ClearStory to launch big data service for business users

Google Ventures-backed startup says service won't require specialized skills

Startup ClearStory Data came out of stealth mode Monday and said it will soon launch a sophisticated data analytics service for business users. The ClearStory service will let business users mash up data from corporate databases, Hadoop environments and public Web sources, and then run it through a statistical analysis, said CEO and co-founder Sharmila Mulligan.

Investors in ClearStory, founded by former executives at big data management and analysis firm Aster Data, include Google Ventures, Andreessen Horowitz and Khosla Ventures.

Mulligan said the ClearStory technology is designed to enable non-technical users to relatively easily explore and analyze vast sets of public and private data.

Companies using the service won't have to have to hire workers with highly specialized skills to do big data analytics projects, she added. "There is a huge shortage of data experts and data scientists out there," said Mulligan, a former executive at Netscape, AOL and Aster Data.

The exploding corporate interest in big data analytics means that demand for such experts will far exceed supply, at least in the short term, she said.

ClearStory's service will provide non-technical business users a "self-driven data exploration" tool that can be used to track and explore big data, she said.

The ClearStory service is designed to present data integrated from multiple sources, including internal databases and public data stores such as Datasift and Microsoft's Windows Azure Data Marketplace, in a manner that is easy to analyze and to visualize.

The ClearStory service will go directly to public data sources where it makes sense and also leverage public data marketplaces where needed, the company said.

Just like the semantic layer in business intelligence tools allow non-technical users to ask ad-hoc queries of corporate data, ClearStory's service will support such queries across heterogeneous data sets. Importantly, it will allow business users to do this data exploration with little to no help from IT personnel.

ClearStory's service is likely to be of immediate appeal to people who rely on data from outside sources, such as marketers and corporate sales teams, said Curt Monash, an analyst at Monash Research.

Marketers, for example, will be able to use the service to get demographic, lifestyle and census data about potential customers in a specific location, which they can then mesh with their own data Monash said.

The key for ClearStory is to ensure its technology can integrate and present data from disparate sources, Monash said. "The problem becomes more difficult when you are trying to include data from outside, over which you have less control," he said.

The planned ClearStory service comes amid booming interest in big data analytics as enterprises look for ways to derive value from huge volumes of data trapped in their repositories and being gathered daily via weblogs, clickstreams, social media, sensors, supply chains and logistics tools.

Many analysts say the trend is driving huge demand for data scientists and data analysts.

In a report last May, McKinsey Global Institute predicted that the U.S. will need between 140,000 to 190,000 more "deep analytical" professionals and about 1.5 million more "data savvy" managers to address big data needs over the next few years.

McKinsey concluded that a company's ability to mine big data will soon become a key competitive weapon in industries like retail and healthcare.

Jaikumar Vijayan covers data security and privacy issues, financial services security and e-voting for Computerworld. Follow Jaikumar on Twitter at @jaivijayan, or subscribe to Jaikumar's RSS feed . His e-mail address is

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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