Microsoft Brings Big Data Experts Together in Silicon Valley

The following is a post from Douglas Crets, Developer Evangelist, Strategic & Emerging Business Team, Microsoft.

Business folks from farmers in Nebraska to small store retailers in Mumbai to startup developers in Silicon Valley are finding that being able to quickly understand simple data analytics is making life easier and feeding the bottom line.

During Big Data Date Night, an event hosted last night by Microsoft, 300 big data engineers, analysts and innovators from Silicon Valley gathered to talk shop and share how they are helping their customers make sense out of huge sets of structured and unstructured data, while giving glimpses into the tremendous business opportunities available through Big data in all classes of enterprise and consumer verticals.

In this video, Herain Oberoi (Director of Big Data Product Management, Microsoft), and two speakers from the Big Data Date Night event are interviewed: Bruno Aziza (VP of Marketing for SiSense, a company member of the Microsoft BizSpark program) who also helped organize the event and Ofer Mendelevitch (Director Data Sciences for Hortonworks, an open source company providing a distribution of Hadoop). HDInsights, Microsoft’s new Hadoop-based service, is built on the Hortonworks Data Platform and offers 100% compatibility with Apache Hadoop. 

Microsoft hosted this gathering so the community could learn the latest from industry big data experts and bring them up to speed on Microsoft’s work to support Hadoop on Windows Azure.

The conversation quickly turned to the goal of making data analysis super easy for business people anywhere in the world, by offering them the tools that Microsoft develops in collaboration with HortonWorks and other Hadoop players. Kamal Hathi, Engineering Director at Microsoft, said that this collaboration is a core part of the work Microsoft is doing to help its one billion customers make data analysis more simple and effective – so their lives and the management of their businesses are easier.

“How is a guy in Nebraska, for example, who is really focused on running his meatpacking plant, going to know who to hire and what to work with if he has this soup of acronyms to sift through?” said Hathi.

For some in the crowd, the work Microsoft is doing to provide a Hadoop-based solution on Azure that is 100% compatible with Apache Hadoop came as a welcome surprise. The team releases all their work back to the OSS community, said Hathi.

“It’s not just having open source standards and Hadoop distribution, but it’s having an entire platform around it,” said Hathi.

We also heard from Ken Rudin, Head of Analytics at Facebook, who said that big data is the core of Facebook. They make every new developer hire go through an intense bootcamp to make sure they know the subject area in and out.

Isaac Buahnick, Business Analyst at Wix, told the 300-strong crowd that “Big data is much bigger than we realize. There’s the tangible business data in our servers, but then there is the intangible data” out there in social media. He said that everyone – even small business owners – are finding this data useful.

Chris Pouliot, Director, Algorithms & Analytics at Netflix seemed to agree. He said that business people and analysts look at all angles of data, because while it is important to know what big data tells you about today, “it’s also important to know what it will tell you about tomorrow.”

“We’re really changing what it means to get insights from data. And it’s not just someone in a high-end, specialized function. This is for anyone,” said Kamal Hathi.

“We want to make it simple; make it easy to make sense of data – I don’t care what the technology is,” he continued. “I want to make it possible for the average business person to make sense of his data and really make decisions.”