Big data, big opportunities — for science and for enterprise

Ahead of this month’s inaugural ISC Big Data conference in Germany, International Science Grid This Week speaks to CERN openlab’s Sverre Jarp


Ahead of this month’s inaugural ISC Big Data conference in Heidelberg, Germany,International Science Grid This Week speaks to CERN openlab’s Sverre Jarp.  Jarp, who is the general chair of the event, picks his highlights from the conference program and tells us why big data presents exciting opportunities, but also poses challenges, for enterprise and high-performance computing alike. 

Perhaps you could start by telling the readers a little about the event in your own words…

This will be the first-ever "ISC Big Data" conference and we’re looking forward to getting delegates together under the new motto "where enterprise and HPC meet". There’s a lot of potential in bringing people together from these two camps and enabling cross-fertilization between enterprise users and users of high-performance computing (HPC) or high-throughput computing (HTC).

Why is now the right time for a new conference focusing specifically on big data?

The importance of big data is growing so rapidly. Today, you can hardly open a webpage without discovering somebody talking about big data!

Of course, what’s most important is to target this intersection between the experience that is already in the HPC community and the interest that’s now coming from the business side. People really want to use data in a much more agile way. We’ve all heard about the three ‘V’s of big data (volume, velocity, and variety), so it’s no longer just a question of having static data reports on enterprises. They really want to find new ways of crunching the data and getting new business-related information out of it, which can then be used to improve processes, expand markets, drive customer uptake, etc.

So, it’s fair to say that ‘big data’ is more than just a buzz phrase then?

It’s clearly much more. Over the years, I’ve been at conferences where people have talked about dealing with gigabytes, terabytes, and now petabytes of data. Each time, there may have been a jump in scale of three orders of magnitude, but people have always wanted this same agility. They want to be able to extract new information that they can plough into their business processes, help them to get a return on their investment, and give them competitive advantages.

What are the highlights of the conference program for you? Are there any talks, workshops, or other sessions, which you are particularly looking forward to?

I think we’ve put together an outstanding program. I’m really excited about the sheer breadth and depth of the conference. We have speakers from academia, enterprise, and scientific research. We also have a keynote speech planned for each of the two days of the conference. We have another interesting speaker,Michael Feindt from Blue Yonder, who has actually taken analytics algorithms from physics and is applying them to businesses. We even have a speaker from PayPal explaining how the company is now using an HPC approach for fraud detection. It’s great to see that with this approach they’re able to make a significant return on investment. So, although they have installed ‘heavy iron’, it’s actually well worth it in terms of improving early detection of attempts at fraud.