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Russian big data in early stages

The use of big data technologies in Russia is still embryonic and the economic slowdown is stalling developments

Big data in Russia is still in its formative stages, with development hampered by the overall economic downturn, but companies across sectors are testing it, raising hopes for more rapid development in the future.

According to a recent study by СNews Analytics and Oracle, more than one third of the Russian companies that participated in the poll are already using big data technologies in some form.

Meanwhile, IDC said the market for big data in Russia is to grow at a pace of up to 25% a year through 2018.

Roman Baranov, head of business analysis at Russian systems integrator CROC, said Russia's big data industry is a little different from those in Western countries. “Cloud technologies are not that well-spread, which is somewhat slowing down the segment's development."

"But, overall, Russian companies' infrastructure is prepared for dealing with big data as there is no need for extra equipment," he added.

Denis Reymer, chairman at data management company CleverDATA, was less optimistic.

"I believe that the big data segment has not yet been fully formed in Russia," he said. "In terms of companies' spending on these technologies, we are lagging behind other countries, although we are actively picking up speed.”

He said the poor economy “isn't conducive for active investment in innovative projects, and the majority of companies are focused on cutting costs and tightening their belts."

But economic downturn isn't necessarily slowing down big data development as some companies are looking for more innovative solutions that would help them to stay competitive in the new, less favourable, business environment.

Companies are interested in analysis of their own activities, and those of competitors in search for business strategies aimed at increasing profits and raising competitiveness, added Reymer.

Baranov said the development of big data in Russia is hampered by the absence of high-profile success stories as related projects normally take a long time to develop.

"The first wave of pilot projects was completed two or three years ago," said Reymer. "However, there are a few current projects."

There is the desire in Russia to avoid the pain that a switch to big data often brings, because it often requires major changes in operations and business approaches.

"Those companies that are already immersed in the process of extracting useful information from the "ore" of data have realised that extracting every piece of "gold" involves many failures and shattered expectations and hypotheses," said Reymer. "Work with big data stipulates a long process of finding solutions and a creative innovative activity that has to be organised in a company in the right way. Not all companies are ready for installing processes like that as they, as a rule, require changes in the company's business culture."

The most developed use of big data in Russia, according to Reymer, is internet advertising.

"Among the traditional industries, those operating in the B2C market, such as retail, e-commerce, banks and mobile phone operators, are most prepared for dealing with big data as they work with private individuals as customers and can benefit from enriching data about them.”

"Retailers are interested in online behaviour and social network information of customers, which would allow them to create better focused offers," said Baranov, adding that financial organisations are facing a similar task of detailed segmentation of customers.

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Telecom companies and banks were among the first to embrace big data solutions a few years ago, but their progress has been limited and developments are often still in a testing stage.

According to Vasily Zaitsev, head of the CRM department at the bank VTB24, the bank is testing big data technology. One of the projects involves customer behaviour analysis based on big data as opposed to trigger analysis used so far.

"Currently, data mining is based on old methods," he said, adding that the bank is currently testing a system that would be suitable for analytics going as deep as an individual transaction.

"However, at the moment, the issue of integrating the system with the [existing] data storage facility is problematic, and the bank isn't prepared to launch the system for regular usage," he said.

"The bank has sufficient data for using big data technologies, but a transition of that kind is not economical at this point, although experiments in that direction continue," added Zaitsev.

A spokesperson for the telecom company Yota said the company uses big data technology for the analysis of consumer behaviour. "Big data provides us with an opportunity to establish patterns in our customers' behaviour, to widen the range of services we provide and exclude functions for which there is no demand."

According to Baranov, Hadoop solutions from TalkSum, Huawei and Oracle, as well as Netezza from IBM and SelfService BI based on SAP HANA and Birst, are among those most commonly used in Russia, alongside solutions based on open-source products, such as ETL Talend DI, Cloudera Hadoop, Pentaho DI and CloverET.

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