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Why You're Hearing Less About Big Data

Is the term “big data” dead? Already? One might think so based on agenda and other casual observations from the latest Strata conference in New York in September 2019. There—as well as at other conferences and in media reports—attention moved to topics such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, and more nuanced advancements (for example, Kubernetes—an open-source container-orchestration system).

Analysis of Dresner Advisory Services survey data confirms that big data’s spotlight is dimming. At the same time, we’re not saying all the things the industry has been calling big data are unimportant or not here to stay. When properly planned and applied to the right, well-defined business cases, big data will continue to play a role as a key component—but not necessarily a leading part—in an overall BI and analytics strategy.

Unfortunately, the term “big data” became a catchall for too many topics and ideas (and at least 200 Apache Foundation projects). Now, the summary topic itself—like the relational database management systems (RDBMSs) that long preceded it—is receding. Regardless of whether more descriptive names emerge for it, “big data” represents tools and materials that can help enable business and IT goals—and is not an outcome in itself.

This is not an unusual observation. Nearly all significant technology evolutions start with an abundance of hype and end with, “What else have you got?”

As was the case with RDBMSs, enterprise application integration (EAI) and Web services, the focus will shift to interfaces, filters, applications and orchestration, and management services that make use of multiple resources—including big data—to tackle business problems. Platform and pure-play providers will fight hard for market share and likely eventually consolidate as a byproduct of both healthy competition and the normal evolution of providers, markets, and technologies. Big data will move forward as the latest part of an evolving toolkit that helps analytics and IT professionals to add and deliver value for their organizations.

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