what is big data and history

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Big data history

The term ‘Big Data’ has been in use since the early 1990s. Although it is not exactly known who first used the term, most people credit John R. Mashey (who at the time worked at Silicon Graphics) for making the term popular.

In its true essence, Big Data is not something that is completely new or only of the last two decades. Over the course of centuries, people have been trying to use data analysis and analytics techniques to support their decision-making process. The ancient Egyptians around 300 BC already tried to capture all existing ‘data’ in the library of Alexandria. Moreover, the Roman Empire used to carefully analyze statistics of their military to determine the optimal distribution for their armies.

However, in the last two decades, the volume and speed with which data is generated has changed – beyond measures of human comprehension. The total amount of data in the world was 4.4 zettabytes in 2013. That is set to rise steeply to 44 zettabytes by 2020. To put that in perspective, 44 zettabytes is equivalent to 44 trillion gigabytes. Even with the most advanced technologies today, it is impossible to analyze all this data. The need to process these increasingly larger (and unstructured) data sets is how traditional data analysis transformed into ‘Big Data’ in the last decade.

To illustrate this development over time, the evolution of Big Data can roughly be sub-divided into three main phases. Each phase has its own characteristics and capabilities. In order to understand the context of Big Data today, it is important to understand how each phase contributed to the contemporary meaning of Big Data.

The definition of big data is data that contains greater variety, arriving in increasing volumes and with more velocity. This is also known as the three Vs. Put simply, big data is larger, more complex data sets, especially from new data sources.

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