Big Data: Building Big on Something Small

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A 2011 report by McKinsey Global Institute on the rise of big data concludes: “Big data will … help to create new growth opportunities and entirely new categories of companies. Many of these will be companies that sit in the middle of large information flows where data about products and services, buyers and suppliers, and consumer preferences and intent can be captured and analyzed.”

[contextly_sidebar id=”2b310ee0c299afec398c2a0a7205d174″]The New York Times recently estimated 250,000 people worldwide use the data-analysis computer language called “R,” one of many tools to sift data. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics calculates there were 282,700 people working as “market research analysts” in June 2010, with the field expected to see a 41 percent growth rate, “much faster than average,” between 2010 and 2020, with “job prospects … best for those with a master’s degree.” The U.S. Census Bureau counted more than 3.5 million people working at “computer and mathematical” occupations in 2011.

The BLS projects that the number of database administrators, estimated at 110,800 in June 2010, will increase by 31 percent by 2020, or another 33,900 jobs.

For those buying, selling or leasing commercial property, the hue and cry over big data may be akin to your distant neighbor’s hound baying at the moon. Something’s out there, but what is to be done? Joe Hellerstein, a professor of computer science at the University of California, Berkeley, and co-founder and chief executive of Trifacta Inc., a data analytics startup, said his space needs are not much different from other non-manufacturing firms. The company in October announced $4.3 million in funding from Accel Partners. Its mission is to “radically enhance productivity for data analysis” to address the scarcity of qualified analysts.

But there could be other, vastly differing, space needs. Attunity Ltd., with U.S. operations in suburban Boston, is a middleware company that sells software that it says moves big data more efficiently, taking information from one database and moving it into another. For data massaging companies, the real issue may not be offices. “One of the challenges our customers are facing and the reason they come to us is because there is such a bottleneck getting data over the Internet,” said Melissa Kolodziej, director of marketing communications. “The Internet is one of the most famous WANs (wide-area networks) out there, and one of the most challenging because it wasn’t meant for big data.”

The Internet can handle regular commerce, of course, but like Interstate 680 during rush hour, there’s too little road for too much traffic. “Lately, this big data thing is throwing everyone for a loop,” she said. And it’s only getting worse. “The velocity at which it’s coming and the volume that’s building is massive,” said Matt Benati, vice president of global marketing for Attunity. “The challenge with big data is that we have all this information streaming in. What’s important? What isn’t? When is enough, enough? We’re going to have to find out how granular we want to be.”

The Registry spoke with Berkeley’s Hellerstein of Trifacta to hear his observations on the business opportunity for mining big data and where his company is focusing its resources.

What do data analytics firms, like yours, require in office or other commercial space?

These are people sitting at computers at their desks. These days it’s very common although not ubiquitous, for the deep data storage and analytics capabilities to be running in a data center far away from the office space.

Like on Amazon?

Yeah, or in a dedicated space that the company has to maintain themselves. In either case, it’s just folks at screens typing. There are different versions of that: There’s open floor plans, there’s we need discussion space with a projector. It’s not like building boats or doing bio experiments. It’s office work.

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