Book Reviews

Book Review: Too Big to Ignore: The Case for Big Data

Too Big to IgnoreI’ve watched big data surge as an industry in the last year or so, and have learned a lot along the way. While on the big data journey, I met Phil Simon through Twitter, and have traded links and stories with him ever since. He sent me a copy of his book, Too Big to Ignore: The Case for Big Data, and asked for my in-the-trenches opinion. As a non-technical person thrust into the weeds of big data, this book helped me better understand where the phenomenon came from, how it ties into prior technologies, and where it may be headed.

Phil writes in a very conversational, approachable style, covering the history of how we’ve worked with data. This context is helpful for people – like me – who lack a more rigorous technical background. I’ve picked up bits and pieces over time, but reviewing this history of structured data, relational data models, data warehouses, and more proved helpful.

Phil hits a nice balance of practical advice for thinking through a big data business case, watching for common pitfalls, and opening your mind to new possibilities. He argues that, “Big data is less about following items on a checklist and more about embracing the unknown” – a valuable reminder for those embarking on a big data journey. Through case studies, Simon shares several examples of organizations that allowed themselves to stray from a process or checklist and the benefits they’ve experienced.

There’s a handy overview of some common big data solutions, a solid discussion of Hadoop and a realistic treatment of the biggest challenges and cautions posed by big data. But he ends on the right note, looking at the sheer potential of big data to drive “the internet of things” and the components of a smarter home, from thermostats and music to more.

I’d recommend this for anyone wanting to better understand where big data came from, why we’re talking about it, and why it matters. It’s a handy resource and would also be useful to help an executive or other business-oriented person better understand what they need to know to ask the right questions of vendors and partners.

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