IBM’s acquisition of privately-held analytics firm Vivisimo, announced April 25, marks at an acceleration in Big Blue’s business-intelligence strategy. It’s an acceleration that’s needed, considering the aggression of other companies in the space. As usual for deals like these, financial terms went undisclosed. Vivisimo’s software automates data discovery. It pulls data from a variety of organizational sources, regardless of format or location. IBM described the acquisition as furthering its efforts to “automate the flow of data into business analytics applications, helping clients better understand consumer behavior, manage customer churn and network performance,” on top of helping with data-intensive operations such as fraud detection and marketing campaigns. IBM’s own numbers suggest that sensors, mobile devices and other sources generate some 2.5 quintillion bytes of data per day. Wrangling that deluge of bytes into a form usable to businesses necessitates some heavy-duty infrastructure. The company’s Big Data platform, into which Vivisimo’s technology will be incorporated, is based on open-source Apache Hadoop. IBM faces a number of competitors in the business-intelligence space, including SAP, Microsoft and Oracle. While the enterprise has traditionally been the primary consumer of business-intelligence tools, there’s also a rising interest in data mining and analytics among small- to midsize businesses (SMBs). A recent survey of 800 SMBs, conducted by research and analyst firm Techaisle, suggested that more than a third of U.S. midmarket companies “are currently using business intelligence but also interested in Big Data analytics.” Some 73 percent of those surveyed businesses preferred Hadoop “because of its ability to process large volumes of unstructured data.” Around 40 percent of the companies surveyed also expressed an interest in predictive analytics. Despite that curiosity, however, certain barriers to adoption remain, chief among them a lack of business-intelligence expertise on the part of IT departments. Given the relative newness of B.I. techniques and tools among SMBs, and the resulting lack of use cases, businesses are also reluctant to plunge into the market without seeing more proof of return on investment (ROI). The ability to process unstructured data remains a large concern for businesses large and small. “Our research shows that only 1 percent to 5 percent of all enterprise data is in a structured, modeled format that fits neatly into enterprise data warehouses (EDWs) and data marts,” Boris Evelson, a Forrester analyst, wrote in an April 25 corporate blog posting. “That’s where big data exploration and discovery technologies such as Hadoop and Vivisimo come into play.” Image: Hasloo Group Production Studio/