It is rare that I take umbrage with comments I see in the online press these days, but a recent article appearing in Computing (a UK computer industry publication) got my dander up. During his opening keynote address at the Premier Business Leadership Series 2013 conference in Orlando, Florida, SAS CEO Jim Goodnight said:
Most of our customers don’t have big data, it’s not that big … the term big data is being used today because computer analysts and journalists got tired of writing about cloud computing.
Goodnight argued that “big data” is just another buzzword following on from other recent trends in the IT industry, even suggesting that analysts promote them in order to generate business.
As much as his comments are contrary to what I see in the industry every day, I might even agree with some of his sentiment not from a hype point of view, but from the perspective of definition. I always maintain that Big Data, Data Science and Machine Learning are not really new technologies since their roots are in very old disciplines like computer science, statistics, mathematics, probability theory, etc. We may have new names for these things or aggregations of technologies, but they’re not new. What is new in many cases is the “big” in Big Data since we are dealing with data set sizes never managed before. Could it be that SAS is feeling a little left out?