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Where Big Money Is Investing in Big Data

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Posted April 25, 2012 By Sean Michael Kerner     Feedback

Co-founder of IPO star Splunk, now a venture capitalist, provides insight into the future of Big Data and collaborative applications.

Michael Baum, the co-founder and former CEO of Splunk, has made millions from Big Data. Splunk debuted last week to a stellar IPO as the company cashed in on growing market demand and interest in leveraging Big Data. Now a venture capitalist with Rembrandt Venture Partners, Baum is looking at what's next in Big Data and he's got a few ideas to help find the next big thing.

"Our big idea at Splunk was to take all the data, save it, make it searchable and then allow people to download when they need to in order to figure out what's going on," Baum told "When we started, the word "Big Data" didn't really exist then and it's lucky for us we're hitting the public market at good time, since Big Data is really hot."

While Big Data is often associated with the open source Hadoop project, it's not how Baum would define the entire space.

When asked to offer a definition of Big Data, Baum said, "The simple measure I use is if you're storing every scrap of raw data in whatever your application is, then you're probably Big Data."

In his view Hadoop is the "beautiful super model" of the Big Data world, but it's not where substance is found in the market. The substance today is companies like Splunk that can incorporate Hadoop into their solutions. He's also a fan of non-relational database NoSQL stores.

"Probably the greatest disservice we ever did ourselves in computing was creating the relational database, where we locked ourselves into taking thin slices of information," he said.

Baum is engaged in the search for the killer Big Data application. A big use case is what he refers to as a general Big Data sandbox.

 "Inside of every large enterprise in five or 10 years, every company will have Big Data and they'll need systems to provide storage, interfaces, job processing and monitoring," he said. "So one of the killer apps is just enabling that, so enterprises can have a sandbox in which to play and discover all kinds of new optimizations on top of Big Data sets."

From a startup perspective, Baum isn't worried about competition with giants of the database space, including Oracle. He noted that Splunk is a company that did over $100 million in sales in the past year and yet was never acquired. It was not acquired because the business model didn't complement the strategies of an Oracle or an IBM, he said. 

When Baum considers investments, he looks for companies that are not looking simply to be acquired by a bigger player.

"As an entrepreneur or as an investor my focus is the same, and that is to find interesting problems, find people that are passionate about solving those problems and find unique ways to go to market," he said. "The rest plays out over time; you don't engineer a company to be acquired versus it being standalone."

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at, the news service of the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.

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