Google BigQuery: The Googleplex Takes On Big Data in the Cloud

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At this week’s Structure Data conference, Google discussed BigQuery, its forthcoming entrant into the emerging big data marketplace, leveraging Google’s computing power and algorithmic know-how as a cloud platform for business intelligence and analytics. The service has been available in a closed preview since 2010 and is available now in a closed beta.

Google BigQuery, as you may guess from the name, is designed to crunch huge amounts of data – the search giant isn’t ready to divulge case studies or even many customer names just yet, but Google indicates that it’s been field-tested with tens of terabytes of database entries. It doesn’t use SQL, per se, but it does support “SQL-like” queries from within Google Spreadsheets, but Google suggests that you use the existing Google Cloud SQL solution if you’re looking for a relational database. Google BigQuery is for, well, big queries.

On stage at Structure, Ju-Kay Kwek, product manager for the Google Cloud Platform Team, explained that Google BigQuery is a natural extension of the company’s internal tools, reports PCWorld. After all, you’d better believe Google applies analytics to usage of even its consumer services like Gmail. And with its scalable cloud infrastructure, Google is able to keep every scrap of data it generates for later analysis by engineers.

“The fine-grain data is key,” Kwek said. “The more questions you can quickly ask, the smarter those questions get.”

We Are Cloud , a service provider based in Montpellier, France, also took the stage to offer some perspectives on the value of using big data in the cloud to offer customers Bime, business intelligence, analytics and data visualization solution that uses Google BigQuery as its data management platform.

But while the cloud affords new opportunities, said We Are Cloud CEO Rachel Delacour during her time in the spotlight, on premises big data isn’t dead yet. On premises tools still offer superior speed and depth on data analysis, more flexible visualizations and performance across data sets. But the cloud already provides a cost, management and collaboration edge for big data applications, whether you’re using Google BigQuery or Hadoop.

Services Angle

Big data remains the trend to watch in 2012, no doubt. But it’s extremely interesting watching big data in the cloud develop as its own submarket, as businesses look for a way to take advantage that doesn’t involve deploying or maintaining their own clusters. Google entering this arena isn’t much of a surprise, and I suspect that the analytics industry is big enough for another cloud player.

Just as Foursquare tapped Amazon Elastic MapReduce to provide big data-driven analytics for its Amazon Web Services-hosted data, I’m expecting the majority of Google BigQuery’s customer base to already be using Google’s cloud platform to some extent, though it’s also available as a standalone offering.

I’m also glad that Google took the time to bring We Are Cloud into the conversation – service providers are increasingly taking a consultative role when it comes to big data, and while that’s not something that the search giant’s traditionally made a major play, putting a partner up there front and center shows that Google understands the need. The cloud already goes a long way towards closing the skills gap for small businesses, thanks to the lack of a need for management, and the service provider can go the rest of the way.