Never mind the hardware, it’s the algorithms

It’s easier to crunch massive amounts of data when you don’t have to reinvent the wheel for every scenario. Sultan Meghjji and his colleagues at Appistry are hoping to make it easier for those who are too busy with their primary jobs to take advantage of the insights that can emerge from sophisticated analysis of big data, he told attendees at Structure:Data on Thursday.

Sultan Meghji of Appistry at Structure:Data 2012
(c) 2012 Pinar Ozger. [email protected]

Appistry isn’t a household name, but FedEx, one of the company’s most famous clients, certainly is. FedEx uses Appistry’s computer infrastructure and algorithms to help its employees deliver overnight packages as reliably as possible. And there’s a simple philosophy behind company’s approach: “we’re about moving the work to the data instead of moving the data to the work,” Meghji said.

That type of approach requires sophisticated algorithms, and Meghji bemoaned the fact that graduate students are the ones developing many of these algorithms as research projects. The world of big data needs better algorithms far more than it needs better hardware, he said.

We might get closer to that goal if more people were taught at an earlier age to appreciate and respect the value of big data and data analysis, he said. “Across the professional spectrum, the understanding of data–the value of it, what math matters, what it implies… we do not teach that anywhere with any seriousness.”

Watch the livestream of Structure:Data here.