Though Oracle has always had a presence in the enterprise arena, yet now it appears the tech giant is moving into a new area - and that area is big data. Big data, which is a catch-all term for data sets that are so large they become difficult to process, is becoming a greater issue as sites such as Facebook amass increasingly unwieldy data sets that contain valuable information.
At Monday's talks at OpenWorld, Oracle's annual conference, the company announced that, through its new Big Data Appliance tool, it would be beginning the commercialization of NoSQL and Hadoop technology used for MapReduce-type synthesizing of cloud-powered big data analytics.
MapReduce is a Google-patented software framework that allows massive amounts of data to be crunched in parallel on several different machines, allowing for faster processing. NoSQL and Hadoop implementation would allow Oracle to harvest unstructured information from sites such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube and combine it with structured data for the purposes of analytical reports.
While a tremendous tool for business, the implication for consumers is not as straightforward as it seems. TechRepublic writer Jason Hiner borrowed an example utilized by Oracle partner EMC for its own product. In it, a hypothetical car insurance company who wanted to use big data to more fairly set rates among its customers, was offering lower standard rates for the safer majority while penalizing the small minority of unsafe drivers with higher rates.
Where the example takes an uncomfortable turn, however, is how those rates are determined. While one set of analysis is based on traditional structured data such as your driving and legal records, the other could theoretically be based upon unstructured data such as Tweets, Facebook photos and even the videos you view on YouTube. Those customers whose behavior and social media trail are deemed to be less indicative of risk pay less, with their 'dangerous' counterparts paying more.
This capability already exists, but is not yet being harnessed in the way that Oracle appears to be prepared to do. With the commercialization of this service, however, Oracle may be at the front of a permanent shift in the way businesses approach market research.