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Just When You Thought It Was Safe to Go Back into the Data By @ABridgwater | @BigDataExpo #BigData

The data lake is a place where Big Data exists in its first-formed state

So-called ‘paradigm shifts' happen across the information technology landscape roughly every five years. We can make this statement with enough approximate ambiguity for it still to be of some value in terms of the way an average CIO might look to plan for major infrastructural changes.

First Big Data, then the flood
As we stand today, Big Data has been around for roughly five years.

In the year 2000, famed economist Francis X. Diebold is said to have published the first version of a paper titled "Big Data Dynamic Factor Models for Macroeconomic Measurement and Forecasting" - and the rest we know is modern history.

Time enough then for a new data-centric paradigm shift.

More recently we have been offered the chance to expand our overall notion of Big Data and think about the idea of a ‘data lake.'

A term coined by a technology evangelist and CTO at data analytics company Pentaho, the data lake is a truly massive (but easily accessible) data repository built on (relatively) inexpensive computer hardware for storing Big Data. But the point is that it's BIG Big Data, i.e., it's all data, of all types, with all attributes in all shapes and sizes.

A CIO swimming in data
To make the idea clearer, the CIO can find him or herself swimming in a vast amount of data lake water and eventually reach shore (as it were) once certain decisions are made relating to how specific elements of the lake are to be used. At this point we have reached the datamart.

The datamart is also a home for Big Data. But it is one where we have made certain decisions, assumptions and judgements about the data in the data lake such that we have been able to classify it with a certain kind of ‘labelling nomenclature' if you will. That is to say, in the datamart we have optimized our data by choosing to store only those attributes (fields, parameters, etc.) that we think we need.

The data lake is a place where all data and all attributes still exist - this is a place of raw data where Big Data exists in its first-formed state.

As Dixon wrote when he first defined the term, "If you think of a datamart as a store of bottled water - cleansed and packaged and structured for easy consumption - the data lake is a large body of water in a more natural state. The contents of the data lake stream in from a source to fill the lake and various users of the lake can come to examine, dive in, or take samples."

The CIO's responsibility: data preparation
The CIO's task when facing the data lake is one of planning. We can now refer to data preparation as a defined and specific task in the Big Data toolbox. The CIO also needs to think about fitting the breadth and width of the data lake into the firm's existing (or future-planned) IT infrastructure. The CIO also needs to plan how to juggle these repositories of raw data from many sources and in many formats. Finally the CIO needs to ensure the controls exist to navigate the data lake, i.e., its data will need to be prepped by IT staff and data scientists for specific queries in a lengthy, complex process.

Automation tools for data lake navigation are the inevitable upshot of the way this zone of IT is developing. But it is still early days on this part of the innovation curve and CIOs may well spend more time treading water (and keeping their head above water) than anything else.

The best advice is to prepare to navigate the data lake now; the next Big Data paradigm shift is only half a decade away.

This post is sponsored by KPMG LLP and The CIO Agenda.

KPMG LLP is a Delaware limited liability partnership and is the U.S. member firm of the KPMG network of independent member firms affiliated with KPMG International Cooperative ("KPMG International"), a Swiss entity. The KPMG name, logo and "cutting through complexity" are registered trademarks or trademarks of KPMG International. The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of KPMG LLP.

More Stories By Adrian Bridgwater

Adrian Bridgwater is a freelance journalist and corporate content creation specialist focusing on cross platform software application development as well as all related aspects software engineering, project management and technology as a whole.

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