Chuck Romine, the new head of the IT Lab at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), says the agency's priorities for the coming year are big data, cloud computing, mobility, and cybersecurity. Cybersecurity is an area where government leadership can bring benefits across the board. The other priority areas are, I guess, places where significant government activity creates an interest in standardization.
But what kind of standards are we looking for in big data, cloud computing, and mobility? I believe the key driver for standards in cloud and mobile computing is avoidance of lock-in. Users want to be able to shift their data and applications across storage solutions and networks without having to make major structural changes. The driver for standards in big data is less clear to me.
That may be because “big data” is such a catch-all term. For me, the term implies that there's some intuitive, but not obvious, common structural features that unites a mass of data from different sources. So, if I have a ton of data collated from the web, email, CCTV cameras and recorded phone conversations, perhaps there are inferences I can make about the behavior of groups from the shadows left by individuals on these various systems.
It seems to me that standards for big data need to emerge from the business domains to which such data sets belong. I'm struggling to think of an overriding, independent sense in which “standards for big data” have any relevance.
Perhaps I'm looking too deep. Maybe NIST's guidance on big data will be around the need for those agencies contributing source data to conform with existing industry standards. In this case, big data represents a new opportunity to educate collaborators on the value of standards, rather than a new field of standards per se. Big Data Standards