Don DeLoach's CEO Blog
Talking about machine-generated data is nothing new at Infobright. We do it in the mornings, in the evenings, in a house, with a mouse, here and there.... Everywhere! (apologies to Dr. Seuss). What makes what we do so increasingly compelling is the massive increase in machine-generated data in the world. More mobile phones. More smart devices. Increasingly sophisticated sensor devices with an increasingly broad range of use cases. Can you see how this would explode exponentially? Is it any wonder Cisco and IBM and others continue to put out report after report about the massive, massive contribution machine-generated data has to the overall expanding world of "Big Data" ? And when it comes to the elephant in the room for smart devices, Apple stands alone. Or, should I say, Apple squashes alone. At least for now. We all know the mighty will rise and the mighty will fall, but at last check, a "bad quarter" for Apple still looks like impressive market penetration. And in what must be a religious obligation to continue the culture of innovation (and dramatic flare) of Steve Jobs, the much anticipated iPhone 5 seems to be approaching its long awaited launch.
Smart devices generate a lot of data. iPhones, be it the original, 2, 3, 3S, 4, or 4S, all generate a lot of data since there are a lot of them out there (understatement of the century). So they generate, collectively, a lot of data, squared. Perhaps more. And sensors tend to generate a lot of data. Some generate the location of a sensor at a certain time stamp. Some, like those in the Samsung smartphone, (I think) generate barometric readings, some generate temperature readings at a certain location at a certain time, and all do this with a frequency that tends to create large volumes of machine-generated data. One of the more interesting new sensors is the Near Field Communications (NFC) chip. While there are a myriad of uses for this chip, the most obvious one is for turning your smartphone into a credit card, where you "swipe" your phone to pay for a transaction. It is expected that there will be a lot of these transactions in the future. And guess what? The rumor, to be certain, is that the new iPhone 5 will come with an NFC chip. So a device that is already the monster in the market and already generating vast amounts of machine-generated data will evolve to a point where it generates much more data.
We think this enhances the quality of life. We think this evolves society in so many innovative ways. We think this will be widespread, and not just an Apple phenomenon. But mostly, we think machine-generated data is cool.
And thus, we think NFC chips on a smartphone, be it Apple, Samsung, HTC, Ericsson, Nokia, RIM, Motorola, or others is really, really cool.
I must admit that when you hear all the discussion about how much data is being gathered about everyone, it instinctively does not feel so good. Is there no privacy left? Do I really need a PhD in Computer Science to understand how to provide minimal protection in an ever-increasing online world? It seems that every day you read about issues ranging from the exposure you have to hackers getting into either your accounts directly, or into large corporate files with access to hundreds of thousands of email accounts, to stories of the immense amount of data being collected to profile you down to things you may be thinking in the future but haven't occurred to even you, yet. I have to admit, with as much interaction as I have had with AdTech firms in the past couple of years, I have concluded that the vast amount of information being collected is, if anything, understated. The key question, though, is whether that is cause for concern or optimism.
To be certain, there are those in the world who will use whatever resources are available for doing things that are less than honorable. I think everyone gets that. (For that reason, we are also engaged with organizations whose sole concern is providing protection, but I will leave that discussion for another day). But the vast majority of organizations I meet are doing really cool things that truly do enhance the user experience and add value in an increasing number of ways. And to that end, this gathering of information for creative uses is not limited to selling jeans or hooking you up with concert tickets, but extends to so many walks of life. I recently read an article in the New York Times about how the capture of this type of information is being used to enhance both the targeting and delivery of higher education. This is really cool stuff, and it serves a higher purpose.
I think objectivity is essential when looking at everything. When it comes to the online world (now increasingly via mobile), there are certainly negatives. But there are positives as well. At Infobright we get up everyday thinking about storing and analyzing machine-generated data, which is really all of what we are talking about here. Sometimes I feel like we might be enabling the wrong things, but often, and I would say more often than not, we are enabling progress.
I am convinced that the database world actually only has 310 people in it, who from time to time move around. After a while, you get to know a lot of people. More often than not, that's a great thing, especially when you run across really nice, really talented ones. There are people like Sean Kelly, the consultant in Ireland whom I met a long time ago back when I was with Sybase. I was immediately taken by how insightful Sean is. Then there is John Bates at Progress Software. I got to know John in the database world of Complex Event Processing. John was the founder and CEO of Apama, long ago purchased by Progress Software, where he remains today. His love of technology is infectious. There are a few "stand-outs" who may stand out for negative reasons, but let's be honest, there are lessons there as well.
As my father always said, "something good comes out of everything". One very talented data warehousing constant in the UK I met in early 2002 is Dave Walker. His depth of understanding about how databases work, and the application of that knowledge to real world use cases, especially in data warehousing, has resulted in a long list of great clients for Dave's company along the way, and a wealth of knowledge and experience. From time to time I will introduce Dave into situations where organizations are struggling with issues where his experience might be helpful. Recently Dave asked me to write a contributed blog about some of my observations from the database world. I was all too happy to comply, and that blog can be found here. This business is filled with so many smart people and clever ideas. It is forever humbling for me, but I sure like the company I keep.