Data Management

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Is Your SysAdmin Actually A Data Scientist?

Data scientists are hard to find, but you may already have someone on your team who performs the duties of a true data guru.

"Other people can talk about how to expand the destiny of mankind. I just want to talk about how to fix a motorcycle. I think that what I have to say has more lasting value." -- Robert M. Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values

It is highly likely that you, right now, have a platform for Big Data analysis inside your institution. You probably also have at least one individual who is highly skilled at monitoring, searching, analyzing, visualizing and acting on unstructured streams of critical business data. The unstructured data is the record of activity and behavior of your customers, users, transactions, applications and IT infrastructure. The individual is probably the IT operations guru assigned to Splunk Enterprise.

Are you using Splunk? The chances are very good that you are -- according to its website, Splunk includes over 300 financial institutions among their clients. Splunk claims to "turn machine data into real-time operational intelligence," but most folks think of it as the systems management application that gathers up all of those application logs, configuration files, operating systems metrics, syslog data file and so on. It is what it does with the data that has made it one of the hottest products in the data center. By enabling correlations among all that collected data, Splunk provides the analytical firepower needed for application troubleshooting, investigating security incidents and monitoring service-level compliance.

This is only the beginning of what Splunk can do, however. Creative organizations are using Splunk to grow their business by analyzing customer usage patterns and geographical trends. The latest version, Splunk Enterprise 6, provide additional analytics and a new interface that allows users to manipulate, analyze and visualize data without needing to understand the format of the underlying raw machine data.

Before beginning the difficult (and expensive) search fro a data scientist, CIOs would be well-served to ask "where is that guy (or gal) who is fixing the motorcycle?"

Jennifer L. Costley, Ph.D. is a scientifically-trained technologist with broad multidisciplinary experience in enterprise architecture, software development, line management and infrastructure operations, primarily (although not exclusively) in capital markets. She is also a ... View Full Bio
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Byurcan
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Byurcan,
User Rank: Author
10/28/2013 | 2:47:02 PM
re: Is Your SysAdmin Actually A Data Scientist?
Good point, it seems the "data scientist" is becoming of the the more sough-after, trendy job positions, so it does make sense to develop internal employees to perform these functions.
Doug Henschen
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Doug Henschen,
User Rank: Apprentice
10/25/2013 | 9:09:23 PM
re: Is Your SysAdmin Actually A Data Scientist?
Didn't mean to say sys admins aren't bright people with keen insights. I just question whether their observations make their way up to departmental and LOB decision makers.
JL_Costley
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JL_Costley,
User Rank: Apprentice
10/25/2013 | 8:46:47 PM
re: Is Your SysAdmin Actually A Data Scientist?
I agree that both Splunk and its users have quite a way to go in optimizing the product for business decision-making, but I disagree with your characterization of good operations staff making "armchair observations." The best ones I've know are talented at sorting through data and turning it into useful knowledge. My point is that it is worth investigating what else you can learn from their analysis, not that it will give all the answers (or even the most important ones).
IvySchmerken
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IvySchmerken,
User Rank: Author
10/24/2013 | 10:57:22 PM
re: Is Your SysAdmin Actually A Data Scientist?
I'm told that big data requires someone to ask the right questions of the data. It's not necessarily just finding patterns. It's more of scientific method of investigating data. It's about figuring out which questions to ask.
Doug Henschen
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Doug Henschen,
User Rank: Apprentice
10/24/2013 | 7:03:04 PM
re: Is Your SysAdmin Actually A Data Scientist?
Splunk is a good example of what IT interprets as big data insight, but I'm guessing the armchair observations of sys admins monitoring the high-scale data spinning off of servers and systems doesn't often get channeled into real business decision making. IT system optimization decisions? Yes. How much to pay for keywords or to acquire customers with X attributes? Probably not.

Splunk is good stuff, but if you follow their releases, including their most recent http://ubm.io/1eX9R2D, you'll find they're always trying to find ways to simplify Splunk and put it into the hands of business users. That effort continues.
gogreen-traders
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gogreen-traders,
User Rank: Apprentice
10/23/2013 | 1:29:56 PM
re: Is Your SysAdmin Actually A Data Scientist?
Finding data analytic talent internally is a very smart move. Going out to the open market to find data scientists with experience is very expensive and very difficult (think: finding a needle in a haystack).

Plus, internal data talent should have some knowledge of the business and corporate culture, which is important when working across business units.
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