Transformative Analytics Clouds

Editorial by Ed Lucente twitter: @edlucente

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There’s plenty of talk about benefits of business analytics — the analysis of “big data” to spot insightful trends, patterns, or correlations — but far less discussion around business analytics applications delivered using analytics cloud appliances. This should change soon as more and more businesses deploy analytics cloud appliances to achieve three primary goals: 1) increase the perceived value of their product or service; 2) reduce their internal operating costs (e.g., supply chain optimization); and 3) spur growth opportunities in existing or new markets.

Defining Big DataWhat’s big data exactly? According to Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_data), big data:
are data sets that grow so large that they become awkward to work with using on-hand database management tools. Difficulties include capture, storage, search, sharing, analytics, and visualizing. This trend continues because of the benefits of working with larger and larger data sets allowing analysts to spot business trends, prevent diseases, and combat crime. Though a moving target, current limits are on the order of terabytes, exabytes, and zettabytes of data. Scientists regularly encounter this problem in meteorology, genomics, biological research, Internet search, finance, and business informatics. Data sets also grow in size because they are increasingly being gathered by ubiquitous information-sensing mobile devices, software logs, cameras, microphones, RFID readers, wireless sensor networks, and so on.

Applications in business analytics have the power to formulate pattern recognitions such that trends can be identified and acted upon from petabytes (or more) of public or private data. Analytics cloud appliances integrate business analytics software with hardware to uncover correlations or patterns of behavior never before imagined, such as consumer buying trends in clothing stores or the probability of success for particular hospital procedures. Analytics cloud appliances can be tailored to specific industry applications as well. Perhaps most important, business analytics applications provide approximate solutions to business problems that cannot be solved “exactly.” This, in turn, helps business leaders to re-think best practices and transform their business models in order to meet changing market demands and to sustain competitive advantage.

Analytics AnecdotesIDC forecasts that the global market for analytics applications will grow from $25.5 billion this year to $34 billion in 2014, and many IT companies are pursuing business analytics opportunities. IBM, for example, has opened analytics solution centers in Zurich, Budapest, Vienna, Berlin, Beijing, London, New York, Dallas, Tokyo, and Washington, D.C. — their focus on solving tough business problems across industries ranging from defense to healthcare. IBM also has rolled out about a dozen analytics cloud appliances for specific industry verticals. These appliances provide convenient access to powerful analytics capabilities via private (on-premise) cloud deployments.

At Microsoft, Tony Hey, V.P. of Research, uses business analytics to help hospitals predict whether and when a patient might return following initial congestive heart failure treatment. Sifting through terabytes of data from 300,000 patients, Hey’s business analytic tools provide hospitals with break-through information regarding the likelihood of a patient’s full recovery. The objective is to help hospitals design better programs to keep patients stable and, at the same time, reduce administrative costs of medical procedures.

SAS Software, another business analytics player, sponsored a white paper outlining common applications where problems can be resolved through big data analysis (below).

Industry Analytics Applications
Financial Services Credit scoring, fraud detection, pricing, program trading, claims analysis, underwriting, customer profitability
Retail Promotions, replenishment, shelf management, demand forecasting, inventory replenishment, price and merchandizing optimization
Manufacturing Supply chain optimization, demand forecasting, inventory replenishment, warranty analysis, product customization, new product development
Healthcare Drug interaction, preliminary diagnosis, disease management
Energy Trading, supply, demand forecasting, compliance, Smart Grid
Government Fraud detection, case management, crime prevention, revenue optimization

Business Analytics = Innovative Business Models
Business analytics applications are valuable tools that can help management make faster, smarter decisions to ensure innovative business models. They help spotlight clever ways to improve business processes and serve customers better — ahead of the competition.

About the Author
Edward J. Lucente is Sr. Product Marketing Manager in As-a-Service for AT&T. Formerly, V.P. of Business Development at Data Center Rebates, Inc., an IT efficiency company based in Carlsbad, CA, whose professional services focus on data center energy efficiency (DCEE), leasing integrated with technology refreshes, and negotiation of IT energy rebates. Please feel free to email comments to el283u@att.com or twitter: @edlucente

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