Well, I finally feel comfortable saying it: Advanced Analytics is going mainstream this year. Even the term “Advanced Analytics” is a recent amalgam of long-time analytical disciplines that includes predictive analytics, descriptive analytics, data mining, machine learning and more. And now we refer to these techniques at Big Data scale as “Deep Learning”.
Here is Microsoft’s Joseph Sirosh talking about “Deep Learning in Every Software“. I would probably state it instead as “Advanced Analytics everywhere”. Not all scenarios require Big Data scale techniques, but most every application can gain an advantage by including cognitive capabilities as a natural aspect of the end-user experience.
Having spent years in the wilderness working on projects that included predicitve, data mining and machine learning, I wondered what are some of the recent technology and business drivers that have led us to the current inflection point in which advanced analytics begins finally breaking through into mainstream applications.
At Pentaho, we struggled for years to break through with machine learning projects using the popular Weka ML platform and retrofitted Weka to Big Data platforms Hadoop & Spark. At Microsoft, we had data mining built into the mainstream SQL Server database product for a long time, but it was a niche capability.
To me, these 5 factors have most impacted the recent turn, which is also the next-step result of US businesses focusing a lot of time, attention and resource on hiring, training and mentoring the Data Science role in their organizations.
- Open source projects, tools and libraries eliminated both the high-cost requirements of advanced analytics tools as well as making pre-built, trained and tested models available to non-math PhDs.
- R, Python, CRAN, TensorFlow, Cognitive Toolkit. I’ll also throw in my affinity to Weka because it was a trailblazer in the open source ML market and is still taught in many academic classes.
- Data quality and governance maturity: Decades of collecting data for business intelligence by the business and IT communities has raised awareness of the need to curate data, meaning that there are more quality data marts available for advanced analytical projects that can mine and optimize those marts.
- Artificial intelligence in everyday life: The more comfortable and familiar people become with AI, the more they will come to expect that in business applications as well. Everyday exposure to AI, ie. recommendation engines (Amazon, Netflix), face recognition (Facebook)
- Cloud Computing: Without needing to put resources into acquiring, standing-up and maintaining complex analytics architectures on-prem, I can just build machine learning experiments, explore data sets and operationalize learning as web services from my broswer or client tool using Azure Machine Learning, R Studio or Spark/R notebooks from an on-demand Hadoop cluster.