Big Data

Beyond the buzz of big data

Big Data word graphic

A lot of big-data buzz centers on potential, hinting at how federal agencies and organizations might someday make sense of their information or find the oft-mentioned needle in the haystack of data.

Meanwhile, some agencies are actually doing big data to great effect.

The Securities and Exchange Commission, for example, collects about 1 billion records every day with its Market Information Data Analytics System (MIDAS) platform.

The trading data comes from more than 10 different market exchange feeds and totals some 23 petabytes per year, meaning analysis for anomalies like the tell-tale signs of insider trading would be impossible for even a large staff of people to detect, according to SEC CIO Thomas Bayer.

MIDAS makes the analysis unfathomably easier and faster – in near real-time – allowing for both a detailed understanding of the current market and long-term trends.

"When you look at what we’ve been able to do analyzing that data, it's taken a lot of mystery out of what the market is perceived to be doing," said Bayer, speaking at the Symantec Government Symposium on March 11.

The SEC's needs continue to grow. As an example, Bayer said, the agency dissects 9 million page reports, impossible without automated analysis allowed in the big data age. Soon, the agency will collect even more, on the order of 2 petabytes of market data per day. Humans only handle that kind of data after advanced analytics carve it down. If sketchy trends – or needles in the haystacks – are found, "you can turn to humans to do further investigation and examination"Bayer said.

At the symposium, Lieut. Col. William Saxon, division chief and program director for the Army’s Enterprise Management Decision Support System Program, described the Army’s foray into big data. Today, the Army collects a wide assortment of information on "people, training, equipment and installations," and runs metrics against that data to produce another data store for its "readiness" effort.

The big data challenge for the Army was always in the "access and discovery of it," Saxon said, mostly because the Army has 3,600 different systems on which it stores information. In recent years, "it was a challenge to bring all that data to one place so that a handful of action officers in a dark room somewhere" could analyze it. Thanks to a focused evolution of its big data systems, Saxon said, that handful of action officers "can turn answers quickly"and utilize the existing system to present their answers.”

Ironically, while technology continues to evolve at a rapid pace, Saxon said the Army’s data problems now are "political."

"Someone had data but didn’t want to share," Saxon said. "Or we're getting the data out of legacy systems."

About the Author

Frank Konkel is a former staff writer for FCW.

Rising Stars

Meet 21 early-career leaders who are doing great things in federal IT.

Featured

  • SEC Chairman Jay Clayton

    SEC owns up to 2016 breach

    A key database of financial information was breached in 2016, possibly in support of insider trading, said the Securities and Exchange Commission.

  • Image from Shutterstock.com

    DOD looks to get aggressive about cloud adoption

    Defense leaders and Congress are looking to encourage more aggressive cloud policies and prod reluctant agencies to embrace experimentation and risk-taking.

  • Shutterstock / Pictofigo

    The next big thing in IT procurement

    Steve Kelman talks to the agencies that have embraced tech demos in their acquisition efforts -- and urges others in government to give it a try.

  • broken lock

    DHS bans Kaspersky from federal systems

    The Department of Homeland Security banned the Russian cybersecurity company Kaspersky Lab’s products from federal agencies in a new binding operational directive.

  • man planning layoffs

    USDA looks to cut CIOs as part of reorg

    The Department of Agriculture is looking to cut down on the number of agency CIOs in the name of efficiency and better communication across mission areas.

  • What's next for agency cyber efforts?

    Ninety days after the Trump administration's executive order, FCW sat down with agency cyber leaders to discuss what’s changing.

Reader comments

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above

More from 1105 Public Sector Media Group