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Point Big Data Toward Your Goals

With top athletes, you’re often forced to choose between big and bulky or small and speedy. With NBA centers, you’re often presented with mountains of muscle mass. They’re good for blocking shots, but don’t expect them to win any sprints. Then there are the little guys—point guards, to carry on the metaphor—who have excellent speed and decision making, but couldn’t stand up to a leaf blower. (Of course, the average height for point guards is an above-average 6’1”, so this is all relative.)

So what does this have to do with big data? Well, basically, Actian CTO Mike Hoskins thinks that our metaphorical center (big data) has to start thinking and acting more like a point guard—and preferably of the LeBron/ Magic variety. Ultimately, this will benefit the entire organization, or franchise, or team… or whichever allusion best draws comparisons between business and basketball in your mind.

Recently, Greening Greater Toronto, a non-profit environmental group, found that only about 4% of a typical server’s capacity is utilized on average. (Sounds a lot like Shaq on the Celtics.) As cloud and shared server storage takes precedence in business settings, the amount of usage per server draws questions of sustainability and scalability into a business model. But fortunately, there are companies working toward the efficiency of large scale data, which should help businesses’ bottom lines.

Well, what’s the hold up? According to Actian CTO Mike Hoskins, it has a lot to do with outmoded coding, which doesn’t communicate properly with new and more efficient hardware. According to Hoskins, “Hardware advances have been amazing over the last 30 years, and yet an enormous amount of software out there — legacy software, very famous software — is frankly 30 or 40 years old and hasn’t been updated much.” What happens with such an interaction, Mr. Hoskins? “You can take famous software, stick it on a 16-core machine, punch ‘run,’ and one core gets really tired and the other 15 do nothing.”

Y’think that might have something to do with the serious rut in server efficiency? Actian has been combating this trend by buying software companies in the hopes of creating programming to make your hardware work better. This aggressive approach has already shown astonishing results: in a recent independent test of transaction processing performance, servers running Actian VectorWise software ranked near the top of the 100-, 300-, and 1,000-GB categories.

To bring our sports metaphor full circle: no one really takes the time to teach centers how to pass when they’re young. But the few center-sized players who have passing ability (Bill Walton, Kevin Garnett, Pau Gasol, and Hakeem Olajuwon come to mind) are impossible to cover. When you combine high performance around the basket with an ability to distribute, your team owns the court. And that’s the type of performance you want out of your servers—dishing information at lighting fast speeds and converting efficiency into profit.


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