By Roger Norton
The term ‘Big Data’ is the latest technology buzzword spreading across the IT community. Some describe it as the growing amount of information the world is generating — which, by the way, IT industry analysts predict will reach some 35,000 exabytes over the next decade. This statistic is mind-boggling when you consider that all of the information generated on the Internet today totals only 21 exabytes each month.
Still, volume is only one aspect of Big Data: the speed and different types of data gushing from the Web, social networks like Facebook and Twitter, mobile devices, cloud computing, and sensors are also a factor. Combine this with information that businesses already manage today, and we quickly arrive at what is known as “Big Data.”
Big Data was at the top of everyone’s mind when we held a Watson viewing party at Marist College last month. Over three hundred students, faculty and alumni gathered to watch IBM’s Watson system analyze natural human language on the fly to defeat two Jeopardy! champions. It was clear we witnessed a breakthrough in analytics, and the way that Big Data can be extracted, transformed and managed.
The reality is businesses are not capturing and analyzing Big Data today, and this challenge means new opportunities for college graduates preparing to enter the workforce. Industries including healthcare, retail, communications, transportation and government are all looking for new ways to use information to drive growth.
At Marist College, we are expanding our own Big Data initiatives working with IBM technology. For example, we now offer more courses to business and technology students that show them how to design energy efficient data centers. Students can earn key certifications on facility management, security, software, accounting and finance, and use these skills as a competitive advantage as they begin their careers. Courses and certifications in business analytics using tools such as Globus grid computing software and IBM’s SPSS analytics software have also been added to the curriculum, which directly deal with the issues of Big Data.
We are in the early days of taming Big Data, but we already see big opportunities for college graduates looking for that competitive edge.
Roger Norton is Dean of the School of Computer Science and Mathematics at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, New York.