A couple of weeks ago I went to an internal NetApp event called Foresight where our field technology experts from around the world meet with our technical directors, product managers and senior executives. A lot of the time is spent talking about recent developments that the field is seeing develop into new trends and how that intersects with current technology roadmaps. We get to see new stuff that’s in development and generally get to spend about a week thinking and talking about futures. The cool thing about this is that while the day to day work of helping clients solve their pressing problems means that we often don’t get to see the forest for the trees, this kind of event lifts us high above the forest canopy to see a much broader picture.
There’s a lot of talk of “Big Data”, how it can help make businesses more efficient, uncover correlations between diet, income, location and and health outcomes, and advance science and human endeavor in thousands of ways. From a storage vendors perspective Big Data also changes some of the fundamental assumptions about the value of data storage and the architectures and asumptions of shared and network storage.
What I didn’t expect though was how relevant Big Data was to the small business owner. Last week my wife started Tivoli2moro, a new online fashion business for girls (yes this is blatant plug, if you have a daughter between the ages of 8 – 15 or know someone who does, check it out, I’m very proud of what she’s achieved) . While doing the market research for things like Google Adwords, Facebook ads, and demographic trends the quality of the information she had at her fingertips truly surprised me. All of this information she had relied on years of data gathering from millions of data points, the infrstructure she leveraged would have cost millions of dollars, the storage requirement I suspect would be measured in hundreds of Terabytes.
While this kind of big data may not save lives, it does help change the competitive business landscape by giving small business access to the kinds of research data that would have been unimaginable until a few years ago. Similar access to other kinds of datasets may also change the way social activism and politics is run in the future, which makes me believe that helping people build these Big Data infrastructures really can help make make my wife happier, and this planet a better place to live, and that, means the world to me.