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“Leveraging big data is a must, there are still a lot of questions of ‘how’.” – Interview with SoftLayer’s Justin Halsall

JustinHalsall

Justin works as a Tech Evangelist at SoftLayer. SoftLayer, an IBM Company, provides cloud infrastructure as a service from a growing number of data centers and network points of presence around the world. Customers range from Web startups to global enterprises.

Products and services include bare metal and virtual servers, networking, turnkey big data solutions, private cloud solutions, and more.


Can you tell me a little bit about the motivations behind launching Big Data Academy?

Big Data as a subject has become that big that it constitutes a challenge on its own. For example, it’s not easy to get your head around what is out there, what makes sense for your organization, what is the most optimized setup, and how you can extract actual value from the available technology. And when you add “cloud” to the mix, it becomes even more complex! Last spring, we decided to create a platform that would address professionals from the big data space that are close to the infrastructure and develops that side of the business – taking them on a journey from beginners, through to enthusiast and finally a practitioner level when it comes to deploying and implementing big data workloads on cloud. That’s how SoftLayer Big Data Academy originated.

Tell us a little bit more about the SoftLayer and Basho partnership – what made you decide to partner up for these courses?

Big Data Academy format and success is dependent of collaboration with our tremendous partners. We are there to bring content which is relevant to what the community requires. Leveraging the promise of big data doesn’t end on cloud infrastructure, nor does it end on NoSQL distributed dbs, it’s a whole system. Last summer, we went on a European roadshow with Cloudant. This time, we’ve teamed up with Basho. We’ve introduced Riak on SoftLayer back in 2013. Our engineers developed base bare metal server configurations that feature the ideal ratios to compute with Riak, giving Riak a hosting bare metal backbone.

There is a big demand for Big Data technology professionals, how do you see Big Data Academy helping with this?

The world creates over 2.5 quintillion bits of data every day. Despite everyone being in a roaring agreement that leveraging big data is a must for a market leader or challenger operating in the digital economy, there is still a set of open questions of “how”. Our masterclasses for example are for those who seek an answer to how can I take advantage of the vast amount of data my organization aggregates? How to optimize that on the technological level? Why computational infrastructure is so important in turning the unstructured data into accurate decisions?

What should an applicant expect?

We want everyone to discuss the common challenges of deploying NoSQL workloads in cloud, hoping the key take away will be a set of “ready-to-implement” tips and solutions on leveraging big data on a global scale. We believe it is important to also talk about data privacy and compliance – data is a resource, if not a currency, so we find addressing the security layer critical.

There are a lot of other courses out there focusing on Big Data, what does Softlayer and Basho specifically emphasize?

We focus strongly on the content, wanting to present our audience with a holistic view on big data workloads deployment in the cloud, rather than only focus on either trends, analytics, NoSQL db management, API or servers. Our goal is that those who attend the half-day masterclass will get enough theoretical and practical knowledge that will let them go back to their office, and start trying it out the next day.

How would you answer the sceptic who says “you cannot learn Big Data in one go”?

I would tell them they are correct. You cannot teach anyone Big Data in one go, but we try to invite professionals from that space to take part in a conversation on deploying big data workloads in the cloud in the most optimized way, so that the hype transforms into value.

What are the key things you look for in applicants?

We will be talking about Big Data trends; cloud infrastructure that sits behind storing, and crunching; and Big Data insights about NoSQL distributed databases, Internet of Things, and security in the cloud when it comes to Big Data ready architectures. A more in depth view of our agenda can be found here and anyone who is interested in those areas, is more than welcome to attend and be part of the conversations.

Do you have any plans to expand and where?

Yes, Big Data Academy will be back next year so we invite you all to stay tuned!

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