Dictionary definition highlights big data revolution

Last week, the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) announced its latest additions for June 2013, with over 1,200 word definitions added or revised. As has been frequently the case in recent years, several of the new words came from the technology world.

Tweet, for instance, is now recognized for its social media use, while crowdsourcing and mouseover also make an appearance for the first time. But also included in the dictionary is big data, which reflects the huge boom in interest in the development over the last few years.

Having an official definition to rely on may be good news for IT personnel who struggle to articulate the concept to other business units. According to the OED, big data, as a noun, is defined as: "Data of a very large size, typically to the extent that its manipulation and management present significant logistical challenges."

The OED noted that technology vocabulary is an area of language that is constantly evolving in order to meet new requirements, so what terms the body chooses to include in its official record of the English language can be a clear sign as to when a development has progressed beyond its initial first steps and has turned into a mainstream technology.

This is certainly the case with big data, as demand for data analytics tools to cope with this is growing all the time and becoming a key priority for IT departments.

Earlier this week, it was observed by International Data Corporation (IDC) that big data analytics are now a key part of the workloads of many high performance computing sites around the world. It found around two-thirds of respondents said they performed analytics work on their HPC systems, with an average of 30 per cent of available computing cycles devoted to this activity.

Earl Joseph, program vice-president for technical computing at IDC, observed that this – along with a significant increase in the penetration of co-processors and accelerators – was one of the most "surprising" findings of the survey.