Big Data Exchanges: Of Shopping Malls and the Law of Gravity

Working for a Storage Systems company, we are constantly looking at both the technical as well as social/marketplace challenges to our business strategy. Leading to the coining of “Cloud Meets Big Data” from EMC last year, EMC has been looking at the trends that “should” tip the balances around real “Cloud Information Management” as opposed to “data management” which is really what dominates todays practice.

There are a couple of truisms [incomplete list]:

  1. Big Data is Hard to Move = get optimal [geo] location right the first time
  2.  Corollary = Move the Function, across Federated Data
  3. Data Analytics are Context Sensitive = meta-data helps to align/select contexts for relevancy
  4. Many Facts are Relative to context = Declare contexts of derived insight (provenance amp; Scientific Method)
  5. Data is Multi-Latency & needs Deterministic support for temporality= key declarative information architectural requirement
  6. Completeness of Information for Purpose (e.g. making decision) = dependent on stuff I have, and stuff I get from others, but everything that I need to decide.

I believe that 1) and 6) above point to an emerging need for Big Data Communities to arise supporting the requirements of the others. Whether we talk about these as communities of interest, or Big Data Clouds. There are some very interesting analogies that I see in the way we humans act; namely, the Shopping Mall. Common wisdom points to the mall as providing an improved shopping efficiency, but also in the case of inward malls, a controlled environment (think walled garden). I think that both efficiency in the form of “one stop”, and control are critical enablers in the information landscape.

Big Data Mall slideThis slide from one of my presentations supports the similarities of building a shopping mall alongside the development of a big data community. Things like understanding the demographics of the community (information needs, key values), the planning of roads to get in/out. And of course how to create critical mass = the anchor store.

The interesting thing about critical mass is that it tends to have a centricity around a key [Gravitational] Force. Remember:

Force = Mass * Acceleration (change in velocity).

This means that in order to create communities and maximize force you need Mass [size/scope/scale of information] and improving Velocity [timelyness of information]. In terms of mass, truism #1 above, and the shear cost / bandwidth availability make moving 100TB of data hard, and petabytes impracticable. Similarly, velocity change does matter, whether algorithmically trading on the street (you have to be in Ft Lee, NJ or Canary Warf, London) or a physician treating a patient, the timeliness of access to emergent information is critical. So correct or not, gravitational forces do act to geo-locate information.

Not trying to take my physics analogy too far, but Energy is also interesting. This could be looked at as “activity” in a community. For energy there is an interesting both kinetic and potential models. In the case of the internet, the relative connectedness of information required for a decision could be viewed in light of “potential”. Remember:

Ep (potential energy) = Mass x force of Gravity x Height (mhg)

In our case Height could be looked at as the bandwidth between N information participant sites, Mass as the amount of total information needed to process, and Gravity as a decentralization of information = the Outer Joins required for optimal processing. If I need to do a ton of outer joins across the Internet in order to get an answer, then I need to spend a lot of energy.

So if malls were designed for optimal [human] energy efficiency, then big data malls could do exactly the same for data.

Big Data Universe: “Too Big to Know”

I was surfing to WGBH on Saturday when I came across a lecture by with David Weinberger (surrounding his new book Too Big to Know).201202200850.jpg

I was sucked in when he eluded to brick and mortar libraries as yesterdays public commons, and pointed to discontinuous and disconnected nature of books / paper. The epitaph may read something like this “book killed by hyperlink, the facts of the matter are whatever you make them.”

Overall David, in his look at the science of knowledge, points at many interesting transitions that the cloud is bringing:

  • Books/Paper are discontinuous and disconnected – giving way to the Internet which is constantly connected and massively hyper/inter-linked
  • “the Facts are NOT the Facts” which is to point out that arguments are what we make of the information presented, and our analytics given a particular context. What we claim as a fact, may in reality proved to be a fallacy -gt; just look at Louis Pasteur and germ theory. History has so many moments like this.
  • Differences and Disagreements are themselves valuable knowledge. For me this is certainly true, learning typically comes through challenge of preconception.
  • There is an ecology of knowledge – There are a set of interconnected entities that existing within an environment. These actors represent a complex set of interrelationships, a set of positive and negative reinforcements, that act as governors on this system. These promoters/detractors act to balance fact/fallacy so as to create the system tension that supports insight (knowledge?). It’s these new insights that themselves create the next arguments – the end goal being?

I wanted to share this book because I believe that it re-enforces the need for businesses to think about their cloud – big data strategies. The question becomes less of “do I move my information to the cloud?” and more of “how do I benefit from the linkage that the Internet can provide to my information?” so as to provide new insights from big data.

Read the book, take the challenge!