Big Data Special Report


September 2013 - sponsored by: Cloudera, Intel, MarkLogic

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The Spice of Life?

Few Waters readers will be familiar with the British poet William Cowper, much less his magnum opus, The Task, a collection of blank-verse poetry presented in six books. But most will know the idiom: "Variety's the very spice of life," taken from book two, The Timepiece. This cliché, no doubt, rings true for most people, although if you're a chief data officer at a financial services firm, or you have a data-centric job description, variety is the stuff of nightmares.

In the capital markets, data can be segmented into two constituents: structured and unstructured. When it comes to most things in life, structure is good. It allows us the anticipate situations and plan ahead. It fosters familiarity, consistency and continuity, and it presents us with a certain logic and pattern that we find comforting. It is what got Amedeo Avogadro and Leonardo Fibonacci out of bed in the mornings, and continues to draw the planet's finest brains to the pursuit of the sciences. In short, structure is good.

Conversely, a lack of structure is essentially chaotic, which, when it comes to data management in the financial services industry, is not a good thing. Processing and storing large data volumes from disparate sources being generated and disseminated at ever-increasing velocities, is no walk in the park, but as participants in this report's virtual roundtable explain, the technology and know-how is available to pretty much all market participants, allowing them to stay on top of their data from this respect. But when it comes to processing unstructured data─described by MarkLogic's Amir Halfon in his editorial on page 3 as "information, which is either hidden in free-form text or scattered across incompatible schemas"─things become markedly more complicated. However, unlike many big data discussions we've listened to or read in the past, participants in this report not only look at the operational and technology challenges of effectively addressing the unstructured data conundrum-they also propose the techniques and technologies available to market participants, allowing them to process huge data quantities and crucially analyze it, thus deriving value from one of their most precious commodities.

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