Blog

July 30, 2013

Big Data BI: More Than Just Pretty Visualizations

Theresa Vu

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Is data visualization for big data different than it is for small data? Platfora hosted the Bay Area Data Visualization Group for a meetup in our new headquarters to answer this question. James Mulholland, Platfora’s original interaction designer, shared his insights on big data visualization and its role in data discovery. How big is big data? Six years after Amazon Web Services launched their Simple Storage Service (S3) in 2006, over 1 trillion objects have been stored. In less than a year, that number has doubled to over 2 trillion objects. Enterprises are being inundated with …

Is data visualization for big data different than it is for small data? Platfora hosted the Bay Area Data Visualization Group for a meetup in our new headquarters to answer this question. James Mulholland, Platfora’s original interaction designer, shared his insights on big data visualization and its role in data discovery.

How big is big data? Six years after Amazon Web Services launched their Simple Storage Service (S3) in 2006, over 1 trillion objects have been stored. In less than a year, that number has doubled to over 2 trillion objects. Enterprises are being inundated with clickstream logs, social media streams, gaming records, and machine-generated sensor data. Visualizations are a vital tool for making sense of it all because they keep people at the center of the decision-making process. Visualization brings data (especially big data) to a human level. It allows us to tap into our innate perceptive abilities to detect patterns, trends, and outliers by putting data into context – context that would simply be lost by looking at thousands of rows in a spreadsheet.

So is data visualization different for big data? The charts and graphs that we use for big data aren’t really different than the ones used for small data, but designing a visualization tool for big data is inherently different. Through a standard web browser, Platfora is able to render 10 million marks in a single visualization. If a 15-inch screen on a MacBook Pro only has 5 million pixels, is this overkill? We don’t think so. At Platfora, we’re driving to put all of the raw data into the hands of all business users across the enterprise. This allows them to dive deep into the details to answer the questions they have today and the new questions that they’ll have tomorrow. Analyzing big data requires iterative refinement to find the signal in the noise. As Michelangelo said, “I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.”

In the end, being data-driven is about making better decisions, not having data make decisions for you. Big data visualizations are not a crystal ball that can tell you the future, but they empower people with the ability to explore and question the data interactively. This keeps people at the center of your data analysis process. Users can find insights to drive decision-making and make a positive impact on their company and most importantly, customers.

Check out James’ presentation here. Let us know your thoughts!

 

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