Conducting the Big Data Orchestra Part 1: A Personal Journey

After composing a suite of tracks for the Oz Flight Sim Expo to help promote the latest and greatest Logitech Flight stick and throttle combo and surviving the 2011 Brisbane floods, I needed a new challenge... and it happened to be big data. The funny thing is that I didn't know this at the time. It wasn't called big data in 2011.

I came across in-memory data grids and NOSQL databases as part of a professional engagement involving the biggest financial houses in Australasia.

In-memory data grid technologies were not well known, even in the IT industry, they sounded really cool and would help fill my mental weakness in the area of data and information management.  

So I applied for a CSC grant. The prize - three months of funded study away from billable work, plus a chance to present at the CSC Technology Business and Solutions Conference in New Orleans. The catch - only 15-20 grants were awarded each year across 95,000 employees globally and usually only one or two winners in the whole Australia / Asia region.

Just like they said in the Ghostbusters film, I got one - well - won a grant. So off I went on an incredible journey with the help of VMware (David Brown), CSC CTO (Bob Hayward) and many more great people.

The journey consisted of drawing on my proof of concept experience, to effectively summarise what an in-memory data grid is, the reference architectures it can be applied to and my pick of the top five in the business, together with a detailed product drill down on three of these products: VMWare Gemfire, Oracle Coherence and Alachisoft NCache. These are my recommendations when you're looking into in-memory data grid (IMDG) products.

But what is an IMDG?

'An in-memory data grid is a highly scalable, highly resilient, performance-centric software datastore, storing data in memory across geographically dispersed servers, using a non-relational, shared nothing architecture, in support of distributed applications.'

Which basically translates into a product that can provide a number of tangible business benefits:

  • Competitive Advantage - businesses will make better decisions faster in real-time.
  • Safety - businesses can improve the quality of their decisions and improve safety. 
  • Productivity - improved efficiency of business processes reduces waste and generally improves profitability. 
  • Improved Customer Experience - providing a faster, reliable web service can be strong differentiator.

Clients that were uncovered during the research and verified to have used this technology to realise many of these benefits include a global investment company, an online retailer and a budget airline carrier to name a few.

After completing my paper, I decided to spend a few weeks away from research: I presented to all the major universities in Brisbane, to great acclaim. I posted a number of articles online outlining my Top five data grid picks. Presented at the CSC Technology Business and Solutions Conference in New Orleans and even got to play the Steinway in the Hyatt Regency too. You can find that on You Tube. Thanks Glenn. :-)

I even got noticed by the VP of Oracle, who led the development of the Oracle Coherence offering (Cameron Purdy) as well as connecting with the Hazelcast CEO (Talip Ozturk) and the Terracotta CTO (Greg Luck).

In my next blog, I'll share some thoughts that Greg Luck, Terracotta CTO and I exchanged. I may even throw in some stories related to my State Emergency Service volunteering.

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About the author
Paul Colmer is Chief Architect for the CSC MyWorkStyle offerings, Fellow of the BCS and Fellow of the London College of Music, State Emergency Service Volunteer and a Music Composer based in Brisbane, Australia. His areas of expertise and passion include cloud systems, big data / analytics, meterology, music composition / orchestration and storm damage operations.

See all posts by Paul Colmer
April 2019
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