Summary:

The ability to analyze enormous amounts of data and use that to better target an ad, make a new drug or any number of other lofty goals is talked about constantly, but what about harnessing Hadoop for the rest of us?

The audience at Structure Big Data 2011
The audience at Structure Big Data 2011

Big data for all.

The ability to analyze enormous amounts of data and use that to better target an ad, make a new drug or any number of other lofty goals is talked about constantly, but what about harnessing Hadoop for the rest of us? Something as simple as figuring out when the best time to schedule a meeting and get everyone to attend or let a regional manager select what inventory to order can have huge boosts for business. Thus, startup Zettaset has raised $3 million from Draper Fisher Jurvetson and EPIC Ventures to help employees make business decisions on real data as opposed to intuition.

The two-year-old company, formerly known as GOTO Metrics, has renamed itself and re-launched the company. It still offers a software toolset that runs on top of a group of servers and unifies the existing databases so someone can mine them for insights. And for Brian Christian, co-founder and CEO of Zettaset, it’s those insights that will end up adding value to technology companies.”It’s not just about the technology anymore; it’s about the data and if you can produce more granular insights from your data,” he said in an interview.

The software makes is easy for regular employees to use the powerful data analytics software known as Hadoop. Christian notes that users choose whatever Hadoop distribution they want, as opposed to Zettaset trying to offer yet another version of Hadoop on the market. He explained that, generally, executives at big companies ask for big data analytics to understand what the hype is about and it’s up to someone in IT to try to then implement some type of Hadoop or other cluster to grant the request. Projects can stall there, because Hadoop is still complicated to implement, or later on in the process when the right data isn’t easily accessible in a way that’s transparent to the end user.

Zettaset, whose name is an attempt to reflect the growing amount of data available — a zettabyte consists of more than a million petabytes — helps make implementing Hadoop on top of existing databases easier and also offers an user-friendly graphical user interface so people can then play around with the data. They can also export it to more familiar programs such as Excel spreadsheets.

Zettaset’s attitude is a common but underreported element in a lot of the big data stories flooding the web. Because we now have access to cheap processing and powerful resources like Hadoop, big data can filter down to the masses. Startups such as Zettaset and Karmasphere will be part of this, but the bigger opportunity isn’t in enabling this shift; it’s in what the shift can do for businesses and society. For example, making data available for the average Joe helped boost Mint.com and is enabling consumer-facing startups such as energy consumption startup OPower to offer amazing insights really quickly. These insights can help change behaviors.

In the government arena, opening up data has the power to make government entities more accountable or even deliver results and insights that government can’t. There are also stories such as this one from the New Yorker, about a doctor in New Jersey that crunched data and then built a pilot program that reduced medical costs for the most-expensive patients in the city by more than 50 percent. It made people healthier too.

“I think enterprises are becoming more data-centric and more data-minded and we can help them enable that in their organization,” Christian said. In today’s information-rich world, it’s insights that generate the true value of a company. Better analytics of bigger data should enable more people to make the leap from intuition to insight — or even see an insight without ever having the intuition that drives them to look for data to back it up. It’s the difference between looking for treasure using a map of pirate sea routes and historical storm data and looking for treasure by trying to think like a pirate.

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