Online education portals like Udacity and Coursera are really changing the world of remote learning in significant ways. By making free and high quality education accessible to a global audience, these platforms are opening up undreamt of possibilities for communities around the world to improve, grow, and prosper in the digital economy of the 21st century. Education at top tier colleges and universities has traditionally been a social and economic privilege, but now anyone can join in the learning revolution by sitting in virtual classrooms with the world’s best and brightest educators. Whether this involves learning how to code and build smart phone apps, or starting up a new business, or learning about public health literacy, the sky is the limit of what’s now possible.

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How to make the most of Big Data in the Cloud

Over the past 5 years we’ve seen an amazing amount of growth of major disruptive technologies in mobile, information, collaboration, and cloud. Each area has spawned new and amazing capabilities that have transformed our lives, the way we communicate, how we consume our news and access information, and the way we work.

The trade-off of this massive growth in technology in recent years has meant heightened customer demands, with the expectation that products and services will be tracked and delivered faster than ever. While all of this poses considerable integration and infrastructural challenges, the most innovative organizations today will be those that stay on top of the game and align cloud services with other major technologies like Big Data in order to enhance the delivery of their goods and services.




Cloud and Big Data integration is a big topic in industry right now and it’s only going to get bigger. New research shows that much of the cloud’s growth is driven by the use of Big Data. In fact, revenues for the top 50 public cloud providers rose a whopping 47 percent in the fourth quarter of 2013, to $6.2 billion.

Not to mention . . . . The growth in Big Data, as well as the expansion in data analytics platforms in recent years such as Hadoop and NoSQL, are creating new opportunities for cloud computing to become a key enabler of Big Data analytics. Public clouds providers, such as Amazon Web Services, Google, and Microsoft, offer their own brands of big data systems in their clouds, whether NoSQL or SQL, that are cost efficient and easily scalable for businesses of all sizes. All of this points us to the reciprocal relationship between cloud and Big Data that is driven by consumer demand for bigger, better, and faster applications.

In fact, Big Data + Cloud has led to another new cloud computing service model known as Analytics as a Service (AaaS). This model will provide companies with faster, scalable ways to integrate, analyze, transform, and visualize various types of structured, semi-structured, and unstructured data in real time.

Due to the immense size of today’s data sets, moving this volume in and out of a cloud environment has been a challenge. However, there are a growing number of solutions emerging in this space to meet these processing demands. Platforms like Aspera and Qubole offer solutions to the Cloud I/O gridlock. Google, at its recent I/O conference, also announced Cloud Dataflow as it’s cloud-native data processing service (and successor to MapReduce), which will create data pipelines to ingest, transform, analyze data in streaming and batch modes.

The challenge for SMBs is that there’s a lot of potential confusion around how to get onboard with the “Big Data Cloud.” The key here is about engagement. They main question is how do businesses interact, engage with, and listen to their customers and use those insights to drive strategies, and make product, services, and business decisions.




So what does this all mean on the ground? How can an SMB operationalize Big Data Cloud to maximize their brand and embrace digital technologies. Below is a description, worth quoting at length, about what one innovative company did. This is based on the observations of a recent attendee at the IBM Insight conference in Las Vegas this past week.

I spoke with two partners who recently went through a rebranding to pivot their 30 person small business to embrace technology. What stood out was how surprised they were to learn just how much customer data became available when they started to engage their customers. They explained that by eliminating registers at their stores and replacing them with mobile devices, they were able to gain insights into customer and employee behavior that were previously hidden. The move into mobile was intended to eliminate registers and reveal which employees were selling the most products. What they did not expect, was the ability to combine that data with sensors throughout the store and customers shopping data to build a comprehensive customer and store profile. With these profiles they not only found an entirely new customer demographic to target, but also were able to better understand the type of employees they needed to hire and the skill sets and knowledge they should possess.

The key takeaway from the use case here is about how this company totally disrupted the shopping experience to cleverly gather key customer data from mobile devices and sensors. This valuable information was channeled and stored in the cloud infrastructure to help drive a whole new level of customer experience.




SMBs should not assume it to be too early to get onboard with cloud and Big Data integrations. Customers are demanding real time delivery of data insights, which will require companies to take quick action. They won’t wait for the Netflixs of the world to get their act together and figure out pricing schemes. Instead, people want content and want it now; hence, video streaming on demand, à la Amazon.

The time is now for SMBs to get onboard with Big Data Cloud solutions. Don’t wait for the business problem to make itself known. Proactive and innovative businesses will start to set themselves apart with Big Data Cloud solutions today.

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About Jeffrey Walker

Jeff is a business development consultant who specializes in helping businesses grow through technology innovations and solutions. He holds multiple master’s degrees from institutions such as Andrews University and Columbia University, and leverages this background towards empowering people in today’s digital world. He currently works as a research specialist for a Fortune 100 firm in Boston. When not writing on the latest technology trends, Jeff runs a robotics startup called, along with oversight and leadership of - an emerging market assistance company that helps businesses grow through innovation.