“The increasing complexity and pace of global regulations is making it more difficult and expensive for financial services organizations to comply. At the same time, firms want to derive value from their data assets. How do they create synergy between these two seemingly divergent goals? The maturation of semantic technologies, when combined with increased acceptance of industry standards, holds out the promise of resolving those issues.” –David Saul.
I have interviewed David Saul, Senior Vice President and Chief Scientist at State Street Corporation. Main topics of the interview are the governance and management of data, and semantic technologies.
Q1. What is your role at State Street Bank?
David Saul: State Street has a long history as an innovator in financial services and my objective is to help maintain that leadership position. I work with our clients, internal developers, vendors, regulators and academics to identify and introduce appropriate innovations into our business. For the last several years I have focused on the development and adoption of semantic data standards.
The concept of the semantic web was first proposed over ten years ago by Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the creator of the World Wide Web, and has since been realized in multiple implementations. Semantics is a natural evolution of earlier work on metadata, language dialects and taxonomies for regulatory compliance. Examples include the SEC’s XBRL mandate and OFR’s Legal Entity Identifier (LEI) as part of the Dodd-Frank legislation.
Q2. What is Data Governance?
David Saul: State Street’s most important asset is the data that we ingest, process, store and distribute on behalf of our clients. Data Governance encompasses the management and controls needed to maintain stewardship of that data while in our custody.
Effective data governance can be measured by the ability to answer the following four questions:
- Do you know where your data is? Are you able to identify the critical business data in the firm, who owns it and, most importantly, and what it means?
- Do you maintain a catalog and monitor current and future regulatory requirements?
- Do you understand the existing products/services solutions used and can you identify any gaps?
- Do you participate in and influence relevant industry data standards?
Q3. What makes a good Data Governance Program?
David Saul: A mature Data Governance program provides a balanced framework to monetize data while also complying with regulatory requirements. The application of semantic data standards allows synergy between data analytics and risk management.
One example is the Financial Industry Business Ontology (FIBO) from the Enterprise Data Management (EDM) Council and the Object Management Group (OMG). Recent publications from regulators in the US and elsewhere have endorsed the use of data standards as the only way to deal with the increase in the scope and complexity of their responsibilities. For example, in its 2014 Annual Report the US Treasury Office of Financial Research (OFR) devotes its entire section 5 to “Advancing Data Standards”.
Semantics provides additional advantages over traditional technologies in its speed and flexibility. Developing Extract, Transform and Load (ETL) processes and data warehouses cannot keep pace with changes in business models and relevant regulations. The ability to easily create and change semantic maps of data ecosystems is being offered today by a number of vendors. The open nature of data standards like FIBO not only provides transparency but also provides assurance that these standards will be long lasting. Current academic research is showing our semantics can be a path into more leading edge technologies like machine learning and natural language.
Q4. How do you handle possible organizational conflicts from overlapping functions when dealing with Data?
David Saul: Effective governance and management of data requires a balance between distributed ownership and centralized control. The organizational role of the chief data officer at State Street has evolved to provide centralized policies, procedures and controls for data stewardship while maintaining operational management within the business processing units.
Beyond individual institutions, the application of data standards provides benefits to multiple constituencies:
- Financial services firms gain additional revenue from their clients while keeping risks at an acceptable level.
- Product and services companies have clearer requirements to innovate, develop and sell.
- Regulators and supervisors receive the information they need to meet statutory mandates and ensure that laws are complied with.
- Standards organizations follow their mission to enable simple and effective communication among the parties.
Q5. What are the main challenges in corporate, financial services, and regulatory sectors, especially on issues of Big Data, Analytics, and Risk Management?
David Saul: The increasing complexity and pace of global regulations is making it more difficult and expensive for financial services organizations to comply. At the same time, firms want to derive value from their data assets. How do they create synergy between these two seemingly divergent goals? The maturation of semantic technologies, when combined with increased acceptance of industry standards, holds out the promise of resolving those issues. Semantics and ontologies provide greater transparency and interoperability, thereby enhancing the overall trust in the financial system. Enhanced trust benefits all constituencies who have a direct interest.
Q6. You previously contributed to the Financial Stability Board Data Gaps Implementation Group. What are the main contributions of such group?
David Saul: State Street is an advocate for global data harmonization in multiple forums. Contributing expertise to industry associations and standards bodies benefits both the firm and the industry as a whole. Just one example is the International Organization of Securities Commissions (IOSCO) work on the financial industry Unique Product Identifier (UPI).
Q7. You also contributed to the White House Task Force on Smart Disclosure. What are the main results obtained?
David Saul: On May 9, 2014, President Barack Obama signed the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act, or the DATA Act, which had been passed unanimously by both the House of Representatives and the Senate. It requires the Department of the Treasury and the White House Office of Management and Budget to transform U.S. federal spending from disconnected documents into open, standardized data, and to publish that data online. State Street was among stakeholders from the tech industry, nonprofit sector, and executive and legislative branches of government who convened in May 2016 at the DATA Act Summit to build a shared vision for making the DATA Act a success.
David Saul, Senior Vice President and Chief Scientist, State Street Corporation.
David Saul is a senior vice president and chief scientist at State Street Corporation, reporting to the chief information officer. In this role, he proposes and assesses new advanced technologies for the organization, and also evaluates existing technologies and their likely evolution to reinforce the organization’s leadership position in financial services.
Mr. Saul previously was chief information security officer, where he oversaw State Street’s corporate information security program, controls and technology. Prior to that, he managed State Street’s Office of Architecture, where he was responsible for the overall enterprise technology, data and security architecture of the corporation.
Mr. Saul joined State Street in 1992 after 15 years with IBM’s Cambridge Scientific Center, where he managed innovations in operating systems virtualization, multiprocessing, networking and personal computers.
Mr. Saul serves as a trustee of the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary. In 2007, he was honored with a Computerworld Premier 100 IT Leader Award. He holds his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
– On data analytics for finance. Interview with Jason S.Cornez. ODBMS Industry Watch, Published on 2016-05-17
– Using NoSQL for Ireland’s Online Tax Research Database. ODBMS Industry Watch, Published on 2016-05-02
– Opportunity Now: Europe’s Mission to Innovate, By Robert Madelin, Senior Adviser for Innovation to the President of the European Commission. ODBMS.org
– Big Data in Financial Markets Regulation – Friend or Foe? By Morgan Deane, member of the Board and International Head of Legal & Compliance for the Helvea-Baader Bank Group. ODBMS.org, January 18, 2015
– The need for a data centric regulatory risk assessment framework. By Ramendra K. Sahoo, Director in PwC’s Advanced Risk Analytics. ODBMS.org
– Big Data Strategy – From Customer Targeting to Customer Centric. By Patrick Maes, CTO and GM Strategy & Planning, Global Technology Services and Operations, Australia & New Zealand Banking Group
Follow us on Twitter: @odbmsorg
“Assembling a team with the wide range of skills needed for a successful IoT project presents an entirely different set of challenges. The skills needed to build a ‘thing’ are markedly different than the skills needed to implement the data analytics in the cloud.”–Steve Graves.
Q1. What are in your opinion the main Challenges and Opportunities of the Internet of Things (IoT) seen from the perspective of a database vendor?
Steve Graves: Let’s start with the opportunities.
When we started McObject in 2001, we chose “eXtremeDB, the embedded database for intelligent, connected devices” as our tagline. eXtremeDB was designed from the get-go to live in the “things” comprising what the industry now calls the Internet of Things. The popularization of this term has created a lot of visibility and, more importantly, excitement and buzz for what was previously viewed as the relatively boring “embedded systems.” And that creates a lot of opportunities.
A lot of really smart, creative people are thinking of innovative ways to improve our health, our workplace, our environment, our infrastructure, and more. That means new opportunities for vendors of every component of the technology stack.
The challenges are manifold, and I can’t begin to address all of them. The media is largely fixated on security, which itself is multi-dimensional.
We can talk about protecting IoT-enabled devices (e.g. your car) from being hacked. We can talk about protecting the privacy of your data at rest. And we can talk about protecting the privacy of data in motion.
Every vendor needs recognize the importance of security. But, it isn’t enough for a vendor, like McObject, to provide the features to secure the target system; the developer that assembles the stack along with their own proprietary technology to create an IoT solution needs to use available security features, and use them correctly.
After security, scaling IoT systems is the next big challenge. It’s easy enough to prototype something.
But careful planning is needed to leap from prototype to full-blown deployment. Obvious decisions have to be made about connectivity and necessary bandwidth, how many things per gateway, one tier of gateways or more, and how much compute capacity is needed in the cloud. Beyond that, there are less obvious decisions to be made that will affect scalability, like making sure the DBMS used on devices and/or gateways is able to handle the workload (e.g. that the gateway DBMS can scale from 10 input streams to 100 input streams); determining how to divide the analytics workload between gateways and the cloud; and ensuring that the gateway, its DBMS and its communication stack can stream data to the cloud while simultaneously processing its own input streams and analytics.
Assembling a team with the wide range of skills needed for a successful IoT project presents an entirely different set of challenges. The skills needed to build a ‘thing’ are markedly different than the skills needed to implement the data analytics in the cloud. In fact, ‘things’ are usually very much like good ol’ embedded systems, and system engineers that know their way around real-time/embedded operating systems, JTAG debuggers, and so on, have always been at a premium.
Q2. Data management for the IoT: What are the main differences between data management in field-deployed devices and at aggregation points?
Steve Graves: Quite simply: scale. A field-deployed device (or a gateway to field-deployed devices that do not, themselves, have any data management need or capability) has to manage a modest amount of data. But an aggregation point (the cloud being the most obvious example) has to manage many times more data – possibly orders of magnitude more.
At the same time, I have to say that they might not be all that different. Some IoT systems are going to be closed, meaning the nature of the things making up the system is known, and these won’t require much scaling. For example, a building automation system for a small- to mid-size building would have perhaps 100s of sensors and 10s of gateways, and may (or may not) push data up to a central aggregation point. If there are just 10s of gateways, we can create a UI that connects to the database on each gateway where each database is one shard of a single logical database, and execute analytics against that logical database without any need of a central aggregation point. We can extend this hypothetical case to a campus of buildings, or to a landlord with many buildings in a metropolitan area, and then a central aggregation point makes sense.
But the database system would not necessarily be different, only the organization of the physical and logical databases.
The gateways of each building would stream to a database server in the cloud. In the case of 10 buildings, we could have 10 database servers in the cloud that represent 10 shards of that logical database in the cloud. This architecture allows for great scalability. The landlord acquires another building? Great, stand up another database server and the UI connects to 11 shards instead of 10. In this scenario, database servers are software, not hardware. For the numbers we’re talking about (10 or 11 buildings), it could easily be handled by a single hardware server of modest ability.
At the other end of the scale (pun intended) are IoT systems that are wide open. By that, I mean the creators are not able to anticipate the universe of “things” that could be connected, or their quantity. In the first case, the database system should be able to ingest data that was heretofore unknown. This argues for a NoSQL database system, i.e. a database system that is schema-less. In this scenario, the database system on field-deployed devices is probably radically different from the database system in the cloud. Field-deployed devices are purpose-specific, so A) they don’t need and wouldn’t benefit from a NoSQL database system, and B) most NoSQL database systems are too resource-hungry to reside on embedded device nodes.
Q3. If we look at the characteristics of a database system for managing device-based data in the IoT, how do they differ from the characteristics of a database system (typically deployed on a server) for analyzing the “big data” generated by myriad devices?
Steve Graves: Again, let’s recognize that field-deployed devices in the IoT are classic embedded systems. In practical terms, that means relatively modest hardware like an ARM, MIPS, PowerPC or Atom processor running at 100s of megahertz, or perhaps 1 ghz if we’re lucky, and with only enough memory to perform its function. Further, it may require a real-time operating system, or at least an embedded operating system that is less resource hungry than a full-on Linux distro. So, for a database system to run in this environment, it will need to have been designed to run in this environment. It isn’t practical to try to shoehorn in a database system that was written on the assumption that CPU cycles and memory are abundant. It may also be the case that the device has little-to-no persistent storage, which mandates an in-memory database.
So a database system for a field-deployed device is going to
1. have a small code size
2. use little stack
3. preferably, allocate no heap memory
4. have no, or minimal, external dependencies (e.g. not link in an extra 1 MB of code from the C run-time library)
5. have built-in ability to replicate data (to a gateway or directly to the cloud)
a. Replication should be “open”, meaning be able to replicate to a different database system
6. Have built-in security features
7. Nice to have:
a. built-in analytics to aggregate data prior to replicating it
b. ability to define the schema
c. ability to operate entirely in memory
A database system for the cloud might benefit from being schema-less, as described previously. It should certainly have pretty elastic scalability. Servers in the cloud are going to have ample resources and robust operating systems. So a database system for the cloud doesn’t need to have a small code size, use a small amount of stack memory, or worry about external dependencies such as the C run-time library. On the contrary, a database system for the cloud is expected to do much more (handle data at scale, execute analytics, etc.) and will, therefore, need ample resources. In fact, this database system should be able to take maximum advantage of the resources available, including being able to scale horizontally (across cores, CPUs, and servers).
In summary, the edge (device-based) DBMS needs to operate in a constrained environment. A cloud DBMS needs to be able to effectively and efficiently utilize the ample resources available to it.
Q4. Why is the ability to define a database schema important (versus a schema-less DBMS, aka NoSQL) for field-deployed devices?
Steve Graves: Field-deployed devices will normally perform a few specific functions (sometimes, just one function). For example, a building automation system manages HVAC, lighting, etc. A livestock management system manages feed, output, and so on. In such systems, the data requirements are well known. The hallmark NoSQL advantage of being able to store data without predefining its structure is unwarranted. The other purported hallmark of NoSQL is horizontal scalability, but this is not a need for field-deployed devices.
Walking away from the relational database model (and its implicit use of a database schema) has serious implications.
A great deal of scientific knowledge has been amassed around the relational database model over the last few decades, and without it developers are completely on their own with respect to enforcing sound data management practices.
In the NoSQL sphere, there is nothing comparable to the relational model (e.g. E.F. Codd’s work) and the mathematical foundation (relational calculus) underpinning it.
There should be overwhelming justification for a decision to not use relational.
In my experience, that justification is absent for data management of field-deployed devices.
A database system that “knows” the data design (via a schema) can more intelligently manage the data. For example, it can manage constraints, domain dependencies, events and much more. And some of the purported inflexibility imposed by a schema can be eliminated if the DBMS supports dynamic DDL (see more details on this in the answer to question Q6, below).
Q5. In your opinion, do IoT aggregation points resemble data lakes?
Steve Graves: The term data lake was originally conceived in the context of Hadoop and map-reduce functionality. In more recent times, the meaning of the term has morphed to become synonymous with big data, and that is how I use the term. Insofar as a gateway can also be an aggregation point, I would not say ‘aggregation points resemble data lakes’ because gateway aggregation points, in all likelihood, will not manage Big Data.
Q6. What are the main technical challenges for database systems used to accommodate new and unforeseen data, for example when a new type of device begins streaming data?
Steve Graves: The obvious challenges are
1. The ability to ingest new data that has a previously unknown structure
2. The ability to execute analytics on #1
3. The ability to integrate analytics on #1 with analytics on previously known data
#1 is handled well by NoSQL DBMSs. But, it might also be handled well by an RDBMS via “dynamic DDL” (dynamic data definition language), e.g. the ability to execute CREATE TABLE, ALTER TABLE, and/or CREATE INDEX statements against an existing database.
To efficiently execute analytics against any data, the structure of the data must eventually be understood.
RDBMS handle this through the database dictionary (the binary equivalent of the data definition language).
But some NoSQL DBMSs handle this through different meta data. For example, the MarkLogic DBMS uses JSON metadata to understand the structure of documents in its document store.
NoSQL DBMSs with no meta data whatsoever put the entire burden on the developers. In other words, since the data is opaque to the DBMS, the application code must read and interpret the content.
Q7. Client/server DBMS architecture vs. in-process DBMSs: which one is more suitable for IoT?
Steve Graves: For edge DBMSs (on constrained devices), an in-process architecture will be more suitable. It requires fewer resources than client/server architecture, and imposes less latency through elimination of inter-process communication. For cloud DBMSs, a client/server architecture will be more suitable. In the cloud environment, resources are not scarce, and the the advantage of being able to scale horizontally will outweigh the added latency associated with client/server.
Qx Anything else you wish to add?
Steve Graves: We feel that eXtremeDB is uniquely positioned for the Internet of Things. Not only have devices and gateways been in eXtremeDB’s wheelhouse for 15 years with over 25 million real world deployments, but the scalability, time series data management, and analytics built into the eXtremeDB server (big data) offering make it an attractive cloud database solution as well. Being able to leverage a single DBMS across devices, gateways and the cloud has obvious synergistic advantages.
Steve Graves is co-founder and CEO of McObject, a company specializing in embedded Database Management System (DBMS) software. Prior to McObject, Steve was president and chairman of Centura Solutions Corporation and vice president of worldwide consulting for Centura Software Corporation.
Big Data, Analytics, and the Internet of Things, by Mohak Shah, analytics leader and research scientist at Bosch Research, USA.ODBMS.org APRIL 6, 2015
Privacy considerations & responsibilities in the era of Big Data & Internet of Things, by Ramkumar Ravichandran, Director, Analytics, Visa Inc. ODBMS.org January 8, 2015.
Securing Your Largest USB-Connected Device: Your Car,BY Shomit Ghose, General Partner, ONSET Ventures, ODBMs.org MARCH 31, 2016.
eXtremeDB Financial Edition DBMS Sweeps Records in Big Data Benchmark,ODBMS.org JULY 2, 2016
On the Internet of Things. Interview with Colin Mahony, ODBMS Industry Watch, Published on 2016-03-14
A Grand Tour of Big Data. Interview with Alan Morrison, ODBMS Industry Watch, Published on 2016-02-25
On the Industrial Internet of Things. Interview with Leon Guzenda, ODBMS Industry Watch, January 28, 2016
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“From a healthcare perspective, how can we aggregate all the medical data, in all forms from multiple sources, such as wearables, home medical devices, MRI images, pharmacies and so on, and also blend in intelligence or new data sources, such as genomic data, so that doctors can make better decisions at the point of care?”– Julie Lockner.
I have interviewed Julie Lockner. Julie leads data platform product marketing for InterSystems. Main topics of the interview are Data Interoperability and InterSystems` data platform strategy.
Q1. Everybody is talking about Big Data — is the term obsolete?
Julie Lockner: Well, there is no doubt that the sheer volume of data is exploding, especially with the proliferation of smart devices and the Internet of Things (IoT). An overlooked aspect of IoT is the enormous volume of data generated by a variety devices, and how to connect, integrate and manage it all.
The real challenge, though, is not just processing all that data, but extracting useful insights from the variety of device types. Put another way, not all data is created using a common standard. You want to know how to interpret data from each device, know which data from what type of device is important, and which trends are noteworthy. Better information can create better results when it can be aggregated and analyzed consistently, and that’s what we really care about. Better, higher quality outcomes, not bigger data.
Q2. If not Big Data, where do we go from here?
Julie Lockner: We always want to be focusing on helping our customers build smarter applications to solve real business challenges, such as helping them to better compete on service, roll out high-quality products quicker, simplify processes – not build solutions in search of a problem. A canonical example is in retail. Our customers want to leverage insight from every transaction they process to create a better buying experience online or at the point of sale. This means being able to aggregate information about a customer, analyze what the customer is doing while on the website, and make an offer at transaction time that would delight them. That’s the goal – a better experience – because that is what online consumers expect.
From a healthcare perspective, how can we aggregate all the medical data, in all forms from multiple sources, such as wearables, home medical devices, MRI images, pharmacies and so on, and also blend in intelligence or new data sources, such as genomic data, so that doctors can make better decisions at the point of care? That implies we are analyzing not just more data, but better data that comes in all shapes and sizes, and that changes more frequently. It really points to the need for data interoperability.
Q3. What are the challenges software developers are telling you they have in today’s data-intensive world?
Julie Lockner: That they have too many database technologies to choose from and prefer to have a simple data platform architecture that can support multiple data models and multiple workloads within a single development environment.
We understand that our customers need to build applications that can handle a vast increase in data volume, but also a vast array of data types – static, non-static, local, remote, structured and non-structured. It must be a platform that coalesces all these things, brings services to data, offers a range of data models, and deals with data at any volume to create a more stable, long-term foundation. They want all of these capabilities in one platform – not a platform for each data type.
For software developers today, it’s not enough to pick elements that solve some aspect of a problem and build enterprise solutions around them; not all components scale equally. You need a common platform without sacrificing scalability, security, resilience, rapid response. Meeting all these demands with the right data platform will create a successful application.
And the development experience is significantly improved and productivity drastically increased when they can use a single platform that meets all these needs. This is why they work with InterSystems.
Q4. Traditionally, analytics is used with structured data, “slicing and dicing” numbers. But the traditional approach also involves creating and maintaining a data warehouse, which can only provide a historical view of data. Does this work also in the new world of Internet of Things?
Julie Lockner: I don’t think so. It is generally possible to take amorphous data and build it into a structured data model, but to respond effectively to rapidly changing events, you need to be able to take data in the form in which it comes to you.
If your data platform lacks certain fields, if you lack schema definition, you need to be able to capitalize on all these forms without generating a static model or a refinement process. With a data warehouse approach, it can take days or weeks to create fully cleansed, normalized data.
That’s just not fast enough in today’s always-on world – especially as machine-generated data is not conforming to a common format any time soon. It comes back to the need for a data platform that supports interoperability.
Q5. How hard is it to make decisions based on real-time analysis of structured and unstructured data?
Julie Lockner: It doesn’t have to be hard. You need to generate rules that feed rules engines that, in turn, drive decisions, and then constantly update those rules. That is a radical enhancement of the concept of analytics in the service of improving outcomes, as more real-time feedback loops become available.
The collection of changes we describe as Big Data will profoundly transform enterprise applications of the future. Today we can see the potential to drive business in new ways and take advantage of a convergence of trends, but it is not happening yet. Where progress has been made is the intelligence of devices and first-level data aggregation, but not in the area of services that are needed. We’re not there yet.
Q6. What’s next on the horizon for InterSystems in meeting the data platform requirements of this new world?
Julie Lockner: We continually work on our data platform, developing the most innovative ways we can think of to integrate with new technologies and new modes of thinking. Interoperability is a hugely important component. It may seem a simple task to get to the single most pertinent fact, but the means to get there may be quite complex. You need to be able to make the right data available – easily – to construct the right questions.
Data is in all forms and at varying levels of completeness, cleanliness, and accuracy. For data to be consumed as we describe, you need measures of how well you can use it. You need to curate data so it gets cleansed and you can cull what is important. You need flexibility in how you view data, too. Gathering data without imposing an orthodoxy or structure allows you to gain access to more data. Not all data will conform to a schema a priori.
Q7. Recently you conducted a benchmark test of an application based on InterSystems Caché®. Could you please summarize the main results you have obtained?
Julie Lockner: One of our largest customers is Epic Systems, one of the world’s top healthcare software companies.
Epic relies on Caché as the data platform for electronic medical record solutions serving more than half the U.S. patient population and millions of patients worldwide.
Epic tested the scalability and performance improvements of Caché version 2015.1. Almost doubling the scalability of prior versions, Caché delivers what Epic President Cark Dvorak has described as “a key strategic advantage for our user organizations that are pursuing large-scale medical informatics programs as well as aggressive growth strategies in preparation for the volume-to-value transformation in healthcare.”
Qx Anything else you wish to add?
Julie Lockner: The reason why InterSystems has succeeded in the market for so many years is a commitment to the success of those who depend on our technology. A recent Gartner Magic Quadrant report found we had the highest number of customers surveyed – 85% – who would buy from us again. That is the highest number of any vendor participating in that study.
The foundation of the company’s culture is all about helping our customers succeed. When our customers come to us with a challenge, we all pitch in to solve it. Many times our solutions may address an unusual problem that could benefit others – which then becomes the source of many of our innovations. It is one of the ways we are using problem-solving skills as a winning strategy to benefit others. When our customers are successful at using our engine to solve the world’s most important challenges, we all win.
Julie Lockner leads data platform product marketing for InterSystems. She has more than 20 years of experience in IT product marketing management and technology strategy, including roles at analyst firm ESG as well as Informatica and EMC.
– White Paper: Big Data Healthcare: Data Scalability with InterSystems Caché® and Intel® Processors (LINK to .PDF)
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“A hybrid technology infrastructure that combines existing analytics architecture with new big data technologies can help companies to achieve superior outcomes.”–Narendra Mulani
I have interviewed Narendra Mulani, Chief Analytics Officer, Accenture Analytics. Main topics of our interview are: Data Analytics, Big Data, the Internet of Things, and their repercussion for the enterprise.
Q1. What is your role at Accenture?
Narendra Mulani: I’m the Chief Analytics Officer at Accenture Analytics and I am responsible for building and inspiring a culture of analytics and driving Accenture’s strategic agenda for growth across the business. I lead a team of analytics professionals around the globe that are dedicated to helping clients transform into insight-driven enterprises and focused on creating value through innovative solutions that combine industry and functional knowledge with analytics and technology.
With the constantly increasing amount of data and new technologies becoming available, it truly is an exciting time for Accenture and our clients alike. I’m thrilled to be collaborating with my team and clients and taking part, first-hand, in the power of analytics and the positive disruption it is creating for businesses around globe.
Q2. What are the main drivers you see in the market for Big Data Analytics?
Narendra Mulani: Companies across industries are fighting to secure or keep their lead in the marketplace.
To excel in this competitive environment, they are looking to exploit one of their growing assets: Data.
Organizations see big data as a catalyst for their transformation into digital enterprises and as a way to secure an insight-driven competitive advantage. In particular, big data technologies are enabling companies with greater agility as it helps them to analyze data comprehensively and take more informed actions at a swifter pace. We’ve already passed the transition point with big data – instead of discussing the possibilities with big data, many are already experiencing the actual insight-driven benefits from it, including increased revenues, a larger base of loyal customers, and more efficient operations. In fact, we see our clients looking for granular solutions that leverage big data, advanced analytics and the cloud to address industry specific problems.
Q3. Analytics and Mobility: how do they correlate?
Narendra Mulani: Analytics and mobility are two digital areas that work hand-in-hand on many levels.
As an example, mobile devices and the increasingly connected world through the Internet of Things (IoT) have become two key drivers for big data analytics. As mobile devices, sensors, and the IoT are constantly creating new data sources and data types, big data analytics is being applied to transform the increasing amount of data into important and actionable insight that can create new business opportunities and outcomes. Also, this view can be reversed, where analytics feeds insight into mobile devices such as tablets to workers in offices or out in the field to enable them to make real-time decisions that could benefit their business.
Q4. Data explosion: What does it create ? Risks, Value or both?
Narendra Mulani: The data explosion that’s happening today and will continue to happen due to the Internet of Things creates a lot of opportunity for businesses. While organizations recognize the value that the data can generate, the sheer amount of data – internal data, external data, big data, small data, etc – can be overwhelming and create an obstacle for analytics adoption, project completion, and innovation. To overcome this challenge and pursue actionable insights and outcomes, organizations shouldn’t look to analyze all of the data that’s available, but identify the right data needed to solve the current project or challenge at hand to create value.
It’s also important for companies to manage the potential risk associated with the influx of data and take the steps needed to optimize and protect it. They can do this by aligning IT and business leads to jointly develop and maintain data governance and security strategies. At a high level, the strategies would govern who uses the data and how the data is analyzed and leveraged, define the technologies that would manage and analyze the data, and ensure the data is secured with the necessary standards. Suitable governance and security strategies should be requirements for insight-driven businesses. Without them, organizations could experience adverse and counter-productive results.
Q5. You introduced the concept of the “Modern Data Supply Chain”? How does it differ from the traditional Supply Chain?
Narendra Mulani: As companies’ data ecosystems are usually very complex with many data silos, a modern data supply chain helps them to simplify their data environment and generate the most value from their data. In brief, when data is treated as a supply chain, it can flow swiftly, easily and usefully through the entire organization— and also through its ecosystem of partners, including customers and suppliers.
To establish an effective modern data supply chain, companies should create a hybrid technology environment that enables a data service platform with emerging big data technologies. As a result, businesses will be able to access, manage, move, mobilize and interact with broader and deeper data sets across the organization at a much quicker pace than previously possible and place action on the attained analytics insights that could help it to more effectively deliver to its consumers, develop new innovative solutions, and differentiate in its market.
Q6. You talked about “Retooling the Enterprise”. What do you mean by this?
Narendra Mulani: Some businesses today are no longer just using analytics, they are taking the next step by transforming into insight-driven enterprises. To achieve “insight-driven enterprise” status, organizations need to retool themselves for optimization. They can pursue an insight-driven transformation by:
· Establishing a center of gravity for analytics – a center of gravity for analytics often takes the shape of a Center of Excellence or a similar concentration of talent and resources.
· Employing agile governance – build horizontal governance structures that are focused on outcomes and speed to value, and take a “test and learn” approach to rolling out new capabilities. A secure governance foundation could also improve the democratization of data throughout a business.
· Creating an inter-disciplinary high performing analytics team — field teams with diverse skills, organize talent effectively, and create innovative programs to keep the best talent engaged.
· Deploying new capabilities faster – deploy new, modern and agile technologies, as well as hybrid architectures and specifically designed toolsets, to help revolutionize how data has been traditionally managed, curated and consumed, to achieve speed to capability and desired outcomes. When appropriate, cloud technologies should be integrated into the IT mix to benefit from cloud-based usage models.
· Raising the company’s analytics IQ – have a vision of what would be your “intelligent enterprise” and implement an Analytics Academy that provides analytics training for functional business resources in addition to the core management training programs.
Q7. What are the risks from the Internet of Things? And how is it possible to handle such risks?
Narendra Mulani: The IoT is prompting an even greater focus on data security and privacy. As a company’s machines, employees and ecosystems of partners, providers, and customers become connected through the IoT, securing the data that is flowing across the IoT grid can be increasingly complex. Today’s sophisticated cyber attackers are also amplifying this complexity as they are constantly evolving and leveraging data technology to challenge a company’s security efforts.
To establish strong, effective real-time cyber defense strategy, security teams will need to employ innovative technologies to identify threat behavioral patterns — including artificial intelligence, automation, visualisation, and big data analytics – and an agile and fluid workforce to leverage the opportunities presented by technology innovations. They should also establish policies to address privacy issues that arise out of all the personal data that are being collected. Through this combination of efforts, companies will be able to strengthen its approach to cyber defense in today’s highly connected IoT world and empower cyber defenders to help their companies better anticipate and respond to cyber attacks.
Q8. What are the main lessons you have learned in implementing Big Data Analytic projects?
Narendra Mulani: Organizations should explore the entire big data technology ecosystem, take an outcome-focused approach to addressing specific business problems, and establish precise success metrics before an analytics project even begins. The big data landscape is in a constant state of change with new data sources and emerging big data technologies appearing every day that could offer a company a new value-generating opportunity. A hybrid technology infrastructure that combines existing analytics architecture with new big data technologies can help companies to achieve superior outcomes.
An outcome-focused strategy that embraces analytics experimentation and explores the possible data and technology that can help a company meet its goals and has checkpoints for measuring performance will be very valuable, as this strategy will help the analytics team to know if they should continue on course or need to make a course correction to attain the desired outcome.
Q9. Is Data Analytics only good for businesses? What about using (Big) Data for Societal issues?
Narendra Mulani: Analytics is helping businesses across industries and governments as well to make more informed decisions for effective outcomes, whether it might be to improve customer experience, healthcare or public safety.
As an example, we’re working with a utility company in the UK to help them leverage analytics insights to anticipate equipment failures and respond in near real-time to critical situations, such as leaks or adverse weather events. We are also working with a government agency to analyze its video monitoring feeds to identify potential public safety risks.
Qx Anything else you wish to add?
Narendra Mulani: Another area that’s on the rise is Artificial Intelligence – we define it as a collection of multiple technologies that enable machines to sense, comprehend, act and learn, either on their own or to augment human activities. The new technologies include machine learning, deep learning, natural language processing, video analytics and more. AI is disrupting how businesses operate and compete and we believe it will also fundamentally transform and improve how we work and live. When an organization is pursuing an AI project, it’s our belief that it should be business-oriented, people-focused, and technology rich for it to be most effective.
As Chief Analytics Officer and Head Geek – Accenture Analytics, Narendra Mulani is responsible for creating a culture of analytics and driving Accenture’s strategic agenda for growth across the business. He leads a dedicated team of 17,000 Analytic professionals that serve clients around the globe, focusing on value creation through innovative solutions that combine industry and functional knowledge with analytics and technology.
Narendra has held a number of leadership roles within Accenture since joining in 1997. Most recently, he was the managing director – Products North America, where he was responsible for creating value for our clients across a number of industries. Prior to that, he was managing director – Supply Chain, Accenture Management Consulting, leading a global practice responsible for defining and implementing supply chain capabilities at a diverse set of Fortune 500 clients.
Narendra graduated from Bombay University in 1978 with a Bachelor of Commerce, and received an MBA in Finance in 1982 as well as a PhD in 1985 focused on Multivariate Statistics, both from the University of Massachusetts.
Outside of work, Narendra is involved with various activities that support education and the arts. He lives in Connecticut with his wife Nita and two children, Ravi and Nikhil.
– Accenture Analytics. Launching an insights-driven transformation. Download the point of view on analytics operating models to better understand how high performing companies are organizing their capabilities.
On Big Data and Data Science. Interview with James Kobielus, Source: ODBMS Industry Watch, 2016-04-19
On the Internet of Things. Interview with Colin Mahony Source: ODBMS Industry Watch, 2016-03-14
A Grand Tour of Big Data. Interview with Alan Morrison, Source: ODBMS Industry Watch, 2016-02-25
On the Industrial Internet of Things. Interview with Leon Guzenda, Source: ODBMS Industry Watch, 2016-01-28
On Artificial Intelligence and Society. Interview with Oren Etzioni, Source: ODBMS Industry Watch, 2016-01-15
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“Understanding human language remains a difficult problem. The challenges here are not only technical, but there is also a perception from popular culture that computers today perform at the level we see in science fiction. So there is a gap between what is expected and what is possible.”–Jason S.Cornez.
I have interviewed Jason S.Cornez, Chief Technology Officer, RavenPack. Main topic of the interview is unstructured data analytics for finance.
Q1. What is the business of RavenPack?
Jason S.Cornez: We specialize in the systematic analysis of unstructured data for finance. RavenPack Analytics transforms unstructured big data sets,such as traditional news and social media, into structured granular data and indicators to help financial services firms improve their performance. RavenPack addresses the challenges posed by the characteristics of Big Data – volume, variety, veracity and velocity – by converting unstructured content into a format that can be more effectively analyzed, manipulated and deployed in financial applications.
Q2. How is Deutsche Bank using RavenPack News Analytics as an overlay to a pairs trading strategy?
Jason S.Cornez: The profits and risks from trading stock pairs are very much related to the type of information event which creates divergence. If divergence is caused by a piece of news related specifically to one constituent of the pair, there is a good chance that prices will diverge further. On the other hand, if divergence is caused by random price movements or a differential reaction to common information, convergence is more likely to follow after the initial divergence. To test the effects of news on a pairs trading strategy, Deutsche Bank used two aggregated indicators based on RavenPack’s Big Data analytics derived from news and social media data measuring sentiment and media attention.
Specifically, using the two indicators, Deutsche Bank created a filter that would ignore trades where divergence was supported by negative sentiment and abnormal news volume.
Overall, Deutsche Bank finds that applying a news analytics overlay can help differentiate between “good” price divergence (which is likely to converge) and “bad” divergence. More importantly, such ability provides significant improvements to the performance of a traditional pairs trading strategy, especially by reducing divergence risk.
Q3. Who needs sentiment analytics in finance and why?
Jason S.Cornez: Sentiment analytics can help improve performance of trading strategies,reduce risk, and monitor compliance. Quantitative investors often subscribe to RavenPack Analytics granular data. This provides them with the ability to detect relevant, novel and unexpected events – be they corporate, macroeconomic or geopolitical -so they can enter new positions, or protect existing ones. These events, and the sentiment associated with them, help drive alpha generation as a novel factor in automated trading models.
Traditional Asset Managers, such as those managing hedge funds, mutual funds, pension funds and family offices may subscribe to RavenPack Indicators to help run portfolio optimization. The Indicators provide snapshots of sentiment and information density for an entity or instrument that can be used alongside fundamental or technical indicators to build portfolios with better risk/return profiles.
Brokerage and Market Makers can leverage RavenPack sentiment data to manage risk and generate trade ideas. They rely on RavenPack’s detection of relevant, novel and unexpected events – be they corporate, macroeconomic or geopolitical – to create circuit breakers protecting them from event risk.
Risk and Compliance Managers use RavenPack data to monitor accumulation of adverse sentiment or detect headline risk. The data help risk managers locate accumulations of risk and volatility, or changes in liquidity – either by aggregating sentiment, identifying event-driven regime shifts, or by creating alerts for when sentiment indicators reach extremes. As well, RavenPack event data also aids surveillance analysts to receive fewer false positives from market abuse alerts.
Finally, Professional and Academic researchers use RavenPack data to better understand how news and social media affect markets. They want to inform their clients how to find new sources of value and, hence, research and write about how quantitative investment managers find value in the data. RavenPack’s granular data is a great source of unique data for academics to enhance their published research – be it presenting a new way to use the data or controlling for news and social media in their work.
Q4. What are the main challenges and opportunities for Big Data analytics for financial markets?
Jason S.Cornez: Much of the work so far in Big Data analytics has been confined to structured data. These are sets of labeled and elementized values, such as what you might find in a traditional database table. Tools like Hadoop and Spark have helped to make structured big data analyitcs approachable.
RavenPack has always focused on unstructured data, primarily English-language text. Doing analytics here isn’t just about data mining, it requires more sophisticated processing for each document. Understanding human language remains a difficult problem. The challenges here are not only technical, but there is also a perception from popular culture that computers today perform at the level we see in science fiction. So there is a gap between what is expected and what is possible. One of our goals here is certainly to help make computers a little smarter.
Things start to get really interesting when you produce analytics by marrying structured data with unstructured data. A simple example could be a news story where an analyst expects mortgage rates to hit 4% by summer. It is certainly great if a computer understands that this is a story about interest rate guidance, but so much better if the computer is able to combine this with historical mortgage rates to know that the rates are currently rising, but still far below historical norms. As an industry, I don’t think too much has been done here yet, but that we’ll be seeing more activity here in the coming years.
Financial markets rely on information in order to be efficient. Big Data analytics promises to provide more information, and more types of information, faster than was previously possible. A more efficient market could help to level the playing field, as it were. And even if markets never become truly efficient, the financial industry sees that Big Data analytics can certainly help them. Several of these opportunities were addressed in the answer to the previous question.
Q5. What are your practical experience in building an infrastructure for Big Data Analytics of mostly unstructured text content, in realtime?
Jason S.Cornez: RavenPack has been processing Big Data since before Cloud Computing was a practical reality. We noticed that most competitors in the news analytics space were offering software solutions, whereas RavenPack has always been a service provider. We sell data, not software. As such we invested in our own infrastructure maintained at trusted hosting facilities. This was perhaps not the easiest or cheapest route, but it leads to compelling products that are relatively easy for a customer to adopt.
From the beginning, we’ve built a distributed system where collection, storage, classification, analytics, publication, and monitoring all run on distinct machines connected by a high-speed network. We learned virtualization technologies so that we could leverage our hardware investments more efficiently. We’ve been rigorous about maintaining a separation of concerns and establishing well-defined interfaces between our components. This not only makes our system robust, but it also allows us to choose the best technologies for each task.
In recent years, we’ve migrated to Cloud Computing and our early investments in distributed systems are really paying off. Most of our components work directly in the cloud and also scale without additional engineering work.
Q6. How do you manage to have a very low latency?
Jason S.Cornez: Low latency has always been a requirement of the system. Starting with low-latency, realtime processing in mind led to many of the architectural decisions that I mentioned above – especially about being distributed and being able to leverage big hardware. It’s painful to think about re-engineering an existing system that wasn’t designed with low latency in mind.
A specific observation is that storage, especially magnetic based storage, is far slower than CPU and also far slower than networking. So we have a heavily multi-threaded system where all storage tasks are delegated to background threads and the flow of data in the realtime system never needs to wait on a database.
Speaking of multi-threading, RavenPack performs various types of classification on each document. Many of these are independent and can be performed in parallel. As well, within a single document and single type of classification, many aspects work only on local information, such as a paragraph. This work can also be done in parallel. As more powerful, multi-core machines continue to appear, our system can continue to improve.
Of course, low latency really begins with good algorithms and good tools. We measure the system as a whole on a daily basis and we profile our code for both speed and space on a regular basis. At times, there is a trade-off between a feature and doing it feasibly. We often sacrifice a new feature until we can solve how to implement it without negatively impacting the performance of our system.
Q7. What are the main technological challenges you are currently facing?
Jason S.Cornez: There are many challenges ahead. Some of the obvious ones are about branching out from English into other languages, or from plain text to other media formats.
On the purely technical side, we see that cloud computing and big data are still very young fields. Cloud resources are much more ephemeral than those in a controlled, hosted environment. We must adapt software to work well in the face of disappearing machines and inaccessible resources. One example is startup time of a system. Traditionally, startup is a rare event and our servers run for a long time. But now that changes, and system startup is much more frequent and hence must be made more efficient. We are evolving rapidly in these areas right now.
Perhaps the biggest challenge remains the perception gap that I mentioned earlier. I’m very proud of the system we’ve built, but it remains possible for a human to find an entity or an event in a document that our system misses. I don’t think this problem will ever go away, but I’m confident RavenPack is making great strides here.
Q8. Why and how do you use Allegro Common Lisp?
Jason S.Cornez: RavenPack has been using Franz Allegro Common Lisp since we began. It is the primary language we use for analysis and classification of unstructured text. Common Lisp is an excellent language for both exploratory programming and high performance computing.
Common Lisp is a multi-paradigm language, or even a paradigm-neutral language. So the engineer has the flexibility to map from concept to code in the most natural way possible. Some concepts map naturally to an object-oriented design, others to a functional design, and other to an imperative design. The language naturally supports all of these so you never need to map from your concept into the philosophy of the language. And further, lisp is a programmable programming language, so as new paradigms come along, they can be added to the language by any developer. This is so easy and natural in Common Lisp that you often do it even when there is only a single use case in mind.
Common Lisp also shines for deploying and maintaining production software. Of course, it supports native OS threads, native machine compilation, and high performance garbage collection. But as well, you can attach to, inspect, modify and patch live systems.
Q9. What are the main lessons you learned so far?
Jason S.Cornez: It’s been a long and interesting journey, and nearly everything we know now has been learned along the way. One way I like to think about the main lessons learned is to consider what I believe to be the barriers that might make it difficult for a competitor or potential client to replicate what we’ve done.
A significant selling-point of our product that provides lots of value to our clients is our extensive historical archive of analytics. This of course is derived from our archive of content. The curation of such an archive is much harder than most people imagine. There is the minor issue of implementing the spec that the provider supplies. But the fun begins as you realize that the archive is incomplete and in multiple incompatible formats, some of them not documented at all. There are multiple timestamps, many with no timezone. The realtime feed looks different from the historical archive. The list goes on.
None of this is meant as a complaint about our content partners – this is the nature of things. And even having learned this lesson, there isn’t much we could have done differently. Of course, we now have a checklist of questions we give to any new content provider – and they often improve their offering as a result of working with us. But if we hear that incorporating someone’s content will be easy, we now know to take this with a grain of salt.
Qx Anything else you wish to add?
Jason S.Cornez: Thanks for this opportunity. I hope it has been helpful.
Jason S.Cornez, Chief Technology Officer, RavenPack.
Jason joined RavenPack in 2003 and is responsible for the design and implementation of the RavenPack software platform. He is a hands-on technology leader, with a consistent record of delivering break-through products. A Silicon Valley start-up veteran with 20 years of professional experience, Jason combines technical know-how with an understanding of business needs to turn vision into reality. Jason holds a Master’s Degree in Computer Science, along with undergraduate degrees in Mathematics and EECS, from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
– Common Lisp Educational Resources: list of books, Lisp-oriented web sites and tutorials.
– Basic Lisp Techniques: The PDF file provides an introduction to the Common Lisp language.
– Mean Reversion II: Pairs Trading Strategies (LINK to .PDF) – Registration required-, Deutsche Bank, Feb. 16, 2016. In this paper, Deutsche Bank shows how to use RavenPack News Analytics as an overlay to a pairs trading strategy.
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“When the Institute began to look for a new platform, it became apparent that a relational database was not the best solution to effectively manage and deliver our XML content.”–Martin Lambe.
The Irish Tax Institute is the leading representative and educational body for Ireland’s AITI Chartered Tax Advisers (CTA) and is the only professional body exclusively dedicated to tax. One of their service is TaxFind – Ireland’s Leading Online Tax Research Database, offering Search to 200,000 pages of tax content, over 8,000 pages of Irish tax legislation, Irish Tax Institute tax technical papers, over 25 leading tax commentary publications, and 1000s of Irish Tax Review articles.
I did a joint interview with Martin Lambe, CEO of the Irish Tax Institute and Sam Herbert, Client Services Director at 67 Bricks.
Main topics of the interview are the data challenges they currently face, and the implementation of TaxFind using MarkLogic.
Q1. What are the main data challenges you currently have at the Irish Tax Institute?
Martin Lambe: The Irish Tax Institute moved its publication workflow to an XML-based process in 2009 and we have a large archive of valuable tax information contained in quite complex XML format. The main challenge was to find a solution that could store the repository of data (XML and other formats) and provide a simple search interface that directs users very quickly to the most relevant result. The “findability” of relevant content is crucial.
Q2. What is the TaxFind research database?
Martin Lambe: The Irish Tax Institute is the main provider of tax information in Ireland and TaxFind is the Institute’s online tax research database. TaxFind offers subscribers access to Irish tax legislation and guidance that includes tax technical papers from seminars and conferences, as well as over 30 tax commentary publications. It is used by thousands of CTAs in Ireland on a daily basis to assist in their tax research.
Q3. Who are the members that benefit from this TaxFind research database?
Martin Lambe: TaxFind serves the Chartered Tax Adviser (CTA) community in Ireland and other tax professionals such as those in the global accounting firms.
Q4. Why did you discard your previous implementation with a relational database system?
Martin Lambe: The previous database was literally creaking at the seams. Users were increasingly frustrated with difficulties accessing the database on different browsers and the old platform did not support mobile devices or tablets. When the Institute began to look for a new platform, it became apparent that a relational database was not the best solution to effectively manage and deliver our XML content. XML content stored in a NoSQL document database is indexed specifically for the search engine and this means the performance of our search engine and the relevancy of results is dramatically improved.
Q5. Why did you select MarkLogic`s NoSQL database platform?
Sam Herbert: MarkLogic is scalable to support fast querying across large amounts of data, it deals with XML content very well (and most of the tax data is either in XML, or in HTML that can be treated as XHTML), and has good searching. It is also a good environment to develop in – it has excellent documentation, and good tooling. It helps that it uses XQuery as one of its query languages, rather than a proprietary database-specific language.
Q6. Is SQL still important for you?
Sam Herbert: I don’t think it’s true to say that any particular type of technology is “important” to ITI – it’s all about how it can benefit users. From a 67 Bricks perspective, we work with relational databases, NoSQL databases, and graph databases depending on what shape the data is and what the needs are around querying it.
Q7 Why not choose an open source solution?
Sam Herbert: We’re using Open Source components in other parts of the system, and we’re keen on using Open Source where possible. However, for the data store, there aren’t any Open Source alternatives that have the combination of good scalability, good support for XML content, a standard query language, and powerful searching that we were looking for.
Q8. Can you tell us a bit about the architecture of the new implementation of the TaxFind research database
Sam Herbert: There are three major components:
The Play component is what users interact with – both for human users coming to the web site, and automated use of the web services. The bulk of the data retrieval and manipulation is done via a set of XQuery functions defined within the MarkLogic store. When new data is uploaded, it is processed within the Play code, enriched using Semaphore SmartLogic, and then stored in MarkLogic.
Q9. How do you manage to integrate Irish Tax Institute`s tax data, bringing together in excess of 300,000 pages of tax content including archive material in Word, PDF, XML and HTML?
Sam Herbert: The most complex part of the data is the XML content. These are very large XML files representing legislation, books, and other tax materials, that are inter-related in complex ways, and with a lot of deeply nested hierarchy. An important part of managing the data was splitting these into appropriately sized fragments, and then identifying the linking between different files – for example a piece of legislation will refer to other legislation, and commentary will refer to that legislation, and a new piece of legislation may supersede an earlier piece.
The non-XML content is larger in volume, but each individual document is smaller and is structurally simpler. Managing this content was largely a matter of loading it in and letting it be indexed.
Q10. How do you capture and digitize information in various formats and make it searchable?
Sam Herbert: Making it searchable is straightforward – it’s making it searchable in ways that support the expectations of the users that’s much more difficult.
A good search experience requires both subject matter expertise and good automated tests.
The basic search is using MarkLogic’s full text search. The next step was to work with tax experts within and outside the ITI to identify appropriate facets within the content with which to group the results – based on a combination of what the user requirements were and what was supported by the data.
There were additional complexities around weighting the search results to make the “best” results come at the top in as many circumstances as possible – for example, weighting terms within headings, weighting more recent content, weighting content based on its category so legislation is more important than commentary, and weighting content higher based on its popularity. The semantic enrichment based on tax terms from the ITI taxonomy also enhances the searching.
Q11. How do you ensure that this solution is scalable?
Sam Herbert: The solution is deployed to a load-balanced cluster using Amazon Web Services. The Play frontend is purely stateless REST. This means that we can scale to support more users easily by spinning up more servers – and using AWS makes this easy. Overall, using AWS has been a big win for us, in terms of being able to get servers running easily, being able to increase and decrease things like their memory size easily, and the various ancillary services it provides like DNS and load balancing. By making sure we can scale to support additional data, we can use MarkLogic effectively.
Martin Lambe is Chief Executive of the Irish Tax Institute. His previous role within the Institute was that of Director of Finance.
Sam Herbert is Client Services Director at 67 Bricks, a company that works with information owners (particularly publishers) who want to enrich their content to make it more structured, granular, flexible and reusable.
67 Bricks utilises its deep understanding of the content enrichment challenge to help publishers develop systems and capabilities to increase the value of their content. With expertise in XML, business analysis, semantic tagging and software development, 67 Bricks works closely with its clients to develop and implement content enrichment capabilities and enriched content digital products.
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“One of the most typical mistakes in large-scale data projects is losing sight of the biases that may skew the insights you extract.”– James Kobielus
On the topics of Big Data, and Data Science, I have interviewed James Kobielus, IBM Big Data Evangelist.
Q1. What kind of companies generate Big Data, besides the Internet giants?
James Kobielus: Big data isn’t something you “generate.” Rather, the term refers to the ability to achieve differentiated value from advanced analytics on trustworthy data at any scale. In other words, it’s a best practice, not a specific type of data or even a specific scale of data (measured in volume, velocity, and/or variety).
When considered in this light, you can identify big data analytic applications in every industry. Every C-level executive has strategic applications of big data. Here are just a smattering:
- Chief Marketing Officers have been the prime movers on many big data initiatives that involve Hadoop, NoSQL, and other approaches. Their primary applications consist of marketing campaign optimization, customer churn and loyalty, upsell and cross-sell analysis, targeted offers, behavioral targeting, social media monitoring, sentiment analysis, brand monitoring, influencer analysis, customer experience optimization, content optimization, and placement optimization
- Chief Information Officers use big data platforms for data discovery, data integration, business analytics, advanced analytics, exploratory data science.
- Chief Operations Officers rely on big data for supply chain optimization, defect tracking, sensor monitoring, and smart grid, among other applications.
- Chief Information Security Officer run security incident and event management, anti-fraud detection, and other sensitive applications on big data.
- Chief Technology Officers do IT log analysis, event analytics, network analytics, and other systems monitoring, troubleshooting, and optimization applications on big data.
- Chief Financial Officers run complex financial risk analysis and mitigation modeling exercises on big data platforms.
Q2. What are the most challenging problems you are facing when analysing Big Data?
James Kobielus: Searching for actionable intelligence in big data involves building and testing advanced-analytics models against large volumes of complex data that may be flowing in at high velocities.
At these scales, it’s easy to get overwhelmed in your analysis unless you automate the end-to-end processes of extracting intelligence at scale. Automation can also help control the cost of managing a growing volume of algorithmic models against ever expanding big-data collections. The key processes that need automating are data discovery, profiling, sampling, and preparation, as well as model building, scoring, and deployment.
Q3. How do you typically handle them?
James Kobielus: Automating the modeling process will boost data scientist productivity by an order of magnitude, freeing them from drudgery so that they can focus on the sorts of exploration, modeling, and visualization challenges that demand expert human judgment. Data scientists can accelerate their modeling automation initiatives by following these steps:
- Virtualize access to data, metadata, rules, and predictive models, as well as to data integration, data warehousing, and advanced analytic applications through a BI semantic virtualization layer;
- Unify access, governance, orchestration, automation, and administration across these resources within a service-oriented architecture;
- Explore commercial tools that support maximum automation of model development, scoring, deployment, and execution;
- Consolidate, accelerate, and deepen predictive analytics through integration into big-data platforms with scalable in-database execution; and
- Migrate existing analytical data marts into multidomain big-data platforms with unified data, metadata, and model governance within service-oriented virtualization framework.
Q4. What are in your experience the typical mistakes made in large scale data projects?
James Kobielus: One of the most typical mistakes in large-scale data projects is losing sight of the biases that may skew the insights you extract.
Even if you accept that a data scientist’s integrity is rock-solid, intentions pure, skills stellar, and discipline rigorous, there’s no denying that bias may creep inadvertently into their work with big data. The biases may be minor or major, episodic or systematic, tangential or material to their findings and recommendations. Whatever their nature, the biases must be understood and corrected as fully as possible.
Here are some of the key sources of bias that may crop up in a data scientist’s work with big data:
- Cognitive bias: This is the tendency to make skewed decisions based on pre-existing cognitive and heuristic factors–such as a misunderstanding of probabilities–rather than on the data and other hard evidence. You might say that the educated intuition that drives data science is rife with cognitive bias, but that’s not always a bad thing.
- Selection bias: This is the tendency to skew your choice of data sources to those that may be most available, convenient, and cost-effective for your purposes, as opposed to being necessarily the most valid and relevant for your study. Clearly, data scientists do not have unlimited budgets, may operate under tight deadlines, and don’t use data for which they lack authorization. These constraints may introduce an unconscious bias in the big-data collections they are able to assemble.
- Sampling bias: This is the tendency to skew the sampling of data sets toward subgroups of the population most relevant to the initial scope of a data-science project, thereby making it unlikely that you will uncover any meaningful correlations that may apply to other segments. Another source of sampling bias is “data dredging,” in which the data scientist uses regression techniques that may find correlations in samples but that may not be statistically significant in the wider population. Consequently, you’re likely to spuriously confirm your initial model for the segments that happen to make the sampling cut.
- Modeling bias: Beyond the biases just discussed, this is the tendency to skew data-science models by starting with a biased set of project assumptions that drive selection of the wrong variables, the wrong data, the wrong algorithms, and the wrong metrics of fitness. In addition, overfitting of models to past data without regard for predictive lift is a common bias. Likewise, failure to score and iterate models in a timely fashion with fresh observational data also introduces model decay, hence bias.
- Funding bias: This may be the most silent but pernicious bias in data-scientific studies of all sorts. It’s the unconscious tendency to skew all modeling assumptions, interpretations, data, and applications to favor the interests of the party–employer, customer, sponsor, etc.–that employs or otherwise financially supports the data-science initiative. Funding bias makes it highly unlikely that data scientists will uncover disruptive insights that will “break the rice bowl” in which they make their living.
Q5. How do you measure “success” when analysing data?
James Kobielus: You measure success in your ability to distill useful insights in a timely fashion from the data at your disposal.
Q6. What skills are required to be an effective Data Scientist?
James Kobielus: Data science’s learning curve is formidable. To a great degree, you will need a degree, or something substantially like it, to prove you’re committed to this career. You will need to submit yourself to a structured curriculum to certify you’ve spent the time, money and midnight oil necessary for mastering this demanding discipline.
Sure, there are run-of-the-mill degrees in data-science-related fields, and then there are uppercase, boldface, bragging-rights “DEGREES.” To some extent, it matters whether you get that old data-science sheepskin from a traditional university vs. an online school vs. a vendor-sponsored learning program. And it matters whether you only logged a year in the classroom vs. sacrificed a considerable portion of your life reaching for the golden ring of a Ph.D. And it certainly matters whether you simply skimmed the surface of old-school data science vs. pursued a deep specialization in a leading-edge advanced analytic discipline.
But what matters most to modern business isn’t that every data scientist has a big honking doctorate. What matters most is that a substantial body of personnel has a common grounding in core curriculum of skills, tools and approaches. Ideally, you want to build a team where diverse specialists with a shared foundation can collaborate productively.
Big data initiatives thrive if all data scientists have been trained and certified on a curriculum with the following foundation:
- Paradigms and practices: Every data scientist should acquire a grounding in core concepts of data science, analytics and data management. They should gain a common understanding of the data science lifecycle, as well as the typical roles and responsibilities of data scientists in every phase. They should be instructed on the various role(s) of data scientists and how they work in teams and in conjunction with business domain experts and stakeholders. And they learn a standard approach for establishing, managing and operationalizing data science projects in the business.
- Algorithms and modeling: Every data scientist should obtain a core understanding of linear algebra, basic statistics, linear and logistic regression, data mining, predictive modeling, cluster analysis, association rules, market basket analysis, decision trees, time-series analysis, forecasting, machine learning, Bayesian and Monte Carlo Statistics, matrix operations, sampling, text analytics, summarization, classification, primary components analysis, experimental design, unsupervised learning constrained optimization.
- Tools and platforms: Every data scientist should master a core group of modeling, development and visualization tools used on your data science projects, as well as the platforms used for storage, execution, integration and governance of big data in your organization. Depending on your environment, and the extent to which data scientists work with both structured and unstructured data, this may involve some combination of data warehousing, Hadoop, stream computing, NoSQL and other platforms. It will probably also entail providing instruction in MapReduce, R and other new open-source development languages, in addition to SPSS, SAS and any other established tools.
- Applications and outcomes: Every data scientist should learn the chief business applications of data science in your organization, as well as in how to work best with subject-domain experts. In many companies, data science focuses on marketing, customer service, next best offer, and other customer-centric applications. Often, these applications require that data scientists understand how to leverage customer data acquired from structured survey tools, sentiment analysis software, social media monitoring tools and other sources. It also essential that every data scientist gain an understanding of the key business outcomes–such as maximizing customer lifetime value–that should focus their modeling initiatives.
Classroom instruction is important, but a curriculum that is 100 percent devoted to reading books, taking tests and sitting through lectures is insufficient. Hands-on laboratory work is paramount for a truly well-rounded data scientist. Make sure that your data scientists acquire certifications and degrees that reflect them actually developing statistical models that use real data and address substantive business issues.
A business-oriented data-science curriculum should produce expert developers of statistical and predictive models. It should not degenerate into a program that produces analytics geeks with heads stuffed with theory but whose diplomas are only fit for hanging on the wall.
Q7. Hadoop vs. Spark: what are the pros and cons?
Even as Apache Spark pushes more deeply into big-data environments, it won’t substantially change this trend. Yes, of course Spark is on the fast track to ubiquity in big-data analytics. This is especially true for the next generation of machine-learning applications that feed on growing in-memory pools and require low-latency distributed computations for streaming and graph analytics. But those use cases aren’t the sum total of big-data analytics and never will be.
As we all grow more infatuated with Spark, it’s important to continually remind ourselves of what it’s not suitable for. If, for example, one considers all the critical data management, integration, and preparation tasks that must be performed prior to modeling in Spark, it’s clear that these will not be executed in any of the Spark engines (Spark SQL, Spark Streaming, GraphX). Instead, they’ll be carried out in the data platforms and elastic clusters (HDFS, Cassandra, HBase, Mesos, cloud services, etc.) upon which those engines run. Likewise, you’d be hardpressed to find anyone who’s seriously considering Spark in isolation for data warehousing, data governance, master data management, or operational business intelligence.
Above all else, Spark is the new power tool for data scientists who are pushing boundaries in the emerging era of in-memory big data analytics in low-latency scenarios of all types. Spark is proving its value as a development tool for the new generation of data scientists building the in-memory statistical models upon which it all will depend.
Let’s not fall into the delusion that everything is converging toward Spark, as if it were the ravenous maw that will devour every other big-data analytics tool and platform. Spark is just another approach that’s being fitted to and optimized for specific purposes.
And let’s resist the hype that treats Spark as Hadoop’s “successor.” This implies that Hadoop and other big-data approaches are “legacy,” rather than what they are, which is foundational. For example, no one is seriously considering doing “data lakes,” “data reservoirs,” or “data refineries” on anything but Hadoop or NoSQL.
James Kobielus is an industry veteran and serves as IBM Big Data Evangelist; Senior Program Director for Product Marketing in Big Data Analytics; and Team Lead, Technical Marketing, IBM Big Data & Analytics Hub. He spearheads thought leadership activities across the IBM Analytics solution portfolio. He has spoken at such leading industry events as IBM Insight, Hadoop Summit, and Strata. He has published several business technology books and is a very popular provider of original commentary on blogs and many social media.
–The European Data Science Academy (EDSA) designs curricula for data science training and data science education across the European Union (EU).
-The EDISON project will focus on activities to establish the new profession of ‘Data Scientist’, following the emergence of Data Science technologies (also referred to as Data Intensive or Big Data technologies) which changes the way research is done, how scientists think and how the research data are used and shared. This includes definition of the required skills, competences framework/profile, corresponding Body Of Knowledge and model curriculum. It will develop a sustainability/business model to ensure a sustainable increase of Data Scientists, graduated from universities and trained by other professional education and training institutions in Europe.
EDISON will facilitate the establishment of a Data Science education and training infrastructure at major European universities by promoting experience of ‘champion’ universities involving them into coordinated development and implementation of the model curriculum and creation of cooperative educational and training infrastructure.
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” A revolution will happen when tools like Siri can truly serve as your personal assistant and you start relying on such an assistant throughout your day. To get there, these systems need more knowledge about your life and preferences, more knowledge about the world, better conversational interfaces and at least basic commonsense reasoning capabilities. We’re still quite far from achieving these goals.”–Alon Halevy
I have interviewed Alon Halevy, CEO at Recruit Institute of Technology.
Q1. What is the mission of the Recruit Institute of Technology?
Alon Halevy: Before I describe the mission, I should introduce our parent company Recruit Holdings to those who may not be familiar with it. Recruit (founded in 1960), is a leading “life-style” information services and human resources company in Japan with services in the areas of recruitment, advertising, employment placement, staffing, education, housing and real estate, bridal, travel, dining, beauty, automobiles and others. The company is currently expanding worldwide and operates similar businesses in the U.S., Europe and Asia. In terms of size, Recruit has over 30,000 employees and its revenues are similar to those of Facebook at this point in time.
The mission of R.I.T is threefold. First, being the lab of Recruit Holdings, our goal is to develop technologies that improve the products and services of our subsidiary companies and create value for our customers from the vast collections of data we have. Second, our mission is to advance scientific knowledge by contributing to the research community through publications in top-notch venues. Third, we strive to use technology for social good. This latter goal may be achieved through contributing to open-source software, working on digital artifacts that would be of general use to society, or even working with experts in a particular domain to contribute to a cause.
Q2. Isn`t similar to the mission of the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence?
Alon Halevy: The Allen Institute is a non-profit whose admirable goal is to make fundamental contributions to Artificial Intelligence. While R.I.T strives to make fundamental contributions to A.I and related areas such as data management, we plan to work closely with our subsidiary companies and to impact the world through their products.
Q3. Driverless cars, digital Personal Assistants (e.g. Siri), Big Data, the Internet of Things, Robots: Are we on the brink of the next stage of the computer revolution?
Alon Halevy: I think we are seeing many applications in which AI and data (big or small) are starting to make a real difference and affecting people’s lives. We will see much more of it in the next few years as we refine our techniques. A revolution will happen when tools like Siri can truly serve as your personal assistant and you start relying on such an assistant throughout your day. To get there, these systems need more knowledge about your life and preferences, more knowledge about the world, better conversational interfaces and at least basic commonsense reasoning capabilities. We’re still quite far from achieving these goals.
Q4. You were for more than 10 years senior staff research scientist at Google, leading the Structured Data Group in Google Research. Was it difficult to leave Google?
Alon Halevy: It was extremely difficult leaving Google! I struggled with the decision for quite a while, and waving goodbye to my amazing team on my last day was emotionally heart wrenching. Google is an amazing company and I learned so much from my colleagues there. Fortunately, I’m very excited about my new colleagues and the entrepreneurial spirit of Recruit.
One of my goals at R.I.T is to build a lab with the same culture as that of Google and Google Research. So in a sense, I’m hoping to take Google with me. Some of my experiences from a decade at Google that are relevant to building a successful research lab are described in a blog post I contributed to the SIGMOD blog in September, 2015.
Q5. What is your vision for the next three years for the Recruit Institute of Technology?
Alon Halevy: I want to build a vibrant lab with world-class researchers and engineers. I would like the lab to become a world leader in the broad area of making data usable, which includes data discovery, cleaning, integration, visualization and analysis.
In addition, I would like the lab to build collaborations with disciplines outside of Computer Science where computing techniques can make an even broader impact on society.
Q6. What are the most important research topics you intend to work on?
Alon Halevy: One of the roadblocks to applying AI and analysis techniques more widely within enterprises is data preparation.
Before you can analyze data or apply AI techniques to it, you need to be able to discover which datasets exist in the enterprise, understand the semantics of a dataset and its underlying assumptions, and to combine disparate datasets as needed. We plan to work on the full spectrum of these challenges with the goal of enabling many more people in the enterprise to explore their data.
Recruit being a lifestyle company, another fundamental question we plan to investigate is whether technology can help people make better life decisions. In particular, can technology help you take into consideration many factors in your life as you make decisions and steer you towards decisions that will make you happier over time. Clearly, we’ll need more than computer scientists to even ask the right questions here.
Q7. If we delegate decisions to machines, who will be responsible for the consequences? What are the ethical responsibilities of designers of intelligent systems?
Qx Anything you wish to add?
Alon Halevy: Yes. We’re hiring! If you’re a researcher or strong engineer who wants to make real impact on products and services in the fascinating area of lifestyle events and decision making, please consider R.I.T!
Alon Halevy is the Executive Director of the Recruit Institute of Technology. From 2005 to 2015 he headed the Structured Data Management Research group at Google. Prior to that, he was a professor of Computer Science at the University of Washington in Seattle, where he founded the Database Group. In 1999, Dr. Halevy co-founded Nimble Technology, one of the first companies in the Enterprise Information Integration space, and in 2004, Dr. Halevy founded Transformic, a company that created search engines for the deep web, and was acquired by Google.
Dr. Halevy is a Fellow of the Association for Computing Machinery, received the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) in 2000, and was a Sloan Fellow (1999-2000). Halevy is the author of the book “The Infinite Emotions of Coffee”, published in 2011, and serves on the board of the Alliance of Coffee Excellence.
He is also a co-author of the book “Principles of Data Integration”, published in 2012.
Dr. Halevy received his Ph.D in Computer Science from Stanford University in 1993 and his Bachelors from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.
– Civility in the Age of Artificial Intelligence, by STEVE LOHR, technology reporter for The New York Times, ODBMS.org
–The threat from AI is real, but everyone has it wrong, by Robert Munro, CEO Idibon, ODBMS.org
– On Artificial Intelligence and Society. Interview with Oren Etzioni, ODBMS Industry Watch.
– On Big Data and Society. Interview with Viktor Mayer-Schönberger, ODBMS Industry Watch.
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“Frankly, manufacturers are terrified to flood their data centers with these unprecedented volumes of sensor and network data.”– Colin Mahony
I have interviewed Colin Mahony, SVP & General Manager, HPE Big Data Platform. Topics of the interview are: The challenges of the Internet of Things, the opportunities for Data Analytics, the positioning of HPE Vertica and HPE Cloud Strategy.
Q1. Gartner says 6.4 billion connected “things” will be in use in 2016, up 30 percent from 2015. How do you see the global Internet of Things (IoT) market developing in the next years?
Colin Mahony: As manufacturers connect more of their “things,” they have an increased need for analytics to derive insight from massive volumes of sensor or machine data. I see these manufacturers, particularly manufacturers of commodity equipment, with a need to provide more value-added services based on their ability to provide higher levels of service and overall customer satisfaction. Data analytics platforms are key to making that happen. Also, we could see entirely new analytical applications emerge, driven by what consumers want to know about their devices and combine that data with, say, their exercise regimens, health vitals, social activities, and even driving behavior, for full personal insight.
Ultimately, the Internet of Things will drive a need for the Analyzer of Things, and that is our mission.
Q2. What Challenges and Opportunities bring the Internet of Things (IoT)?
Colin Mahony: Frankly, manufacturers are terrified to flood their data centers with these unprecedented volumes of sensor and network data. The reason? Traditional data warehouses were designed well before the Internet of Things, or, at least before OT (operational technology) like medical devices, industrial equipment, cars, and more were connected to the Internet. So, having an analytical platform to provide the scale and performance required to handle these volumes is important, but customers are taking more of a two- or three-tier approach that involves some sort of analytical processing at the edge before data is sent to an analytical data store. Apache Kafka is also becoming an important tier in this architecture, serving as a message bus, to collect and push that data from the edge in streams to the appropriate database, CRM system, or analytical platform for, as an example, correlation of fault data over months or even years to predict and prevent part failure and optimize inventory levels.
Q3. Big Data: In your opinion, what are the current main demands/needs in the market?
Colin Mahony: All organizations want – and need – to become data-driven organizations. I mean, who wants to make such critical decisions based on half answers and anecdotal data? That said, traditional companies with data stores and systems going back 30-40 years don’t have the same level playing field as the next market disruptor that just received their series B funding and only knows that analytics is the life blood of their business and all their critical decisions.
The good news is that whether you are a 100-year old insurance company or the next Uber or Facebook, you can become a data-driven organization by taking an open platform approach that uses the best tool for the job and can incorporate emerging technologies like Kafka and Spark without having to bolt on or buy all of that technology from a single vendor and get locked in. Understanding the difference between an open platform with a rich ecosystem and open source software as one very important part of that ecosystem has been a differentiator for our customers.
Beyond technology, we have customers that establish analytical centers of excellence that actually work with the data consumers – often business analysts – that run ad-hoc queries using their preferred data visualization tool to get the insight need for their business unit or department. If the data analysts struggle, then this center of excellence, which happens to report up through IT, collaborates with them to understand and help them get to the analytical insight – rather than simply halting the queries with no guidance on how to improve.
Q4. How do you embed analytics and why is it useful?
Colin Mahony: OEM software vendors, particularly, see the value of embedding analytics in their commercial software products or software as a service (SaaS) offerings. They profit by creating analytic data management features or entirely new applications that put customers on a faster path to better, data-driven decision making. Offering such analytics capabilities enables them to not only keep a larger share of their customer’s budget, but at the same time greatly improve customer satisfaction. To offer such capabilities, many embedded software providers are attempting unorthodox fixes with row-oriented OLTP databases, document stores, and Hadoop variations that were never designed for heavy analytic workloads at the volume, velocity, and variety of today’s enterprise. Alternatively, some companies are attempting to build their own big data management systems. But such custom database solutions can take thousands of hours of research and development, require specialized support and training, and may not be as adaptable to continuous enhancement as a pure-play analytics platform. Both approaches are costly and often outside the core competency of businesses that are looking to bring solutions to market quickly.
Because it’s specifically designed for analytic workloads, HPE Vertica is quite different from other commercial alternatives. Vertica differs from OLTP DBMS and proprietary appliances (which typically embed row-store DBMSs) by grouping data together on disk by column rather than by row (that is, so that the next piece of data read off disk is the next attribute in a column, not the next attribute in a row). This enables Vertica to read only the columns referenced by the query, instead of scanning the whole table as row-oriented databases must do. This speeds up query processing dramatically by reducing disk I/O.
You’ll find Vertica as the core analytical engine behind some popular products, including Lancope, Empirix, Good Data, and others as well as many HPE offerings like HPE Operations Analytics, HPE Application Defender, and HPE App Pulse Mobile, and more.
Q5. How do you make a decision when it is more appropriate to “consume and deploy” Big Data on premise, in the cloud, on demand and on Hadoop?
Colin Mahony: The best part is that you don’t need to choose with HPE. Unlike most emerging data warehouses as a service where your data is trapped in their databases when your priorities or IT policies change, HPE offers the most complete range of deployment and consumption models. If you want to spin up your analytical initiative on the cloud for a proof-of-concept or during the holiday shopping season for e-retailers, you can do that easily with HPE Vertica OnDemand.
If your organization finds that due to security or confidentiality or privacy concerns you need to bring your analytical initiative back in house, then you can use HPE Vertica Enterprise on-premises without losing any customizations or disruption to your business. Have petabyte volumes of largely unstructured data where the value is unknown? Use HPE Vertica for SQL on Hadoop, deployed natively on your Hadoop cluster, regardless of the distribution you have chosen. Each consumption model, available in the cloud, on-premise, on-demand, or using reference architectures for HPE servers, is available to you with that same trusted underlying core.
Q6. What are the new class of infrastructures called “composable”? Are they relevant for Big Data?
Colin Mahony: HPE believes that a new architecture is needed for Big Data – one that is designed to power innovation and value creation for the new breed of applications while running traditional workloads more efficiently.
We call this new architectural approach Composable Infrastructure. HPE has a well-established track record of infrastructure innovation and success. HPE Converged Infrastructure, software-defined management, and hyper-converged systems have consistently proven to reduce costs and increase operational efficiency by eliminating silos and freeing available compute, storage, and networking resources. Building on our converged infrastructure knowledge and experience, we have designed a new architecture that can meet the growing demands for a faster, more open, and continuous infrastructure.
Q7. What is HPE Cloud Strategy?
Colin Mahony: Hybrid cloud adoption is continuing to grow at a rapid rate and a majority of our customers recognize that they simply can’t achieve the full measure of their business goals by consuming only one kind of cloud.
HPE Helion not only offers private cloud deployments and managed private cloud services, but we have created the HPE Helion Network, a global ecosystem of service providers, ISVs, and VARs dedicated to delivering open standards-based hybrid cloud services to enterprise customers. Through our ecosystem, our customers gain access to an expanded set of cloud services and improve their abilities to meet country-specific data regulations.
In addition to the private cloud offerings, we have a strategic and close alliance with Microsoft Azure, which enables many of our offerings, including Haven OnDemand, in the public cloud. We also work closely with Amazon because our strategy is not to limit our customers, but to ensure that they have the choices they need and the services and support they can depend upon.
Q8. What are the advantages of an offering like Vertica in this space?
Colin Mahony: More and more companies are exploring the possibility of moving their data analytics operations to the cloud. We offer HPE Vertica OnDemand, our data warehouse as a service, for organizations that need high-performance enterprise class data analytics for all of their data to make better business decisions now. Built by design to drastically improve query performance over traditional relational database systems, HPE Vertica OnDemand is engineered from the same technology that powers the HPE Vertica Analytics Platform. For organizations that want to select Amazon hardware and still maintain the control over the installation, configuration, and overall maintenance of Vertica for ultimate performance and control, we offer Vertica AMI (Amazon Machine Image). The Vertica AMI is a bring-your-own-license model that is ideal for organizations that want the same experience as on-premise installations, only without procuring and setting up hardware. Regardless of which deployment model to choose, we have you covered for “on demand” or “enterprise cloud” options.
Q9. What is HPE Vertica Community Edition?
Colin Mahony: We have had tens of thousands of downloads of the HPE Vertica Community Edition, a freemium edition of HPE Vertica with all of the core features and functionality that you experience with our core enterprise offering. It’s completely free for up to 1 TB of data storage across three nodes. Companies of all sizes prefer the Community Edition to download, install, set-up, and configure Vertica very quickly on x86 hardware or use our Amazon Machine Image (AMI) for a bring-your-own-license approach to the cloud.
Q10. Can you tell us how Kiva.org, a non-profit organization, uses on-demand cloud analytics to leverage the internet and a worldwide network of microfinance institutions to help fight poverty?
Colin Mahony: HPE is a major supporter of Kiva.org, a non-profit organization with a mission to connect people through lending to alleviate poverty. Kiva.org uses the internet and a worldwide network of microfinance institutions to enable individuals lend as little as $25 to help create opportunity around the world. When the opportunity arose to help support Kiva.org with an analytical platform to further the cause, we jumped at the opportunity. Kiva.org relies on Vertica OnDemand to reduce capital costs, leverage the SaaS delivery model to adapt more quickly to changing business requirements, and work with over a million lenders, hundreds of field partners and volunteers, across the world. To see a recorded Webinar with HPE and Kiva.org, see here.
Qx Anything else you wish to add?
Colin Mahony: We appreciate the opportunity to share the features and benefits of HPE Vertica as well as the bright market outlook for data-driven organizations. However, I always recommend that any organization that is struggling with how to get started with their analytics initiative to speak and meet with peers to learn best practices and avoid potential pitfalls. The best way to do that, in my opinion, is to visit with the more than 1,000 Big Data experts in Boston from August 29 – September 1st at the HPE Big Data Conference. Click here to learn more and join us for 40+ technical deep-dive sessions.
Colin Mahony, SVP & General Manager, HPE Big Data Platform
Colin Mahony leads the Hewlett Packard Enterprise Big Data Platform business group, which is responsible for the industry leading Vertica Advanced Analytics portfolio, the IDOL Enterprise software that provides context and analysis of unstructured data, and Haven OnDemand, a platform for developers to leverage APIs and on demand services for their applications.
In 2011, Colin joined Hewlett Packard as part of the highly successful acquisition of Vertica, and took on the responsibility of VP and General Manager for HP Vertica, where he guided the business to remarkable annual growth and recognized industry leadership. Colin brings a unique combination of technical knowledge, market intelligence, customer relationships, and strategic partnerships to one of the fastest growing and most exciting segments of HP Software.
Prior to Vertica, Colin was a Vice President at Bessemer Venture Partners focused on investments primarily in enterprise software, telecommunications, and digital media. He established a great network and reputation for assisting in the creation and ongoing operations of companies through his knowledge of technology, markets and general management in both small startups and larger companies. Prior to Bessemer, Colin worked at Lazard Technology Partners in a similar investor capacity.
Prior to his venture capital experience, Colin was a Senior Analyst at the Yankee Group serving as an industry analyst and consultant covering databases, BI, middleware, application servers and ERP systems. Colin helped build the ERP and Internet Computing Strategies practice at Yankee in the late nineties.
Colin earned an M.B.A. from Harvard Business School and a bachelor’s degrees in Economics with a minor in Computer Science from Georgetown University. He is an active volunteer with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Massachusetts Bay and the Joey Fund for Cystic Fibrosis.
–What’s in store for Big Data analytics in 2016, Steve Sarsfield, Hewlett Packard Enterprise. ODBMS.org, 3 FEB, 2016
–What’s New in Vertica 7.2?: Apache Kafka Integration!, HPE, last edited February 2, 2016
–Gartner Says 6.4 Billion Connected “Things” Will Be in Use in 2016, Up 30 Percent From 2015, Press release, November 10, 2015
–The Benefits of HP Vertica for SQL on Hadoop, HPE, July 13, 2015
–Uplevel Big Data Analytics with Graph in Vertica – Part 5: Putting graph to work for your business , Walter Maguire, Chief Field Technologist, HP Big Data Group, ODBMS.org, 2 Nov, 2015
–HP Distributed R ,ODBMS.org, 19 FEB, 2015.
–Understanding ROS and WOS: A Hybrid Data Storage Model, HPE, October 7, 2015
–On Big Data Analytics. Interview with Shilpa Lawande, Source: ODBMS Industry Watch, Published on December 10, 2015
–On HP Distributed R. Interview with Walter Maguire and Indrajit Roy, Source: ODBMS Industry Watch, Published on April 9, 2015
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“Leading enterprises have a firm grasp of the technology edge that’s relevant to them. Better data analysis and disambiguation through semantics is central to how they gain competitive advantage today.”–Alan Morrison.
I have interviewed Alan Morrison, senior research fellow at PwC, Center for Technology and Innovation.
Main topic of the interview is how the Big Data market is evolving.
Q1. How do you see the Big Data market evolving?
Alan Morrison: We should note first of all how true Big Data and analytics methods emerged and what has been disruptive. Over the course of a decade, web companies have donated IP and millions of lines of code that serves as the foundation for what’s being built on top. In the process, they’ve built an open source culture that is currently driving most big data-related innovation. As you mentioned to me last year, Roberto, a lot of database innovation was the result of people outside the world of databases changing what they thought needed to be fixed, people who really weren’t versed in the database technologies to begin with.
Enterprises and the database and analytics systems vendors who serve them have to constantly adjust to the innovation that’s being pushed into the open source big data analytics pipeline. Open source machine learning is becoming the icing on top of that layer cake.
Q2. In your opinion what are the challenges of using Big Data technologies in the enterprise?
Alan Morrison: Traditional enterprise developers were thrown for a loop back in the late 2000s when it comes to open source software, and they’re still adjusting. The severity of the problem differs depending on the age of the enterprise. In our 2012 issue of the Forecast on DevOps, we made clear distinctions between three age classes of companies: legacy mainstream enterprises, pre-cloud enterprises and cloud natives. Legacy enterprises could have systems that are 50 years old or more still in place and have simply added to those. Pre-cloud enterprises are fighting with legacy that’s up to 20 years old. Cloud natives don’t have to fight legacy and can start from scratch with current tech.
DevOps (dev + ops) is an evolution of agile development that focuses on closer collaboration between developers and operations personnel. It’s a successor to agile development, a methodology that enables multiple daily updates to operational codebases and feedback-response loop tuning by making small code changes and see how those change user experience and behaviour. The linked article makes a distinction between legacy, pre-cloud and cloud native enterprises in terms of their inherent level of agility:
Most enterprises are in the legacy mainstream group, and the technology adoption challenges they face are the same regardless of the technology. To build feedback-response loops for a data-driven enterprise in a legacy environment is more complicated in older enterprises. But you can create guerilla teams to kickstart the innovation process.
Q3. Is the Hadoop ecosystem now ready for enterprise deployment at large scale?
Alan Morrison: Hadoop is ten years old at this point, and Yahoo, a very large mature enterprise, has been running Hadoop on 10,000 nodes for years now. Back in 2010, we profiled a legacy mainstream media company who was doing logfile analysis from all of its numerous web properties on a Hadoop cluster quite effectively. Hadoop is to the point where people in their dens and garages are putting it on Raspberry Pi systems. Lots of companies are storing data in or staging it from HDFS. HDFS is a given. MapReduce, on the other hand, has given way to Spark.
HDFS preserves files in their original format immutably, and that’s important. That innovation was crucial to data-driven application development a decade ago. But Hadoop isn’t the end state for distributed storage, and NoSQL databases aren’t either. It’s best to keep in mind that alternatives to Hadoop and its ecosystem are emerging.
I find it fascinating what folks like LinkedIn and Metamarkets are doing data architecture wise with the Kappa architecture–essentially a stream processing architecture that also works for batch analytics, a system where operational and analytical data are one and the same. That’s appropriate for fully online, all-digital businesses. You can use HDFS, S3, GlusterFS or some other file system along with a database such as Druid. On the transactional side of things, the nascent IPFS (the Interplanetary File System) anticipates both peer-to-peer and the use of blockchains in environments that are more and more distributed. Here’s a diagram we published last year that describes this evolution to date:
People shouldn’t be focused on Hadoop, but what Hadoop has cleared a path for that comes next.
Q4. What are in your opinion the most innovative Big Data technologies?
Alan Morrison: The rise of immutable data stores (HDFS, Datomic, Couchbase and other comparable databases, as well as blockchains) was significant because it was an acknowledgement that data history and permanence matters, the technology is mature enough and the cost is low enough to eliminate the need to overwrite. These data stores also established that eliminating overwrites also eliminates a cause of contention. We’re moving toward native cloud and eventually the P2P fog (localized, more truly distributed computing) that will extend the footprint of the cloud for the Internet of things.
Unsupervised machine learning has made significant strides in the past year or two, and it has become possible to extract facts from unstructured data, building on the success of entity and relationship extraction. What this advance implies is the ability to put humans in feedback loops with machines, where they let machines discover the data models and facts and then tune or verify those data models and facts.
In other words, large enterprises now have the capability to build their own industry- and organization-specific knowledge graphs and begin to develop cognitive or intelligent apps on top those knowledge graphs, along the lines of what Cirrus Shakeri of Inventurist envisions.
From Cirrus Shakeri, “From Big Data to Intelligent Applications,” post, January 2015
At the core of computable semantic graphs (Shakeri’s term for knowledge graphs or computable knowledge bases) is logically consistent semantic metadata. A machine-assisted process can help with entity and relationship extraction and then also ontology generation.
Computability = machine readability. Semantic metadata–the kind of metadata cognitive computing apps use–can be generated with the help of a well-designed and updated ontology. More and more, these ontologies are uncovered in text rather than hand built, but again, there’s no substitute for humans in the loop. Think of the process of cognitive app development as a continual feedback-response loop process. The use of agents can facilitate the construction of these feedback loops.
Q5. In a recent note Carl Olofson, Research Vice President, Data Management Software Research, IDC, predicted the RIP of “Big Data” as a concept. What is your view on this?
Alan Morrison: I agree the term is nebulous and can be misleading, and we’ve had our fill of it. But that doesn’t mean it won’t continue to be used. Here’s how we defined it back in 2009:
Big Data is not a precise term; rather, it is a characterization of the never-ending accumulation of all kinds of data, most of it unstructured. It describes data sets that are growing exponentially and that are too large, too raw, or too unstructured for analysis using relational database techniques. Whether terabytes or petabytes, the precise amount is less the issue than where the data ends up and how it is used. (See https://www.pwc.com/us/en/technology-forecast/assets/pwc-tech-forecast-issue3-2010.pdf, pg. 6.)
For that issue of the Forecast, we focused on how Hadoop was being piloted in enterprises and the ecosystem that was developing around it. Hadoop was the primary disruptive technology, as well as NoSQL databases. It helps to consider the data challenge of the 2000s and how relational databases and enterprise data warehousing techniques were falling short at that point. Hadoop has reduced the cost of analyzing data by an order of magnitude and allows processing of very large unstructured datasets. NoSQL has made it possible to move away from rigid data models and standard ETL.
“Big Data” can continue to be shorthand for petabytes of unruly, less structured data. But why not talk about the system instead of just the data? I like the term that George Gilbert of Wikibon latched on to last year. I don’t know if he originated it, but he refers to the System of Intelligence. That term gets us beyond the legacy, pre-web “business intelligence” term, more into actionable knowledge outputs that go beyond traditional reporting and into the realm of big data, machine learning and more distributed systems. The Hadoop ecosystem, other distributed file systems, NoSQL databases and the new analytics capabilities that rely on them are really at the heart of a System of Intelligence.
Q6. How many enterprise IT systems do you think we will need to interoperate in the future?
Alan Morrison: I like Geoffrey Moore‘s observations about a System of Engagement that emerged after the System of Record, and just last year George Gilbert was adding to that taxonomy with a System of Intelligence. But you could add further to that with a System of Collection that we still need to build. Just to be consistent, the System of Collection articulates how the Internet of Things at scale would function on the input side. The System of Engagement would allow distribution of the outputs. For the outputs of the System of Collection to be useful, that system will need to interoperate in various ways with the other systems.
To summarize, there will actually be four enterprise IT systems that will need to interoperate, ultimately. Three of these exist, and one still needs to be created.
- System of Collection: The Internet of Things ( (The Fog–yet to be created)–see Maher Abdelshkour, IoT, from Cloud to Fog Computing
- System of Intelligence: big data, analytics, machine learning (The Cloud) –see George Gilbert on Systems of Intelligence: The Next Generation of Enterprise Applications built on Big Data
- System of Engagement: social, mobile (The Cloud) See Geoffrey Moore,Systems of Engagement and the Future of Enterprise IT: A Sea Change in Enterprise IT
- System of Record: ERP, CRM, SCM…. (The Core) Also described in Moore’s article above
The fuller picture will only emerge when this interoperation becomes possible.
Q7. What are the requirements, heritage and legacy of such systems?
Alan Morrison: The System of Record (RDBMSes) still relies on databases and tech with their roots in the pre-web era. I’m not saying these systems haven’t been substantially evolved and refined, but they do still reflect a centralized, pre-web mentality. Bitcoin and Blockchain make it clear that the future of Systems of Record won’t always be centralized. In fact, microtransaction flows in the Internet of Things at scale will depend on the decentralized approaches, algorithmic transaction validation, and immutable audit trail creation which blockchain inspires.
The Web is only an interim step in the distributed system evolution. P2P systems will eventually complemnt the web, but they’ll take a long time to kick in fully–well into the next decade. There’s always the S-curve of adoption that starts flat for years. P2P has ten years of an installed base of cloud tech, twenty years of web tech and fifty years plus of centralized computing to fight with. The bitcoin blockchain seems to have kicked P2P in gear finally, but progress will be slow through 2020.
The System of Engagement (requiring Web DBs) primarily relies on Web technnology (MySQL and NoSQL) in conjunction with traditional CRM and other customer-related structured databases.
The System of Intelligence (requiring Web file systems and less structured DBs) primarily relies on NoSQL, Hadoop, the Hadoop ecosystem and its successors, but is built around a core DW/DM RDBMS analytics environment with ETLed structured data from the System of Record and System of Engagement. The System of Intelligence will have to scale and evolve to accommodate input from the System of Collection.
The System of Collection (requiring distributed file systems and DBs) will rely on distributed file system successors to Hadoop and HTTP such as IPFS and the more distributed successors to MySQL+ NoSQL. Over the very long term, a peer-to-peer architecture will emerge that will become necessary to extend the footprint of the internet of things and allow it to scale.
Q8. Do you already have the piece parts to begin to build out a 2020+ intersystem vision now?
Alan Morrison: Contextual, ubiquitous computing is the vision of the 2020s, but to get to that, we need an intersystem approach. Without interoperation of the four systems I’ve alluded to, enterprises won’t be able to deliver the context required for competitive advantage. Without sufficient entity and relationship disambiguation via machine learning in machine/human feedback loops, enterprises won’t be able to deliver the relevance for competitive advantage.
We do have the piece parts to begin to build out an intersystem vision now. For example, interoperation is a primary stumbling block that can be overcome now. Middleware has been overly complex and inadequate to the current-day task, but middleware platforms such as EnterpriseWeb are emerging that can reach out as an integration fabric for all systems, up and down the stack. Here’s how the integration fabric becomes an essential enabler for the intersystem approach:
A lot of what EnterpriseWeb (full disclosure: a JBR partner of PwC) does hinges on the creation and use of agents and semantic metadata that enable the data/logic virtualization. That’s what makes the desiloing possible. One of the things about the EnterpriseWeb platform is that it’s a full stack virtual integration and application platform, using methods that have data layer granularity, but process layer impact. Enterprise architects can tune their models and update operational processes at the same time. The result: every change is model-driven and near real-time. Stacks can all be simplified down to uniform, virtualized composable entities using enabling technologies that work at the data layer. Here’s how they work:
So basically you can do process refinement across these systems, and intersystem analytics views thus also become possible.
Qx anything else you wish to add?
Alan Morrison: We always quote science fiction writer William Gibson, who said,
“The future is already here — it’s just not very evenly distributed.”
Enterprises would do best to remind themselves what’s possible now and start working with it. You’ve got to grab onto that technology edge and let it pull you forward. If you don’t understand what’s possible, most relevant to your future business success and how to use it, you’ll never make progress and you’ll always be reacting to crises. Leading enterprises have a firm grasp of the technology edge that’s relevant to them. Better data analysis and disambiguation through semantics is central to how they gain competitive advantage today.
We do a ton of research to get to the big picture and find the real edge, where tech could actually have a major business impact. And we try to think about what the business impact will be, rather than just thinking about the tech. Most folks who are down in the trenches are dismissive of the big picture, but the fact is they aren’t seeing enough of the horizon to make an informed judgement. They are trying to use tools they’re familiar with to address problems the tools weren’t designed for. Alongside them should be some informed contrarians and innovators to provide balance and get to a happy medium.
That’s how you counter groupthink in an enterprise. Executives need to clear a path for innovation and foster a healthy, forward-looking, positive and tolerant mentality. If the workforce is cynical, that’s an indication that they lack a sense of purpose or are facing systemic or organizational problems they can’t overcome on their own.
Alan Morrison (@AlanMorrison) is a senior research fellow at PwC, a longtime technology trends analyst and an issue editor of the firm’s Technology Forecast
Data-driven payments. How financial institutions can win in a networked economy, BY, Mark Flamme, Partner; Kevin Grieve, Partner; Mike Horvath, Principal Strategy&. FEBRUARY 4, 2016, ODBMS.org
The rise of immutable data stores, By Alan Morrison, Senior Manager, PwC Center for technology and innovation (CTI), OCTOBER 9, 2015, ODBMS.org
The enterprise data lake: Better integration and deeper analytics, By Brian Stein and Alan Morrison, PwC, AUGUST 20, 2014 ODBMS.org
On the Industrial Internet of Things. Interview with Leon Guzenda , ODBMS Industry Watch, January 28, 2016
On Big Data and Society. Interview with Viktor Mayer-Schönberger , ODBMS Industry Watch, January 8, 2016
On Big Data Analytics. Interview with Shilpa Lawande , ODBMS Industry Watch, December 10, 2015
On Dark Data. Interview with Gideon Goldin , ODBMS Industry Watch, November 16, 2015
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