Big Data shines at US DEMO conference

Result of a new found focus on innovative home and business tools

SANTA CLARA: At this week's Fall 2012 DEMO conference, big data was in a category by itself - and for good reason.

In an event typically dominated by consumer-facing technologies, DEMO organisers created a separate panel of executives from Cisco, Google, and venture capital firm Andreesen Horowitz to analyze each of the nine presenters with products based on Big Data.

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The newfound focus on Big Data tools was the result of a new found focus on innovative home and business tools, which were exemplified by two DEMO presenters in particular.

A young company called Ube harnesses Big Data and the ever-growing "Internet of things" in an attempt to extend Wi-Fi connectivity to home appliances. Through a combination of a free mobile app and Ube's custom-designed appliances, such as a remotely activated light dimmer, electrical outlets and even plug-in adapters for standard outlets, Ube enables users to remotely control the power to almost any household device. That means that from any location the user can shut off the lights, the television, and even the iron, if the device's cord is plugged into one of Ube's smart plug outlets.

DEMO panelists praised Ube's mobile app, particularly its easily navigable user interface that organizes and sorts connected devices. The outstanding question most panelists had for Ube was not related to the technology, but more about the state of the market. When, exactly, will homeowners recognize the potential of this technology?

Ube CEO Utz Baldwin was not deterred. Baldwin says Ube's products reduce the cost of implementing connected home electronics enough to facilitate adoption in new markets. He says the current market for Internet-connected home is valued around $13 billion, and is composed primarily of wealthy consumers with homes valued $750,000 and up.

As an example, Baldwin pointed to the light dimmer. Most standard connected light dimmers, which enable a user to dim and shut off lights remotely, require heavy labor for installation of both the hardware and communications technology, as well as a custom API. He ball-parked the current cost of a connected light dimmer at around $200. By comparison, the Ube light dimmer will be priced around $60 and will come pre-enabled for Wi-Fi connectivity, Baldwin says.

In the enterprise, a company called AppEnsure showcased its use of big data to turn application performance management on its head. Company CEO and co-founder Colin MacNab says APM became more difficult when companies began virtualizing their apps.

A common problem, as seen firsthand by co-founder and CTO Sri Chaganty in his previous consulting job, was the vast effort involved when an application crashed. Chaganty is familiar with the experience, having been forced to sort through logs, correlate events and pinpoint problems many times over his 15 years in consulting.

"That's a very manual thing to do," MacNab says. "The reason it lasts so long is because you cannot ask humans to do that level of big data analytics in real time."

Instead, Chaganty and MacNab developed a simpler application performance management solution that monitors all traffic of all apps across the company's infrastructure. Monitoring apps, as opposed to the network at large, allows an automated system to look deeper into performance issues.

"If you take what's handed out on management today, in NetFlow or Java information or http, it's too high up," MacNab says. "It stops you from looking down far enough to start being deterministic."

With AppEnsure, the data collected is translated into an easily navigable user interface that updates in real time when apps are beginning to encounter performance issues. A heat map indicates when apps are in danger by automatically moving them into the red area, and when they are performing well by moving them into green. From there, users can access the troubled apps individually.

The DEMO panelists warned that AppEnsure was entering a crowded market of APM solutions, but was largely won over by the solution's interface.

In fact, the use of big data could become useful in the BYOD arena as well. Sheila Jordan, a DEMO panelist and senior vice president of communication and collaboration IT at Cisco, says enterprise IT may one day use this approach to get directly to the issues caused by consumer devices accessed on enterprise networks.

"It was pretty fascinating, and I think apps are bigger than BYOD," Jordan said. "I think the apps on the devices are what people are thinking about these days."

Read more about data center in Network World's Data Center section.

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