The term "big data" is generally used to describe very large and very diverse sets of both structured and unstructured data gathered from websites, clickstreams, emails, social media interactions and the like.
Big data technologies fall into multiple categories.
Vendors with products based on the open-source Hadoop and NoSQL technologies, such as Cloudera, MapR, Couchbase and 10Gen, operate largely at the data management layer. Their technologies are designed to help companies more easily gather and manage massive, diverse data sets and to make it easier for actionable data to be extracted from these data sets.
Several other vendors focus on building business intelligence, data analytics and data visualization tools that can help companies best utilize the information to improve their businesses.
Vendors of such tools include both relatively new companies -- like Domo, Pentaho, Jaspersoft and Karmasphere -- and long-established tech vendors -- such as Teradata, Oracle, IBM and SAP.
Curt Monash, an analyst at Monash Research, suggested that at least some of the intense investor interest stems from the hype surrounding big data technology over the past year or so.
"A great example of hype is anybody calling Birst a 'big data' or 'big data analytics' company," Monash said in an email to Computerworld. "If anything, Birst is a 'little data' analytics company that claims, as a differentiating feature, that it can handle ordinary-sized data sets as well."
"The great growth in database sizes is both caused and balanced out by Moore's Law," he said. "The net effect is healthy but not enormous growth in the overall data management and analytics markets."
Startup big data companies are posing problems for established vendors such as Oracle, IBM and Microsoft, which are often responding with strategic acquisitions, Monash said.
Jaikumar Vijayan covers data security and privacy issues, financial services security and e-voting for Computerworld. Follow Jaikumar on Twitter at @jaivijayan, or subscribe to Jaikumar's RSS feed. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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