Are Small Businesses Ready for Big Data?

Herman Mehling

Updated · Apr 24, 2012

If you thought Big Data and the countless efforts to analyze it were strictly the concerns of large enterprises, think again. Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) have their own Big Data concerns. Yet too often, those concerns have been ignored by data analytics and business intelligence vendors. Recently, however, vendors including Actian, Birst and SAP have turned their attention to the Big Data needs of SMEs.

While SMEs are typically more resource constrained than larger businesses — due to smaller IT budgets, fewer IT professionals and/or limited cash —they are often more nimble than their larger counterparts. Thus one could argue they stand to gain the most from analytical tools that help them respond quickly to market shifts.


Actian earlier this year rolled out Vectorwise Workgroup Edition, which it designed to address the growing technology needs of mid-sized businesses as well as workgroups within larger organizations. The vendor's solution is powered by Vectorwise, a database engine written from the ground up to leverage modern chips and memory while providing industry-standard SQL-based interfaces and certifications with most major business intelligence tools. Vectorwise Workgroup Edition is aimed at buyers that can’t afford solutions from giants such as IBM, Microsoft, Oracle and Teradata, and lack the internal resources to design workarounds.

“Mid-market organizations and workgroups have business challenges that require enterprise-class technology,” said Steve Shine, Actian's CEO. “Yet they don’t have enterprise-sized resources for projects, especially uncertain ones.”

Shine emphasized that mid-market organizations don’t have a lot of time to play around with technology. He said Vectorwise Workgroup Edition gives mid-market organizations and workgroups the ability to get rapid answers without the uncertainty, cost and resources needed to run other technologies. 


Birst, a provider of business analytics solutions, added Apache Hadoop support to its business intelligence solution, claiming that the solution combines the scale of Hadoop data sets with Birst's agile multi-dimensional database.

Many organizations recognize the value Big Data has to offer, but except for large enterprises that can manage the complexity, few can afford data analytics, said Rick Spickelmier, Birst CTO.

Birst’s position is that Hadoop support will lower the data analytics adoption barrier by giving users the ability to treat Big Data like any other ordinary data set. By leveraging Hadoop under Birst’s eponymous analytics database, users can quickly aggregate and visualize Big Data such as website interactions, social media and cloud traffic — which traditionally would have required extensive ETL processes and considerable pain to set up.

“Business analytics is changing as the volume of data from online web interactions skyrockets and customers increasingly want to browse, query or merge transactional data with interaction data,” Spickelmier said.

“Data in Hadoop is not well suited for business intelligence and to make it actionable takes a lot of work,” he added. “Birst's automated multi-dimensional database allows organizations to quickly and easily take Big Data and make sense of it.”

Birst provides access to data stored in Hadoop and enables the business analyst to discover new relationships and patterns in data without locking them into manual ETL processes.


Another vendor targeting SMEs is SAP, which recently unveiled two offerings crafted to deliver the benefits of its SAP HANA platform to SMEs. The products, SAP Business One and SAP HANA, Edge edition, leverage SAP’s in-memory technology.

The new tools will give customers the flexibility to create interactive reports and run ad-hoc analysis faster than before, said Ketan Solanki, consulting manager, Evolution Future Solutions, an Australia-based SAP channel partner. “Another major advantage is access to relevant information in seconds with freestyle search,” he added, noting users will be able to navigate through various business objects without having to move from screen to screen.

Big Data Drivers

Looking ahead, three drivers will accelerate the adoption of sophisticated business analytics applications by small businesses, predicts Ed Lucente, a senior product marketing manager at AT&T.

In a blog post, Lucente listed those drivers as:

  • Continued adoption of cloud deployments from trusted service providers;
  • Innovative analytics cloud appliances;
  • Lower entry prices for a wide variety of business analytics solutions.

“Even more, as they adopt business analytics solutions via the cloud, small businesses may take their greatest leap ahead ever in operational efficiencies, customer satisfaction and competitiveness,” Lucente wrote.

Herman Mehling has been writing about technology for more than 25 years. He was an editor and reporter at Computer Reseller News and an executive at a number of PR agencies in the San Francisco area. Mehling has edited three books, including “How To Select A Vendor For Web Development” (written by Salim Lakhani). In addition to Enterprise Apps Today, he contributes regularly to and Enterprise Networking Planet.

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