What’s After Big Data? Niche Analytics, Data Wrangling, Smart Storage

8/21/14Follow @gthuang

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automotive, real estate, and travel markets. In the Seattle area, Algorithmia, which just raised a $2.4 million venture round, runs an online marketplace for number-crunching algorithms, while Context Relevant makes predictive analytics software for the financial sector. And FarmLink, based in Kansas City, MO, has just raised a $40 million round to advance analytics for farmers.

Meanwhile, back in Boston, the startup Quant5 specializes in analysis tools for marketing purposes, and Recorded Future tries to predict world events—things like civil unrest, terrorist attacks, and other security threats—by analyzing social media and Web documents for companies and government agencies.

Indeed, Doug Levin, the CEO of Quant5 and founder of Black Duck Software, says “enabling data-driven decisions in corporations is one of today’s most significant technology trends.” He points out that what companies can do with data has moved far beyond the notions of big-data analytics from the past few years; analytics certainly isn’t new, but the kinds of analysis that can be done and the types of data that can be accessed are changing.

Which leads us to one more big trend in data, and perhaps an unexpected one: storage is hot again. Not the commodity storage systems—disks, flash drives, appliances—though those are still a huge business. Rather, a number of well-funded startups are pursuing new kinds of storage software that give corporate users more intelligence about their data.

Take Actifio, a Boston-area company that has raised more than $200 million to try to win the “copy data” storage market—systems that companies use to manage multiple versions of their data that exist for different purposes. The firm started out with the idea of separating data backup and protection from the storage layer. But once customers use Actifio’s software for backup, they find they can use the same software to unify their stored data so there’s effectively one golden copy of everything. That’s the idea, anyway.

What’s interesting is that Actifio is trying to save companies money on traditional storage and software, which takes away business from giants like EMC and IBM. But Actifio is solely about data management; it doesn’t really touch analytics or business intelligence.

For that, you have to consider DataGravity, which represents another interesting evolution of data storage. The Nashua, NH-based startup has raised some $42 million from venture investors to create a new storage architecture that could give businesses new visibility and insights into their data.

DataGravity is trying to “extract information from storage,” says CEO and co-founder Paula Long. The company’s product, just announced this week, looks like a regular storage system to the user. But the software that goes with it can “see” into an organization’s files and track all interactions with the data—who accessed or contributed to a particular file and when, what they did with it, whom they worked with, and so on. The software provides charts and visualizations to help users drill down into the data and keep tabs on it.

Paula Long (image: DataGravity)“Before, you could just see the file name. Now you can do an MRI on it,” says Long (pictured), who previously co-founded EqualLogic, which was acquired by Dell in 2007.

The goal—a familiar one by now—is to give IT and business users a deeper understanding of corporate data that can help them make better decisions. DataGravity’s beta customers include companies in the tech, legal, retail, and healthcare industries. “We believe storage should strategically participate in your business, not just support it. It’s not just a container,” Long says. She adds that storage is going through a “transformative moment” as it enters the information and analytics age.

And she seems to agree that big-data technologies have moved beyond the realm of geeks and into helping mainstream users solve real business problems. For DataGravity, that means getting a better grip on all the information that resides in a company’s network and files—without trotting out an old buzzword.

“You didn’t have to understand big data, you didn’t have to program anything,” Long says about her firm’s customers. “We’re not going after the big-data space.”

Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and the Editor of Xconomy Boston. You can e-mail him at gthuang@xconomy.com or call him at 617-252-7323. Follow @gthuang

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  • Ronnie Corvid

    “Useful data” – that would be “information” then, which anyone who’s read pretty much any Computer Science / Information Science 101 book in the last 30 years would be able to tell you. See this for details: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DIKW_Pyramid and then, er, perhaps read a book.