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The Future: Big Data Apps or Web Services?


According to Raj De Datta, CEO of Bloomreach, 90% of the internet has been created in the last two years; considering the significant rate of adoption of new sites and apps by everyone online and the prolification of social data by those individuals, this really doesn’t come as much surprise. Indeed, just as software as a service (SaaS) and the cloud changed the way businesses operate, web businesses are scrambling for technology and intelligence to help them understand how to leverage that data for their business.

Drastically changing the cost of doing business with technology, web services (effectively another way of referring to SaaS) made software immediately available anywhere. With the overwhelmingly reduced integration costs, the internet has transformed enterprise software from a costly, labor intensive business service to an rapidly innovating and inexpensive resource. Seemingly overnight, business owners adopted marketing automation, web based accounting, CRM, code repositories, design tools, and more turning to technology previously unavailable to an incredible number of businesses. But with that innovation in the web behind us, what’s next? Is it possible to understand and leverage all the data that’s being created?

Big Data Applications (BDAs)

It might come as no surprise that you’re already very familiar with big data applications: Yahoo, Netflix, Google, Facebook, and all use an incredible amount of data to enrich your experience with the software. BDAs, simply, create better experiences.

As De Datta put it, “BDAs are web-based applications that interpret and use massive amounts of enterprise and web-scale data to deliver more intelligent results for their subscribers. BDAs leverage the best of the cloud; they’re web-hosted, multi-tenant and use Hadoop, noSQL and a range of recommendation and machine learning technologies.”

The technical perspective aside, what De Datta clarifies is that what distinguishes Big Data Apps from SaaS is the network of users who’s experiences evolve the efficiency of SaaS to the intelligence of an analytics platform. Consider how Intuit uses Big Data. Nora Denzel, CMO at Intuit, refers to “turning data inside out;” that is, turning a users data back on them to give back to them a better experience. Sounds a bit like Fliptop. While many companies are still retaining data and trying to figure out what to do with it; those with an edge are turning such data inside out as quickly as possible. Intuit’s Small Business Index aggregates and anonymizes sales, profit, and employment data from 70,000 small businesses that use Quickbooks and its online payroll software. Imagine what the Index provides to users of Quickbooks, TurboTax, or even directly, as an intelligence tool, with regard to insight to payroll trends, costs, or productivity.

One of the unflappable strengths of Yahoo is their dominance in media and online advertising. Yahoo Genome combines data, analytics, and technology to help marketers “understand consumer needs, anticipate audiences’ future performance, and … develop efficient media buys.” Advertising analytics and optimization is nothing new but the innovation, innovation such as this, is all being done by small companies who would likely take years to penetrate the market at a scale where such power in advertising is commonplace. Yahoo’s investment in such a BDA is a leap from their astonishing work in behavioral targeting and will help businesses truly target advertising based on consumer’s intent in no time. Who doesn’t want much more relevant advertising on the sites we consume? Big Data enriching our experience.

Perhaps you haven’t yet heard of Bazaarvoice? Collecting customer reviews from around the web, Bazaarvoice enables retailers (and their customers) with far more robust insight to other customers’ opinions. Where SaaS provided the technology that eCommerce uses to collect and publish reviews on their own sites, a Big Data Application recognizes that such reviews occur all over the place, from Amazon to Yelp, and turns that web service into that network of intelligence.

What’s exciting for those of us working in Big Data is the convergence of SaaS and intelligence that creates for our customers, BDAs that benefit from the leap already taken over traditional, expensive, software. Not only has that evolution of the internet to SaaS made Big Data possible, exponentially increasing the amount of data and the adoption rate of businesses by web services, but it has made BDAs accessible. Indeed, the future of the web belongs to Big Data Apps.


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