A Survey of Big Data Definitions

big-data_NEWSAs the big data industry continues to steamroll ahead, one conundrum persists – exactly how do you define it? A new report from the MIT Technology Review addresses this issue by examining definitions from IT’s largest players: Gartner, Oracle, Intel and Microsoft. The report offers this observation:

And yet ask a chief technology officer to define big data and he or she will will stare at the floor. Chances are, you will get as many definitions as the number of people you ask. And that’s a problem for anyone attempting to buy or sell or use big data services—what exactly is on offer?

In addition, the report highlights a recent research paper appearing on the arXiv pre-print server Undefined By Data: A Survey of Big Data Definitions by Jonathan Stuart Ward and Adam Barker of University of St Andrews, UK. This paper starts a discussion of how “Big Data” might be defined and the authors offer their own definition:

Big data is a term describing the storage and analysis of large and or complex data sets using a series of techniques including, but not limited to: NoSQL, MapReduce and machine learning.

The lack of a consistent definition introduces ambiguity and hampers discourse relating to big data. Maybe this effort will shed light on how we can collectively view this growing field.

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