connections) you understand the future growth potential. Data is Facebook’s ‘lifeblood’ as Tim put it. But unless you can manage it, harness it, analyse it and use it, it’s not doing you much good. When you’ve got the tools to use it, however, it’s immensely powerful.


Bigger volume, faster speed

Facebook is aggressively pushing the scale and speed of its data analysis. They look at revenue every day, but they also drill down to be able to see the performance of an individual advertisement.


With Vertica, they’ve been able to scale up the volume of data they analyse (going from one month of data to one year) as well as the speed—from a 24-hour refresh to one hour. The goal is to create data assets that drive next-generation insights that can be products in themselves.


Tim gave some very lucid advice to organisations who are grappling with Big Data. He had three pieces of advice, which bear repeating:


  • Be passionate about creating business value. Yes, big data has been seen as a buzzword, but turning business data to advantage is how enterprises are going to compete and win. Put the people and strategy in place. The goal is to create data assets that drive next-generation insights that can be products in themselves.
  • Understand the asset you have that’s unique. In Facebook’s case, they identified relationships as their core data asset. And this is what they focus on to drive the business. The Facebook database is a store of relationships. That is, the relationships of people with friends, of comments with the people who like them, of brands with their fans and of locations with check-ins.
  • Start building the systems. IT has always been stewards of this data. A new role for IT is to refine it and make it available.


The time to start is now. As Vertica VP Colin Mahoney, put it in a Discover performance article—‘Big Data goes big in 2014’—this is the year Big Data goes mainstream. Already we’re seeing some Vertica customers start to operate predictively, including a cable company able to predict whether they were overinvesting in an expansion effort.


Try out a free version of HP Vertica.


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