IBM’s Big Data University Gears Up to Meet Enterprise Demand

by   |   July 9, 2013 6:41 pm   |   0 Comments

Anjul Bhambhri, IBM vice president of big data, says the industry and academia must create well-rounded professionals.

Anjul Bhambhri, IBM vice president of big data

In the summer of 2011, IBM launched its Big Data University, a series of free online classes and certifications for professionals and students studying technologies like Hadoop and analytics applications after seeing the response to a series of boot camps it had organized at universities and company offices. By October 2012, when Data Informed wrote about the program, more than 42,000 students from around the work had registered for classes.

Contributing Editor Christopher Nerney recently chatted with IBM Big Data Vice President Anjul Bhambhri, who oversees Big Data University, to catch up on the company’s efforts to meet the demand for analytics professionals and the state of big data in the enterprise today.

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Data Informed: How much has IBM’s Big Data University grown since we talked last October?

Anjul Bhambhri: We now have close to 90,000 people who have registered, up from 40,000 back then. I think that growth indicates more people are bringing Hadoop into the enterprise and building applications around Hadoop. Deployments are extremely aggressive and more than what we anticipated.

Obviously with new technology, the demand for education is amazing. Going from 40,000 to 90,000 in six to eight months is a huge indicator of that.

Do enterprises have a better understanding of what big data is and what they hope to get out of it than they did a year ago?

Bhambhri: Definitely. Now when you talk to the customers, you don’t have to explain why they need to get their arms around it. Today the customers say, “I want to get started on big data. I know you have the technology to do this, and how to transform and retrain our workforce so they are not just leveraging data that is structured, but also bringing in unstructured data.”

It almost sounds as if they have a sense of urgency.

Bhambhri: I think the technology has advanced at a very fast pace here. The customers are trying to run a business, but they also have to learn the technology pretty quickly and put it into action. Because if they don’t do it and their competitors do it, obviously it’s going to hurt then. It’s a necessity.

Are you giving students who enroll an IBM-centric view of big data?

Bhambhri: We certainly teach them to use IBM products and technology, but we also share what’s happening in the open source community so they don’t have to go to multiple places to find all the pieces of technology they need to understand. And we want them to understand not only the technology, but how to put it to use.

IBM is committed to big data because we see the value of big data in every industry. Our goal is to enable the customers to really own their businesses. Not just teaching them how to program, but take them through the technology and its capabilities in the context of the applications and use cases.

Context is what big data is all about, isn’t it?

Bhambhri: Yes. If you make it just about the capabilities, that could appeal to one set of people, but it would become dry. The goal is to show them the end result.

What have you learned in the past nine months about educating people about big data?

Bhambhri: When people are trying to gain new insights from data, sometimes they make the mistake of thinking if they keep torturing the same data [they can] get new insights. Torturing the data—that is, you keep analyzing and overanalyzing your data—is not going to give you new insights. At times you need to bring in new data to gain new insights.

You have to bring a lot of creativity to data.

Bhambhri: Absolutely. The correct mindset is to be open, bring creativity, do an exploration of the data. There is technology available to explore that data quickly and cost-effectively. That fear factor has to away.

Besides using IBM products, how does Big Data University leverage Big Blue’s business to help train students?

Bhambhri: IBM has done a lot of customer engagements in the past few years around big data, creating a lot of use cases. The five use cases we see most often are around data exploration, getting a 360-degree view of your customer, operational analysis and efficiencies, security and data warehouse augmentation. What we’ve done at Big Data University is we actually walk people through how to implement these use cases, what the reference architecture would look like, and how to implement them using the IBM stack and also using vendor-neutral tools.

What other ways do students have to learn?

Bhambhri: We also have a YouTube channel on big data and walk people through the use cases in the videos.

We’re seeing that people coming to Big Data University also are using this channel. We have 4,000 subscribers, more than 130 videos and more than 250,000 page views.

Contributing Editor Christopher Nerney ( is a freelance writer in upstate New York. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisNerney.

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