Attendees at the partner education seminar before the CDN Top 100 Solution Providers event last week learned more about the channel opportunities around big data from Tony Olvet, group vice-president for research with IDC Canada.

Olvet told attendees that big data, cloud computing, mobility and social networking. Rather, each drives the need for the others, and creates a need for integration to maximize the value of each.

“This could be a huge sweet spot for partners,” said Olvet. “It brings together a lot of disparate technologies that companies are having challenges integrating and developing skills to manage internally.”

Olvet likened big data to a sleeping elephant: it’s big, it has a lot of moving parts, it’s kind of ugly, and it lives in a not so nice place. But, he went on, when it wakes up it’s pretty fast moving and is a real challenge to handle.

“This elephant is going to wake up and it’s slowly going to come out of its slumber in the Canadian marketplace,” said Olvet, advising partners to be ready before it does.

One of the biggest challenges holding back wider big data adoption today, according to IDC? The skills gap. Organizations are having trouble finding people with the skills to drive big data projects.

The opportunity, though, is certainly there. According to IDC research, 23 per cent of available data would be useful if it was tagged and analyzed, but only one per cent is actually analyzed today. Industries such as finance or the public sector (involved in risk management), machine to machine analytics (like an energy company deciding where to locate wind turbines) or retailers looking to analyze customer data are all ripe to be early adopters, said Olvet.

“These are all very different use cases, so vertical knowledge (by the partner) is important,” said Olvet, noting that right now it’s very much about understanding the customer business. It’s still a good technology integration play though, he added, it’s there isn’t really an “off the shelf” big data product.

“There is no such thing right now as an enterprise-wide big data product,” said Olvet. “It’s a high-touch channel solution customized for the use case and the specific vertical.

The market is beginning to shift from what Olvet called “big data-inspired projects” to true analytics implementations. The highest interest is coming from the financial services industry and the public service, although it’s still low. However, while businesses are proving slow to adopt the technology, survey data shows they do recognize the importance of analytics and real time data to their businesses.

“This is the time you want to invest and think what’s your place and opportunity (as a partner) in the marketplace?” said Olvet. Based on a tight definition, IDC says the Canadian big data market is small today, but it is projecting strong growth in the next five years.

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