Storing and maintaining petabytes and exabytes of unstructured, "big data" is no simple undertaking for enterprises, never mind small and medium-sized businesses. Many companies have forgone big data analytics entirely because of the substantial time commitment and large expense associated with data warehousing.
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Amazon Web Services (AWS) recently announced a new cloud-based data warehouse and business intelligence service -- Amazon Redshift -- at its first partner and customer conference, AWS re:Invent. The new pay-as-you-go service will make big data analytics affordable to small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), while offering cloud-based big data analytics to larger enterprises that don't want to run these technologies in-house.
"Redshift could move the cloud dialog away from competing with existing internal IT, to where it should be: doing a complicated application users aren't doing now with internal IT. That's where the real money is for cloud providers," said Tom Nolle, president of CIMI Corp.
Cloud providers jumping on the data warehousing, business intelligence service bandwagon
With Amazon Redshift, customers can easily launch a Redshift cluster -- starting with several hundred gigabytes and scaling to a petabyte or more -- from the AWS Management Console. The service will make the technology available to customers at approximately 10% of the price of most on-premises data warehousing options today, according to the company. The service is currently in beta testing with a limited number of participants -- including Netflix, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Flipboard.
But Amazon isn't the only provider paving the way with cloud-based big data analytics. Large providers like Oracle, IBM, Hewlett-Packard and Teradata all offer data warehousing as a service. BitYota, a Mountain View, Calif.-based data-warehousing-as-a-service startup also announced its own data warehousing as a service offering at the AWS conference.
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BitYota's new Software-as-a-Service-based warehousing and business intelligence service -- which will be available first on Amazon's cloud infrastructure -- has been designed to make big data analytics more accessible to SMBs, said Dev Patel, CEO at BitYota. "The headache associated with big data for customers -- like managing hardware and software -- is gone," he said. "The service is really designed to be accessible by many, and the cloud infrastructure allows us to scale for users at a price that's very affordable."
Amazon's launch of Redshift validates the cloud-based business intelligence and data warehousing market for startups like BitYota -- which plans to offer its service on other cloud providers as market need dictates, Patel said. "The fact that Amazon is proclaiming that data warehousing in the cloud is a serious market need helps grow the market and boost interest among customers," added Poulomi Damany, vice president for product at BitYota.
Data warehousing as a service could also be an opportunity for cloud providers to encourage more traditional enterprise customers to consider a public cloud environment, said Lauren Nelson, infrastructure and operations analyst for Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester Research Inc. "Cloud providers are wondering how to make that transition into public cloud easier for enterprises. These services will allow providers -- like Amazon -- to be much more accommodating for larger use cases of public cloud services for more traditional companies," she said.
Data warehousing, business intelligence service beneficial for both SMBs and enterprises
SMBs historically have had to scrap nonoperational data, thanks to storage costs.
"Once a company has over a dozen employees, data volume can become complicated," Nolle said, noting that most storage strategies consist of local backup for smaller companies.
But affordable cloud-based disaster-recovery storage options have sparked SMBs' interest, and these smaller companies may also start looking to similarly cost-effective data warehousing options for their big data.
As businesses realize that a data warehousing strategy has to include an off-site storage location for disaster recovery purposes, a cloud-based service -- like Amazon Redshift -- offers a cost effective business case for data warehousing.
Unlike operational data, which is frequently accessed, enterprises have had to deploy an on-site appliance connected to a public cloud in order to make use of big data in a meaningful way. But the large amount of data in transit can be overwhelming for many enterprise connections. Off-site storage, typically offered by disaster recovery providers, is also expensive for any business regardless of size, Forrester's Nelson said. Because big data doesn't have to be accessed regularly or quickly, data warehousing as a service makes sense as a cloud application for enterprises and SMBs.
"The less [a user] must access their data, the cheaper the service is to offer for the provider," Nolle said. "The cloud has become a practical alternative to an in-house warehousing strategy."