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Emerging Technologies, Free of Hype

As my flight west from Orlando began its descent into San Francisco, I thought about how touching ground was a good metaphor for the just-completed TDWI World Conference. The theme of the conference was “Emerging Technologies 2014,” but one of my strongest impressions from the keynotes and sessions was the deflation of the hype surrounding those emerging technologies. Speakers addressed what’s new and exciting in business intelligence, big data, analytics, the “Internet of things,” data warehousing, and enterprise data management. However, they were careful to point out potential weaknesses in claims made by proponents of the new technologies and where spending on the new stuff just because it’s new could be an expensive mistake.

Setting the tone on Monday morning in their “Shiny Objects Show” keynote presentation, Marc Demarest and Mark Madsen debated pros and cons of new technologies, including cloud (the pursuit of “instant gratification”), in-memory computing, visualization, and Hadoop. Overall, they advised attendees to be wary of hype. “Strike out every adjective on the marketing collateral piece and see what’s left,” Demarest advised. The speakers were able to drill down to what are truly significant emerging trends, helping attendees focus on those instead of being distracted by the noise.

Evan Levy’s “Tipping the Sacred Cows of Data Warehousing” session was similarly educational. While deflating hype about various emerging technologies, Levy at the same time advised his audience to always question the value proposition of existing systems and practices to see if there might be a better way. He took particular aim at operational data stores (ODSs), noting that database and data integration technologies have matured to the point where maintaining an ODS is unnecessary.

I caught part of Cindi Howson’s session, “Cool BI: The Latest Innovations.” With guest appearances by some leading vendors to demo aspects of their products, the session covered promises and challenges inherent in several key emerging BI trends, including mobile BI, cloud BI, and visual data discovery. Cindi has just published the second edition of her book, Successful Business Intelligence, which offers a combination of interesting case studies and best practices advice to help organizations get BI projects off on the right foot and keep them going strong.

The Thursday keynote by Krish Krishnan and Fern Halper introduced TDWI’s Big Data Maturity Model Assessment Tool. Krish and Fern have been working on this project throughout 2013. It is a tool designed to help organizations assess their level of maturity across five dimensions important to realizing value from big data analytics: organization, infrastructure, data management, analytics, and governance. It is the first assessment tool of its kind. Taking such an assessment can help organizations look past the industry hype to gain a “grounded” view of where they are and what areas they need to address with better technologies and methods. Check it out!

Grounded: that’s where my plane is now, at SFO. Time to head home.

Posted by David Stodder on December 13, 2013


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