IBM doing Hadoop as a service in its cloud

IBM (s ibm) has joined the big-data-in-the-cloud fray, announcing Monday that its Hadoop-based InfoSphere BigInsights product will be available as a service on the IBM SmartCloud platform. Big Blue’s timing for this capability is good, as Hadoop will likely have a far greater presence across public clouds within the next year.

By getting into the game now, IBM might be able to get a taste of of the first-mover advantage that thus far has been limited to Amazon Web Services (s amzn), which launched its Hadoop-based Elastic MapReduce service in 2009. Big data — and Hadoop, in particular — has largely been relegated to on-premise deployments because of the sheer amount of data involved, but the cloud will be a more natural home for those workloads as companies begin analyzing more data that originates on the web.

But IBM and AWS won’t be alone offering Hadoop on their cloud platforms for long. Earlier this month, Microsoft (s msft) said that it’s working with Hadoop specialist Hortonworks to develop a Hadoop service for Windows Azure. It only stands to reason that other cloud providers — some perhaps focused solely on big data — will try to leverage the current hype around Hadoop to bring in new users and use cases.

Among the Hadoop-based products now available, IBM InfoSphere BigInsights is relatively unique in that it targets business users rather than skilled programmers. BigInsights utilizes a spreadsheet interface for working with the data and creating jobs, and includes a query language, called Jaql, that’s similar to SQL. The language was  and designed to query both structured and unstructured data. The product also provides a variety of data-visualization options designed to make it easy to understand the results of any given job.

BigInsights actually was previously available on the IBM Smart Business Development and Test Cloud that SmartCloud replaced last spring. In the new cloud incarnation, users will pay 60 cents per hour per cluster for the BigInsights Enterprise Edition, although the Basic Edition is available for free. The latter lets users explore the product and create workloads before switching to the Enterprise Edition to deploy them.

Outside of Hadoop, in the greater analytics space, cloud-based services are already quite popular and growing with each passing day. There are a number of options available, from BI-like tools such as 1010data to full-scale predictive analytics like those that Opera Solutions provides.