One of the biggest innovations that will be influencing many IT bosses' thinking in 2014 and beyond will be the growing potential of big data analytics. Many firms are set to make major investments in this area in the next few years, which International Data Corporation predicts will lead to the sector being worth $32.7 billion by 2017.

But within this industry, there will be several key trends that will shape how IT professionals use the technology. Some of these have been forecast by John Schroeder, chief executive and co-founder of Hadoop and big data specialist MapR. In an article for eWeek, he identified the most important major developments that will drive data analytics to be a must-have solution for all companies.

He noted that among the big factors in 2014 and beyond will be Hadoop. This technology will be one of the main disruptors for IT spending this year, displacing investments that would previously have gone towards more traditional data warehousing and enterprise storage solutions.

However, he cautioned that there is still a great deal of work to be done in order to create enterprise-ready solutions using Hadoop. Despite the launch of Hadoop 2.0 last fall, businesses are likely to find that Hadoop on its own is still not ready for prime time. Mr Schroeder said: "Apache Hadoop wasn't designed for system administration or common enterprise IT processes, such as disaster recovery. Enterprises will continue to move toward hybrid solutions that combine architectural innovations with Apache Hadoop's open source."

Mr Schroeder noted that 2014 will see a "dramatic increase" in the number of firms moving beyond the testing and experimentation phase and deploying Hadoop in their production environments.

He said: "This will reveal the power of Hadoop in operations where production applications combine analytics for measurable business advantage in apps such as customized retail recommendations, fraud detection and using sensor data for prescriptive maintenance."

The integration of search into Hadoop will also be an area many developers will focus on in 2014. The expert stated this will provide users with a simple and intuitive way to locate important information, with advanced big data skills not being required to take full advantage of this. As a result, Mr Schroeder predicted that 2014 will be the year in which unstructured query languages come into full focus for data analytics.    

SQL will also gain in prominence in many organizations in the coming year. Mr Schroeder said that such developments for Hadoop will enable big data analysts to use their existing skills and tools of choice in order to make projects successful.

But this will create some challenges that developers will have to overcome. He observed SQL requires structure, which is likely to cause delays and require more manual intervention. SQL also limits the type of analysis that can be performed on information, so firms that rely on this too heavily may face difficulties in fully leveraging the insight gained from their data.

With so much information being handled this year, it is inevitable that businesses will encounter the occasional data error. But how they deal with this could define their success, as the best-performing companies will use these as learning opportunities to improve their operations.