Thursday, June 7, 2012

SharePoint and Big Data, Buzzwords, the Cloud, and Reality


As midsize to Fortune 500 type organizations are finding out, a hosted SharePoint cloud outside of their immediate control can cause unbelievable frustrations. Configurations or small customizations, the dreaded 14 hive and other global governance type changes, are causing show stopping issues and user requests for SharePoint custom sites and projects to slow or come to a near grinding halt. I have always been a huge proponent of the Private Cloud, an internally or completely controlled (private) hosted environment for which the organization can make the types of changes to meet their organization’s business and functional requirements. The Private Cloud is the only Cloud that will work for midsized to Fortune 500 enterprise organizations. With the increasing, almost monthly added, capabilities of Virtual Machines these days, I almost question the “Cloud” all together.

So where am I going with this, it’s really about the unbelievable hype and marketing driven unrealistic and sometimes downright false, or probably better stated, “untested” theories put out there by everyone wanting to convince clients to jump on their bandwagon. So where does “Big Data” stand as this buzzword is now slowly taking on and / or overcoming the hype status that the “Cloud” buzzword did but “Big Data” is not just hype.

In my role as CEO and Chief SharePoint Architect of EPC Group for the past 13 years, my daily job entails meeting with IT Directors, CIOs, Infrastructure Managers, BI and Mobile thought leaders. Do these very smart and hardworking individuals want to outsource their most critical information (their company’s data) which drives the business, empowers their sales force, and drives innovation, compliance, and stability? They in no way wanted to put their data on some externally hosted cloud for which they “have to ask permission” in a sense to make the types of changes their business requires.

“Big Data” is completely different and I don’t think it needs to be in quotes anymore. Enterprise game-changing content management, collaboration, and professional networking platforms like Microsoft SharePoint (both version 2010 and the next wave \ upcoming release) proliferate data creation, innovation, knowledge sharing, and the 20+ year wait of finally having users “tag” their unstructured data. Take that data and put it aside for a second and now think of all of your organization’s file shares and other data sources. Your organization may have a number of other systems that use both SQL and non-SQL databases. You may have massive CAD drawings or 300,000 tweets a month (I never imagined comparing a CAD drawing to a tweet) for which you need to capture.

Twitter and Facebook may thrive for many years or may fail, who really knows but data… Your company’s data will not decrease over time and will only increase and increase by some scary increments. If your company has more than 500 employees, your probably in a Big Data situation as you read this and if you’re a midsize or Fortune 500 you already know you are way past the point of Big Data so how do you get in front of this issue and start to make sense of what you have?

In reading about and testing Microsoft SQL Server 2012 and other new software toys around collaboration and analytics, there is a whole new set of Governance, Infrastructure, Metadata \ Legal and Compliance (retention), as well as other considerations that need to be ironed out but the more your organization’s 36 month IT Roadmap must start to cover this and the sooner the better. Then add the curveball in how your user base may completely change the way they access and view this “Big Data” from their mobile or “edge device” platform and Information Technology is really about to get fun and “bleeding” edge. It feels like technology has brought us to a point where organizations really are going to be forced to be innovative, or at least just keep up with the trends, or get left behind and overrun by their competition. IT is not the anti-sales department but rather the silver lining of innovation.

It was not a huge deal in the past, regarding which Microsoft Office version your company had on their desktop or laptops or whether you had SQL Server 2000 or SQL Server 2005… Those days are over. I am not an alarmist to ever advise a company to hastily run out and purchase software but planning and developing a roadmap for this ASAP is simply critical.