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GCN : April 2014
WE'VE ALL HEARD OF BIG data. While few of us may agree on exactly what the term really means or how large a data set needs to be in order to qualify as big data, most of us understand that big data is a data set so large and intricate that it can't be managed with traditional IT solutions such as database tools, spreadsheets or storage management struc- tures. To qualify as big data, it's not just a matter of how data is counted, but how the informa- tion flows and how decisions are made for big data use cases. Over the past few years IDC has worked to establish a specific definition for big data, fully realizing that the defini- tion must shift as solutions become more mainstream and as the upper limits of big data continue to grow. Currently, to make the big data grade, the data collected first needs to meet one of three criteria: There needs to be more than 100 terabytes of data collected in the set. The data generated needs to exceed 60 percent growth per year. And the data received is delivered in near real-time, via ultra-high-speed streaming. Then, no matter which of the three criteria has been met, the data also needs to be deployed on a dynamically adaptable infrastructure. If it also meets this standard, it must meet one of the follow- ing criteria: First, the data must origi- nate from two or more formats BIG DATA TAKES MANY FORMS. HOW WILL YOU KNOW IT WHEN YOU SEE IT? INTERNAUT BY SHAWN McCARTHY and/or data sources. Second, the data is delivered as a high- speed streaming connection, as in sensor data used for real- time monitoring. That's certainly a long list of qualifiers. So it's no wonder there is ongoing debate about what big data means. However, with this type of definition, the size of the government big data market can start to be measured and growth, changes and technol- ogy preferences noted. As agencies have learned, there are unique chal- lenges involved in managing extremely large data sets, including the way the data is gathered, managed, stored, searched, analyzed and transferred. A whole new IT market is evolving with new tools and technologies designed specifically to work with these oversized sets of information. By working with informa- tion in a single collected set, rather than separately ana- lyzing smaller sets, agencies have found that it's possible to spot trends, to notice correlations between data sets and to analyze real-time changes in the information. For these reasons, tech- nologies such as broad- and narrow-scope data analysis, analytics and data visualiza- tion have become closely aligned to big data. It's worth noting that a large amount of data is al- ready located in government data centers. But much of the information in legacy data centers is located on a variety of storage types, including both active databases and older tape silos. In its current format, many of these collec- tions would not meet the defi- nition of big data described here. With the federal gov- ernment now using large cloud-based resources such as Amazon, RackSpace and CleverSafe, we expect to see more vendors partnering with commercial cloud providers to develop cloud-based real-time data processing as a service. This will make it easier for vendors to pitch cloud-based big data solutions that can be ramped up fairly quickly -- as long as business and analytical needs can be clearly defined. • --- Shawn McCarthy is research director for IDC Government Insights. 20 GCN APRIL 2014 • GCN.COM FEDERAL BIG DATA PROJECTS WITH VOLUME, VELOCITY AND VARIETY THE NASA EARTH OBSERVING SYSTEM DATA INFORMATION SYSTEM. EOSDIS manages data from EOS missions from the point of data capture to delivery to end users at near-real-time rates. It includes the collection, storage and dissemination of several terabytes of data each day. BATTLESPACE NETWORKS. Within the Defense Department, battlespace is a term used to describe DOD's unified military strategy. The military's battlespace networks are a prominent generator of big data, which is shared via networks, satellites and in some cases huge arrays of hard drives on reconnaissance aircraft. BIG DATA TO KNOWLEDGE. This National Institutes of Health initiative is meant to help biomedical scientists leverage big data from multiple medical and scientific research communities.