Aug 222012
are terms like cloud computing and big data just old rope

“Big Data is a fad” announced a speaker at a technology conference. “We’ve had Big Data for years. We used to call it business analytics.”

He’s right. The IT industry is very good at rebadging technology and the term ‘Big Data’ is just the latest of many examples — the best of which is how ‘cloud computing’ which is largely a rebadging of SaaS, Application Service Providers or client-server.

While it’s easy to be cynical about this IT industry habit, there is a valid underlying point to this repainting old rope — that the refurbished old string is cheaper and more useful than what came before it.

The problem for innovators creating accessible, cheaper and faster ways to do things is they risk that their product will be likened to the old, expensive and inaccessible methods. No cloud computing provider wants to be associated with IBM’s expensive client-server products or the flaky Application Service Provider of the dot com era.

Most innovations aren’t revolutionary, they have evolved out of an older way of doing things. So saying “it’s being done before” when seeing an innovative product may be missing the point.

In the case of Big Data the principles aren’t new but we’re collecting more data than ever before and the old tools — even if they could manage with the volume of information— are far more expensive than the new services.

So repainting old rope isn’t always done for purely marketing purposes, sometimes there’s a real benefit to the customers.

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