Innovate in 2015 with Big Data

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“When it comes to big data, organizations are feeling the need for speed. Using the cloud as a platform for innovation, companies are rolling out big data and analytics technologies not simply to transform how they engage with customers, but to change how their businesses do business,” writes Glenn Finch on Forbes.

As 2015 gets started how does your company plan to use big data to drive business results? Mr. Finch provides the following insights when it comes to getting started on a big data analytics project:

Big data is not just about your customers it is also about your operations.  40% of the companies surveyed by IBM reported using big data and analytics to manage operations and back office functions more effectively. Mr. Finch points to a healthcare industry example where IBM’s Watson analytics are helping nurses make better decisions.

The payback on investment is quicker than expected.  An IBM study found that 63% of companies surveyed saw a return on their investment within one year and 26% even saw a payback within six months. These findings may be surprising but not so considering the daily news stories about the industry-changing results of well-executed big data projects.

Think beyond volume. In 2015 companies will not solely look to big data to help sort through the volume of data that is collected and stored. Instead, big data will be used as a tool to pull insights quickly to further a company’s competitive edge in the marketplace. As Mr. Finch writes, “velocity, not volume, is driving the impact of big data.”

According to the article, IBM expects demand for data-driven insights to accelerate in 2015. Mr. Finch adds, “big data is providing precise, real-time insight into everything from inventory to sales to employee performance to customer needs. To compete, other organizations need to move from gathering data to quickly acting on insight provided by the data.”

Big Data and Healthcare

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Big data is not just a fad technology. It is being used in real industries every day to solve problems and improve processes. Information Week recently reported on examples of big data use in healthcare. Let’s take a look:

  • In Pittsburgh, a university’s health plan now uses 6.3 terabytes of data to forecast patient behavior to help provide better preventative care and to better utilize hospital resources.
  • In Jersey City, New Jersey, the Emergency Medical Services (EMS) have been able to improve response rates to less than six minutes (average nationwide is eight minutes, 59 seconds). Their big data systems have allowed them to analyze calls with time of day and geography to better position EMS teams and vehicles.
  • A clinic based in Virginia has worked together with IBM to examine electronic medical records to help identify patients who are at risk for heart disease.  Using both structured and unstructured data, the pilot program was able to achieve 85% accuracy in detecting the medical problem.

What uses of big data are you seeing in your own healthcare and community-wide?

IBM Power8 – The Difference

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Power8 systems have 50% more cores and 2x the number of threads reports IBM Systems Magazine in a May article. The article walks through a Q&A with IBM Power Systems General Manager Dough Balog about the new advancement.

Working across business disciplines, IBM announced in April what they label as “game-changing first generation” power systems. The new Power systems are designed with CAMS – cloud, analytics, mobile and social – in mind. IBM Power8 is also “the most open server platform on the market now” and changes the way that IBM can deliver value to different businesses.

How does Power8 bring more big data capabilities? At a basic level big data requires:

  • More compute power to run more algorithms
  • More memory to calculate and manipulate data
  • More I/O to successfully process data in and out quickly

Mr. Balog says Power8 takes “every one of those basic principles of compute, memory, I/O and storage, and have dramatically—in orders of magnitude—increased them. We’ve [IBM Power8 Systems] got 50 percent more cores, twice the number of threads, and then you add some of the innovative capability from OpenPOWER on top of that and it takes it up even greater.”  He adds, “that’s why we say that these systems are built with the open innovation to put data to work.” More specifically, Power8:

  • Chips contain up to 12 processor cores per socket
  • Technology supports SMT8, eight simultaneous threads of execution per core
  • Cache has more on-chip cache than POWER7 and  introduces 128 MB of off-chip cache
  • Bandwidth has double sustained memory and peak I/O over POWER7

Evolving Solutions has become the first IBM Business Partner to install the brand new IBM Power8 server technology in our on-site technology lab. Read the announcement.

Contact us today to talk more about how Power8 is changing the data world.

Real-Life Big Data Examples

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Big Data is big news! Especially with the release of IBM’s new Power Systems Servers built with Power8 Processors, big data information is all around us. Today, let’s take a look at several examples of how big data is used to solve real business problems and improve business operations.

First up from a recent Forbes article, manufacturing and industry are using the power of big data to perform “predictive machine maintenance” to not only better manage machine parts and supplies, but also to help mitigate time down on production lines and sometimes even improve safety. Hospitals are also using big data to track medical devices and improve asset utilization. It can also allow them to more quickly respond to sudden spikes in activity.

A team from Syracuse University is using big data to analyze consumer home energy use and how this use impacts the power grid, “the research ultimately has the potential to launch industry-wide changes in the way consumers use and pay for energy, how utilities plan for peak-use issues, and how the electrical grid system can be optimized.”

Wired reported recently on McDonald’s use of big data, “the fast food chain uses big data analytics to optimize the drive-thru experience based on three factors: design, information provided on the menu and the types of customers coming through. Looking for trends in increased consumer demand, such as large cars of customers coming through, can be particularly beneficial for improving efficiency and preparing for that spike in demand ahead of time.”

Share how big data could give you an edge.

Frame Up Your Big Data Strategy

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For many the thought of massive amounts of unstructured data mixed with structured to drive business insights is overwhelming. As a small to mid-sized business you may already be dabbling in the big data world, but not using the insights. David Williams of Forbes Magazine provides tips to help small businesses and entrepreneurs frame up their big data strategy:

  • Organize your data. The first step but perhaps the most complicated.  Start today to centralize, catalog and prioritize the data you collect.
  • Collect more data. Do you have more opportunities to collect data on your customers? Mr. Williams writes, “If it doesn’t hurt your organization to just add 2-3 more columns of information you collect about a customer, DO IT!”
  • Utilize public data. The government is making more and more data public for small business use. A few examples include housing records, demographics, crime, census and salary figures.
  • Ask the right questions. Once you have your data organized. What kinds of business questions do you have? What problems would you like to solve? Can your data set provide the insight you need.

Analyzing the data is perhaps another hurdle to a big data strategy. Don’t have the expertise on staff? Look for an outside, technology partner or Mr. Williams suggests talk to a local community college or university for opportunities to pair up with professors who could use your problem as a teaching opportunity for their students.

Mr. Williams points out, “Data is neutral and provides a foundation of facts to make effective, smart decisions. This data needs to be used to help your profitability and your strategy, no matter how big or how small you plan to use it to inform your organization.”

Share how you use data to make better business decisions.