Big data was inescapable in 2011. Without a doubt, it was the paramount banner story in data management, advanced analytics, and business intelligence (BI). The hype has been relentless, but it’s been driven by substantial innovations on many fronts.

The big data mania will intensify even further in the coming year. Here are some of the highlights that Forrester foresees in this exciting space in 2012:

  • Enterprise Hadoop deployments will expand at a rapid clip. Many enterprises have spent the past year or two kicking the tires of Hadoop, the emerging open source approach for scaling data analytics into the stratosphere of petabyte volumes, real-time velocities, and polystructured varieties. The market for enterprise-grade Hadoop solutions has grown by leaps and bounds and now includes several dozen vendors. Users all over the world and in most industries have invested aggressively in the technology and stand poised to bring their Hadoop clusters on line in the coming year. The size of the in-deployment clusters will almost certainly grow at least tenfold in 2012 as companies roll new data sources, new analytic challenges, and new business applications into their Hadoop initiatives.
  • In-memory analytics platforms will grow their footprint. Both startups and established vendors are rolling out BI and advanced analytics tools that are either entirely in-memory or persist many terabytes of working data in fast dynamic random access memory (DRAM). In 2012, enterprise adoption of in-memory BI/analytics tools and platforms will boom, owing not just to the increased availability of these technologies but also to the need for data scientists to interactively explore complex data sets in real time. As the cost of DRAM continues to decline, all-in-memory analytics will become the predominant architecture for all users, uses, and data. Big data will increasingly occupy huge pool of virtualized memory that spans many servers in the cloud.
  • Graph databases will come into vogue. One key gap in the Hadoop ecosystem is for graph databases, which support rich mining and visualization of relationships, influence, and behavioral propensities. The market for graph databases will boom in 2012 as companies everywhere adopt them for social media analytics, marketing campaign optimization, and customer experience fine-tuning. We will see VCs put big money behind graph database and analytics startups. Many big data platform and tool vendors will acquire the startups to supplement their expanding Hadoop, NoSQL, and enterprise data warehousing (EDW) portfolios. Social graph analysis, although not a brand-new field, will become one of the most prestigious specialties in the data science arena, focusing on high-powered drilldown into polystructured behavioral data sets.

This list is not exhaustive. We see plenty of other new big data developments in the coming year, such as the mainstreaming of cloud/SaaS EDW. Stay tuned as, in coming posts, we share our evolving research agenda for 2012.