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Big Data – It's not just about the Vs, it's the 5 Ws too


By Donald Livengood, HP Distinguished Technologist/Strategist


Like many, I’ve been hearing and delivering many presentations that have Big Data content. To be honest, I’m growing tired of the “Vs” that we always talk about: Volume, Velocity, Variety, and the other “V” words that are sometimes thrown in. I’ve started to wonder if they matter anymore. The “Vs” were all about the definition of the “Big Data” space and the reason for the creation of new technologies to handle data described by those “V” words. I’ve been getting the impression that nobody cares anymore. The focus on the “Vs” is starting to fall into the same category as explaining the evolution of networks and the creation of mobile devices to my teenagers; they don’t care, they just want to use the apps.


Ultimately, the driver behind Big Data is the same as it has been, and is, for BI/Analytics – you’re trying to find or discover the answers to the classic journalist questions: Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How.


Who: Who are the clients, customers, and end users, and what devices do they use? Can they be linked? Are they new or established users of your system or data?


What: Determine what action was taken. Did they buy something, say something, change location? What else did they do? Even more interesting, can you determine what action they will take in the future (predictive analytics)?


When: When was the action taken? What was the time? Was it unusual? Was it after doing something else?


Where: What was the location? What site were they on when they took action?


Why: Was there something specific they were trying to accomplish? Was there something they saw/clicked that made them take action? Is there correlation and/or causation between one action and another?


How: What device did they use to execute the transaction? Were they on a PC, Mac, smartphone/mobile device? What kind?


As I said, trying to answer these questions isn’t new, and it isn’t too much different from what organizations are doing with classic BI/Analytics. With Big Data, though, these questions can be answered by processing any form of data (structured and semi-structured data like voice, video, document data), against huge amounts of data, and with data being generated at or near real time.  So, yes, Variety and Velocity and the rest are important – I’m not saying we should forget them – but it’s definitely worth taking the time to understand how the many Big Data technologies, which handle the “V” qualities of data,  can help you answer the “W” questions too.


There are plenty of exciting developments going on in Big Data right now – check out the video below, shot at HP Discover 2013 in Barcelona, for my take on what organizations should keep in mind when tackling a Big Data initiative.



Learn more about HP Big Data Services.


And to learn more about me and how I can help your organization thrive through new technologies, visit my HP Expert profile.


As always, feel free to chime in.


Donald Livengood

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28-30 November
Madrid, Spain
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