Data storage & processing – InfoVista cooks up a “big data” storm

InfoVista_Philippe_Ozanian_Apax_Partners2InfoVista is the world’s leading provider of network performance management solutions and services. The company has spent more than ten years focusing its efforts on the issue of data processing. InfoVista’s CEO, Philippe Ozanian, shares his observations surrounding big data.

 

Big Data encoded in InfoVista’s DNA

“Big data is part of our DNA. We knew from an early age that this was our calling”, joked Philippe. As part of its role to ensure optimal network performance for its customers, InfoVista deals with large volumes of data on a daily basis. “Driven by the exponential increase in the data our customers such as China Mobile are generating, we have made data processing power one of our top priorities over the last ten years.” InfoVista is guided by the principle that networks must function flawlessly in spite of the increasingly significant quantities of data that are transmitted.

 

Data is worthless, only correlations count

“Big data” is a much overused term. But what then is this “big data”? Philippe identifies two different types: structured and unstructured data. In structured data, all possible values are known in advance. For example, in a database containing the results of an opinion survey, structured data will include age, gender and location, etc. Unstructured data is impossible to categorise. Such data includes written responses to a customer satisfaction survey.

Data in its raw form is not of much use. “Data, whether structured or not, has no meaning in its raw form.” Philippe means that it is the correlations arising from data analysis, rather than the data itself, that are informative. He picks up a bag of 30 tennis balls to illustrate his point. “There is no use in knowing that this bag contains 30 tennis balls. Knowing that 15 of the balls are worn, however, and that these 15 balls all have a diameter of 6.35 cm, enables us to make a correlation between the size of the ball and the ball’s degree of wear and tear. This correlation is worth its weight in gold to a company.” However, he does point out a caveat: not all data can be correlated. The data must therefore be categorised in order to identify which data can be exploited, and which cannot. “Today, only 5% of the world’s total data is being used.”

 

Data storage and processing

Once useful data has been identified, it must be stored. InfoVista primarily uses Hadoop, a massive storage database used to process very large data sets. And once processed, it needs to be converted into meaningful information. This is the role of data scientists, who create algorithms to do just that. InfoVista strives to recruit the best. The company also works with Oracle, one of the sector’s leaders, on all the latest vertical and horizontal segmentation technologies (sharding). Vertical segmentation could be likened to classifying a library of books by topic (science, geography, etc.). Horizontal segmentation would see those same books categorised in alphabetical order. “Telecoms companies are no longer content to simply provide the medium through which data is transmitted. They want to capture the value of that data. And we are using the very latest big data technologies to support them as they set about making that happen.”

 

The race to innovate

“When it comes to big data, the race to innovate is on. As companies battle to become big data leaders, players such as Google and Facebook are far ahead, while historical players such as Oracle and IBM doing their best to catch up.” InfoVista, for its part, is acquiring data specialist companies. Philippe mentions three recent acquisitions: Mentum in Canada, Axeo in Malaysia, and  Ipanema Tech in France. But innovation also takes place inside the company. “To encourage innovation internally, we also organise innovation days where developers ‘take a break’ and invent the technologies of the future.”

InfoVista’s big data adventure has only just begun…

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