Big data is an all-encompassing term for any collection of data sets so large and complex that it becomes difficult to process using on-hand data management tools or traditional data processing applications.
The challenges include capture, curation, storage, search, sharing, transfer, analysis and visualisation. The trend to larger big data sets is due to the additional information derivable from analysis of a single large set of related data, as compared to separate smaller sets with the same total amount of data, allowing correlations to be found to:
“spot business trends, prevent diseases, combat crime and so on.”
Scientists regularly encounter limitations due to large data sets in many areas, including meteorology, genomics, connectomics, complex physics simulations, and biological and environmental research. The limitations also affect Internet search, finance and business informatics. Data sets grow in size in part because they are increasingly being gathered by ubiquitous information-sensing mobile devices, aerial sensory technologies (remote sensing), software logs, cameras, microphones, radio-frequency identification (RFID) readers, and wireless sensor networks.The world’s technological per-capita capacity to store information has roughly doubled every 40 months since the 1980s; as of 2012, every day 2.5 exabytes (2.5×1018) of data were created.The challenge for large enterprises is determining who should own big data initiatives that straddle the entire organisation.
Big data is difficult to work with using most relational database management systems and desktop statistics and visualisation packages, requiring instead
“massively parallel software running on tens, hundreds, or even thousands of servers”.
What is considered “big data” varies depending on the capabilities of the organisation managing the set, and on the capabilities of the applications that are traditionally used to process and analyse the data set in its domain. “For some organisations, facing hundreds of gigabytes of data for the first time may trigger a need to reconsider big data management options. For others, it may take tens or hundreds of terabytes before big data size becomes a significant consideration.”