Happy Birthday, Hadoop

Ten years on, are big data technologies finally taking root in Asia?

Hadoop celebrated its 10th birthday last week. Back in 2006, Doug Cutting joined Yahoo, and brought with him the development work he was doing on the Google File System and MapReduce. The Yahoo team subsequently launched Hadoop as an open source Apache Software Foundation project, and the rest is history.

In the ten years since, the advent of Hadoop has spawned hundreds of big data hardware and software products and services vendors. These contributed to a global industry that hit USD 38.4 billion of revenues in 2015, according to market researcher Wikibon

Never say never

So how has Asia responded to the lure of big data? Just a few years ago, when asked about the big data potential, the common responses from many Asian executives were, “we will never accept open source”, or “we will never go on the cloud”.

Today a different picture is emerging. A January 2016 report  by the Economist Intelligence Unit found that 63% of Asian executives believe their organisations are already generating revenue from the data they own, ahead of the survey’s US and European respondents (58% and 56% respectively).

Patchy use

However, only about half of those polled see data as ‘vital’, that is, used by almost all parts of their business, compared to 69% of US firms. This may account for IDC’s relatively modest forecast for the big data market in Asia – USD 3.6 billion by 2018 – a small fraction of the global number.

Studies have put Asia’s more tentative big data adoption down to four key factors: the lack of firm evidence that big data analytics pays off, the technological and skills challenges of leveraging big data, the inability to align existing processes to the new analytical output, and finally, the tight personal data regulations.

Put to the test

More recent evidence suggests that these barriers are slowly eroding. With many Asian firms now able to draw on at least six months’ experience of big data application, success stories have abounded.

Take for example the Philippines Long Distance Telephone Company (PLDT). Since June 2015, the company has been analysing network and subscriber calling activities, and have used the results to improve their capacity planning and advertising placements. Several other banks and telcos in the region have similar stories to tell. In fact, 94% of all users in a recent global Accenture survey said that their big data implementation was meeting their needs.

The rise in the number of big data vendors in Asia, and the 4,000-strong sold-out attendence at December’s first ever Asian Hadoop-Strata conference also signal changing times for big data adoption in Asia. Given the red hot speed of development within the Apache open source world, firms in the region that have yet to embrace big data can still catch up to their competitors, by leap frogging into newer technologies. It is never too late.

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