A Report from Boston’s First “Big Data Summit”


The first meeting of the Boston Big Data Summit was held yesterday. Since the announcement on October 2, the event has had a great reception. Just over a hundred people attended, with an almost even split between “end users” and “vendors.” By a significant margin, the vendors were entrepreneurs or self described “startup types.” Many established players were also represented in the audience.

The program featured a keynote speech by Curt Monash, a leading analyst and strategic advisor to the software industry. This was followed by a lively panel discussion with Ellen Rubin, founder and vice president of products at Cloudswitch; David Cohen, chief architect for the Cloud Infrastructure Group at EMC Corporation; and Larry Dennison, president and founder of Lightwolf Technologies.

The Boston area has long had a tradition of nurturing entrepreneurship in “big iron” and enterprise class products, and the audience yesterday reflected that tradition. Late in September, Bob Zurek and I met to discuss the possibility of setting up this forum. We recognized that there were no technical forums that were geared towards Database Management Systems (DBMS) and Information Management (IM) professionals in the Boston area, and felt that there was an acute need for one.

In setting up the Boston Big Data Summit, we had a simple mission: to create a technical forum for DBMS and IM professionals, and foster innovation and entrepreneurship in these areas, through networking, debate and the sharing of experience. The forums would necessarily be somewhat geeky (that’s what you get when you have two geeks running the show).

The goal was to make them accessible to everyone at no cost. Our sponsors Foley Hoag, Infobright, Expressor Software, and Kalido made the event possible, and we intend to continue to fund this venture through corporate sponsorships.

Yesterday’s event is, hopefully, the first of a regular series of events that we will be organizing. The next event is scheduled for sometime in January, and we would like the one after that, in the spring, to be a day long event with multiple speakers, panelists and discussion areas. The excellent reception to yesterday’s event is a clear indication of the need in this area.

The keynote speech reflected Curt’s extensive experience and depth of knowledge in the field of Big Data, analytics, and the companies and technologies in the space. Curt described the market and provided three different ways of segmenting the market for these products, a segmentation that was the subject of much discussion after the event ended. The comment that the “NoSQL movement is like the Ron Paul movement—they are unhappy, don’t like what they have, and have little to offer” was well received by an audience full of “database types”.

The panel discussion was lively; there were very few subjects where the panelists were unanimous in their opinion. Each brought a different perspective to the problem, a perspective reflecting their areas of expertise (and the target markets of their company’s products).

Even terms as commonplace as “Pure Cloud” and “Enterprise Cloud” are not uniformly defined, and this is a reflection of the immaturity and rapid change in the field. “Clouds are nebulous things,” one panelist quipped.

However, there was a unanimous view that Data Warehousing in the cloud was a distant vision, primarily because of bandwidth limitations, highly variable latencies and bandwidth between storage, memory and CPU, and the lack of robust security infrastructures in the cloud. Participants seemed to agree that cloud adoption in the next year would be characterized by slow migration of low risk and non-production activities, as more companies take their first steps in this direction.

The preliminary result of a survey of attendees indicates that participants are most concerned about issues relating to scalability, data quality and security in the cloud. A significant number of attendees are concerned about issues related to scientific computing with large data sets. Surprisingly, a very small number are interested in Data Warehousing as a Service. The next Big Data event will be in January, and we will be deciding the topic based on the input we received in this survey.

If you have comments about yesterday’s event or you would like to help with the next event, or be a sponsor for the event, please contact me. It is our goal to make these events accessible to everyone at no cost to the attendees and build a vibrant technical forum for DBMS and IM professionals in the Boston area.

Amrith Kumar is a technologist and entrepreneur who has helped design, architect and create enterprise class software and hardware products. He is the co-founder of the Boston Big Data Summit and writes a blog, Hype Cycles, which discusses a variety of technology related subjects. Follow @

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2 responses to “A Report from Boston’s First “Big Data Summit””

  1. I wasn’t there, but I’m glad you’re organizing this. Cool!