Towards big and fast data


Atif Kureishy, Principal, Booz Allen Hamilton talks about the latest trends in big data and the highlights from the Big Data Summit that was recently held in Dubai.


What is the continual increase in data volumes offering to the local market?

With the increase in human and machine-generated data, many local entities in the GCC are trying to figure out how to take advantage of the private data within their enterprises as well as the vast array of public and open data outside of the enterprises. These organizations are finding that their ICT infrastructures are limited and need to be modernized. Also, the skills of their workforce need to be refreshed to take into account emerging disciplines such as data science.


What are the latest trends in this industry?

The trends in the industry are towards big and fast data, where data is collected and processed in real time, enabling high tempo missions to take advantage of this new technology. In the past, big data has relied on batch-oriented processing but with emerging approaches using in-memory computing, the move to real-time is upon us. Predictive analytics continue to be on the agenda for many businesses but the challenges of decision makers in relation to the trust of the computational models remain the biggest obstacle to overcome for data-driven decision making. Finally, comprehensive security controls have made it into the discussion with big data. This is of primary concern for the industry and many of the leading vendors are now touting their security features.


How are big institutions making use of these inventions?

In the region, many organizations are looking towards vendors to solve their big data challenges. In reality, these organizations need to formulate their big strategy; incorporating their business objectives for big data value generation, approaches for accommodation of big data into their enterprise architectures, techniques for big data governance and development of a strategic roadmap describes their big data initiatives, requirements and needed capabilities. Once their strategy is developed, they should then look to engage the vendor community based on the requirements of their big data solution.


How is that helping them gain competitive advantage?

Organizations are still in the nascent stages of understanding and acquiring their big data capabilities so they have yet to gain a competitive advantage. The interest and investment in the region has been growing so entities will soon be realizing the benefits and challenges of big data in the Gulf.


What kind of difficulties do they face?

Big data and cloud computing offer compelling technology that, when combined, allow for rapid provisioning of analytic capability at scale. Amazon Elastic Map Reduce and Google Compute Engine have been offering big data infrastructure using a utility computing model to anyone interested in signing up. In the GCC, however, legal constraints prevent businesses and government entities from sending data across borders so the need for a managed big data environment within the regional borders that offers similar capabilities to Amazon and Google will really boost the adoption of Big data in the region.


How is Big Data contributing to transform Dubai into a Smart City?

Big data will be the foundational platform for the Dubai Smart City that will integrate the vast array of M2M, social, mobile, transactional and human generated data to provide intelligent services that are location and context-aware of each citizen. This will be achieved by the use of sophisticated analytics that are able to enhance the delivery of these new mobile smart services, which will engage the citizens in new and unique ways, ultimately driving citizen happiness.


What did experts at the Big Data Summit agree on as a “must do” to enhance this industry?

There’s a need for training and awareness across the region to understand what big data is, what are the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead, how to build internal big data capabilities, how to best position their organizations to incorporate this new way of thinking, and how to drive business value using the technologies as an enabler. If big data is viewed strictly as a technology, the strategic benefits will not be fully realized.


Where do you see this sector heading in the next few years?

The sector will see great investment in ICT infrastructure to build the big data infrastructure along with the development of big data analytics needed to achieve the smart government vision. However, the main focus in the near future will be on big data human capital and data science workforce training to build organizational capacity.


About Atif Kureishy:

Atif Kureishy is a Principal at Booz Allen Hamilton. He leads the Technology and Analytics - MENA Practice, and is based out of Abu Dhabi, UAE. His focus is on complex distributed systems that involve big data, mobile, advanced analytics and cyber security across Energy, Finance, Health and Security sectors. He is an expert in large-scale system development capabilities, high-assurance architectures, and agile development.


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