Discussion of technologies related to information query and analysis. Related subjects include:
Most IT innovation these days is focused on machine-generated data (sometimes just called “machine data”), rather than human-generated. So as I find myself in the mood for another survey post, I can’t think of any better idea for a unifying theme.
1. There are many kinds of machine-generated data. Important categories include:
- Web, network and other IT logs.
- Game and mobile app event data.
- CDRs (telecom Call Detail Records).
- “Phone-home” data from large numbers of identical electronic products (for example set-top boxes).
- Sensor network output (for example from a pipeline or other utility network).
- Vehicle telemetry.
- Health care data, in hospitals.
- Digital health data from consumer devices.
- Images from public-safety camera networks.
- Stock tickers (if you regard them as being machine-generated, which I do).
That’s far from a complete list, but if you think about those categories you’ll probably capture most of the issues surrounding other kinds of machine-generated data as well.
2. Technology for better information and analysis is also technology for privacy intrusion. Public awareness of privacy issues is focused in a few areas, mainly: Read more
A conversation I have too often with vendors goes something like:
- “That confidential thing you told me is interesting, and wouldn’t harm you if revealed; probably quite the contrary.”
- “Well, I guess we could let you mention a small subset of it.”
- “I’m sorry, that’s not enough to make for an interesting post.”
That was the genesis of some tidbits I recently dropped about WibiData and predictive modeling, especially but not only in the area of experimentation. However, Wibi just reversed course and said it would be OK for me to tell more or less the full story, as long as I note that we’re talking about something that’s still in beta test, with all the limitations (to the product and my information alike) that beta implies.
As you may recall:
- WibiData started out with a rich technology stack …
- … but decided to cast itself as an application company …
- … whose first vertical market is retailing,
With that as background, WibiData’s approach to predictive modeling as of its next release will go something like this: Read more
1. A couple years ago I wrote skeptically about integrating predictive modeling and business intelligence. I’m less skeptical now.
- The predictive experimentation I wrote about over Thanksgiving calls naturally for some BI/dashboarding to monitor how it’s going.
- If you think about Nutonian’s pitch, it can be approximated as “Root-cause analysis so easy a business analyst can do it.” That could be interesting to jump to after BI has turned up anomalies. And it should be pretty easy to whip up a UI for choosing a data set and objective function to model on, since those are both things that the BI tool would know how to get to anyway.
I’ve also heard a couple of ideas about how predictive modeling can support BI. One is via my client Omer Trajman, whose startup ScalingData is still semi-stealthy, but says they’re “working at the intersection of big data and IT operations”. The idea goes something like this:
- Suppose we have lots of logs about lots of things.* Machine learning can help:
- Notice what’s an anomaly.
- Group* together things that seem to be experiencing similar anomalies.
- That can inform a BI-plus interface for a human to figure out what is happening.
Makes sense to me.
* The word “cluster” could have been used here in a couple of different ways, so I decided to avoid it altogether.
Finally, I’m hearing a variety of “smart ETL/data preparation” and “we recommend what columns you should join” stories. I don’t know how much machine learning there’s been in those to date, but it’s usually at least on the roadmap to make the systems (yet) smarter in the future. The end benefit is usually to facilitate BI.
2. Discussion of graph DBMS can get confusing. For example: Read more
|Categories: Business intelligence, Greenplum, Hadoop, Hortonworks, Log analysis, Neo Technology and Neo4j, Nutonian, Predictive modeling and advanced analytics, RDF and graphs, WibiData||3 Comments|
I’m taking a few weeks defocused from work, as a kind of grandpaternity leave. That said, the venue for my Dances of Infant Calming is a small-but-nice apartment in San Francisco, so a certain amount of thinking about tech industries is inevitable. I even found time last Tuesday to meet or speak with my clients at WibiData, MemSQL, Cloudera, Citus Data, and MongoDB. And thus:
1. I’ve been sloppy in my terminology around “geo-distribution”, in that I don’t always make it easy to distinguish between:
- Storing different parts of a database in different geographies, often for reasons of data privacy regulatory compliance.
- Replicating an entire database into different geographies, often for reasons of latency and/or availability/ disaster recovery,
The latter case can be subdivided further depending on whether multiple copies of the data can accept first writes (aka active-active, multi-master, or multi-active), or whether there’s a clear single master for each part of the database.
What made me think of this was a phone call with MongoDB in which I learned that the limit on number of replicas had been raised from 12 to 50, to support the full-replication/latency-reduction use case.
2. Three years ago I posted about agile (predictive) analytics. One of the points was:
… if you change your offers, prices, ad placement, ad text, ad appearance, call center scripts, or anything else, you immediately gain new information that isn’t well-reflected in your previous models.
Subsequently I’ve been hearing more about predictive experimentation such as bandit testing. WibiData, whose views are influenced by a couple of Very Famous Department Store clients (one of which is Macy’s), thinks experimentation is quite important. And it could be argued that experimentation is one of the simplest and most direct ways to increase the value of your data.
3. I’d further say that a number of developments, trends or possibilities I’m seeing are or could be connected. These include agile and experimental predictive analytics in general, as noted in the previous point, along with: Read more
I commonly write about real or apparent technical differentiation, in a broad variety of domains. But actually, computers only do a couple of kinds of things:
- Accept instructions.
- Execute them.
And hence almost all IT product differentiation fits into two buckets:
- Easier instruction-giving, whether that’s in the form of a user interface, a language, or an API.
- Better execution, where “better” usually boils down to “faster”, “more reliable” or “more reliably fast”.
As examples of this reductionism, please consider:
- Application development is of course a matter of giving instructions to a computer.
- Database management systems accept and execute data manipulation instructions.
- Data integration tools accept and execute data integration instructions.
- System management software accepts and executes system management instructions.
- Business intelligence tools accept and execute instructions for data retrieval, navigation, aggregation and display.
Similar stories are true about application software, or about anything that has an API (Application Programming Interface) or SDK (Software Development Kit).
Yes, all my examples are in software. That’s what I focus on. If I wanted to be more balanced in including hardware or data centers, I might phrase the discussion a little differently — but the core points would still remain true.
What I’ve said so far should make more sense if we combine it with the observation that differentiation is usually restricted to particular domains. Read more
Following up on my notes on predictive modeling post from three weeks ago, I’d like to tackle some areas of recurring confusion.
Why are we modeling?
Ultimately, there are two reasons to model some aspect of your business:
- You generally want insight and understanding.
- This is analogous to why you might want to do business intelligence.
- It commonly includes a search for causality, whether or not “root cause analysis” is exactly the right phrase to describe the process.
- You want to do calculations from the model to drive wholly or partially automated decisions.
- A big set of examples can be found in website recommenders and personalizers.
- Another big set of examples can be found in marketing campaigns.
- For an example of partial automation, consider a tool that advises call center workers.
How precise do models need to be?
Use cases vary greatly with respect to the importance of modeling precision. If you’re doing an expensive mass mailing, 1% additional accuracy is a big deal. But if you’re doing root cause analysis, a 10% error may be immaterial.
Who is doing the work?
It is traditional to have a modeling department, of “data scientists” or SAS programmers as the case may be. While it seems cool to put predictive modeling straight in the hands of business users — some business users, at least — it’s rare for them to use predictive modeling tools more sophisticated than Excel. For example, KXEN never did all that well.
That said, I support the idea of putting more modeling in the hands of business users. Just be aware that doing so is still a small business at this time.
“Operationalizing” predictive models
The topic of “operationalizing” models arises often, and it turns out to be rather complex. Usually, to operationalize a model, you need: Read more
A common marketing theme in the 2010s decade has been to claim that you make analytics available to many business users, as opposed to your competition, who only make analytics available to (pick one):
- Specialists (with “PhD”s).
- Fewer business users (a thinner part of the horizontally segmented pyramid — perhaps inverted — on your marketing slide, not to be confused with the horizontally segmented pyramids — perhaps inverted — on your competition’s marketing slides).
Versions of this claim were also common in the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s and 2000s.
Some of that is real. In particular:
- Early adoption of analytic technology is often in line-of-business departments.
- Business users on average really do get more numerate over time, my three favorite examples of that being:
- Statistics is taught much more in business schools than it used to be.
- Statistics is taught much more in high schools than it used to be.
- Many people use Excel.
Even so, for most analytic tools, power users tend to be:
- People with titles or roles like “business analyst”.
- More junior folks pulling things together for their bosses.
- A hardcore minority who fall into neither of the first two categories.
Asserting otherwise is rarely more than marketing hype.
- “Freeing business analysts from IT” (August, 2014)
Datameer checked in, having recently announced general availability of Datameer 5.0. So far as I understood, Datameer is still clearly in the investigative analytics business, in that:
- Datameer does business intelligence, but not at human real-time speeds. Datameer query durations are sometimes sub-minute, but surely not sub-second.
- Datameer also does lightweight predictive analytics/machine learning — k-means clustering, decision trees, and so on.
Key aspects include:
- Datameer runs straight against Hadoop.
- Like many other analytic offerings, Datameer is meant to be “self-service”, for line-of-business business analysts, and includes some “data preparation”. Datameer also has had some data profiling since Datameer 4.0.
- The main way of interacting with Datameer seems to be visual analytic programming. However, I Datameer has evolved somewhat away from its original spreadsheet metaphor.
- Datameer’s primitives resemble those you’d find in SQL (e.g. JOINs, GROUPBYs). More precisely, that would be SQL with a sessionization extension; e.g., there’s a function called GROUPBYGAP.
- Datameer lets you write derived data back into Hadoop.
|Categories: Business intelligence, Databricks, Spark and BDAS, Datameer, Hadoop, Log analysis, Market share and customer counts, Predictive modeling and advanced analytics, Web analytics||5 Comments|
It seems reasonable to wonder whether analytic data management is headed for the cloud. In no particular order:
- Amazon Redshift appears to be prospering.
- So are some SaaS (Software as a Service) business intelligence vendors.
- Amazon Elastic MapReduce is still around.
- Snowflake Computing launched with a cloud strategy.
- Cazena, with vague intentions for cloud data warehousing, destealthed.*
- Cloudera made various cloud-related announcements.
- Data is increasingly machine-generated, and machine-generated data commonly originates off-premises.
- The general argument for cloud-or-at-least-colocation has compelling aspects.
- Analytic workloads can be “bursty”, and so could benefit from true cloud elasticity.
I talked with the Snowflake Computing guys Friday. For starters:
- Snowflake is offering an analytic DBMS on a SaaS (Software as a Service) basis.
- The Snowflake DBMS is built from scratch (as opposed, to for example, being based on PostgreSQL or Hadoop).
- The Snowflake DBMS is columnar and append-only, as has become common for analytic RDBMS.
- Snowflake claims excellent SQL coverage for a 1.0 product.
- Snowflake, the company, has:
- 50 people.
- A similar number of current or past users.
- 5 referenceable customers.
- 2 techie founders out of Oracle, plus Marcin Zukowski.
- Bob Muglia as CEO.
Much of the Snowflake story can be summarized as cloud/elastic/simple/cheap.*
*Excuse me — inexpensive. Companies rarely like their products to be labeled as “cheap”.
In addition to its purely relational functionality, Snowflake accepts poly-structured data. Notes on that start:
- Ingest formats are JSON, XML or AVRO for now.
- I gather that the system automagically decides which fields/attributes are sufficiently repeated to be broken out as separate columns; also, there’s a column for the documents themselves.
I don’t know enough details to judge whether I’d call that an example of schema-on-need.
A key element of Snowflake’s poly-structured data story seems to be lateral views. I’m not too clear on that concept, but I gather: Read more
|Categories: Amazon and its cloud, Cloud computing, Data mart outsourcing, Data models and architecture, Data warehousing, Market share and customer counts, Parallelization, Pricing, Software as a Service (SaaS), Structured documents||1 Comment|