Big Data Terms Every Manager Should Know

Getting started with Big Data (BD)? Perhaps you’ve already got your feet wet in the world of BD, but still looking to expand your knowledge and cover the subjects you’ve heard of but didn’t quite have time to cover?

This Big Data Glossary aims to briefly introduce the most important terms – both for the commercially and technically interested. It’s not by any means exhaustive, but a good, light read prep before a meeting with a Big Data director or vendor – or a quick revisit before a job interview. Also, if you’re interested in similar terms related to Artificial Intelligence, I’d encourage to visit a similar blog post on our partner company – Sigmoidal.

Data Scientist

Big Data Scientist is a person who can take structured and unstructured data points and use his formidable skills in statistics, maths, and programming to organize them. He applies all his analytical power such as contextual understanding, industry knowledge, and understanding of existing assumptions to uncover the hidden solutions for business development.


When people think of big data, they immediately think about Hadoop. Hadoop (with its cute elephant logo) is an open source software framework that consists of what is called a Hadoop Distributed File System (HDFS) and allows for storage, retrieval, and analysis of very large data sets using distributed hardware. If you really want to impress someone, talk about YARN (Yet Another Resource Scheduler) which, as the name says it, is a resource scheduler. I am really impressed by the folks who come up with these names. Apache foundation, which came up with Hadoop, is also responsible for Pig, Hive, and Spark (yup, they are all names of various software pieces). Aren’t you impressed with these names?

Machine Learning

Machine Learning is the ability of computers to use them without programming new skills directly. In practice, this means algorithms that learn from data when processing them and use what they have learned to make decisions. Machine learning is used to exploiting the opportunities hidden in big data.

Data Lake

A data lake is a repository that stores a huge amount of raw data in its original format. While the hierarchical data warehouse stores information in files and folders, a data lake uses a flat architecture to store data. Each item in the repository has a unique identifier and is marked with a set of metadata tags. When a business query appears, the repository can be searched for specific information, and then a smaller, separate set of data can be analyzed to help solve a specific problem.

Spark (Apache Spark)

Apache Spark is a fast, in-memory data processing engine to efficiently execute streaming, machine learning or SQL workloads that require fast iterative access to datasets. Spark is generally a lot faster than MapReduce that we discussed earlier.



Metadata is data that describes other data. Metadata summarizes basic information about data, which can make finding and working with particular instances of data easier. For example, author, date created and date modified and file size are very basic document metadata. In addition to document files, metadata is used for images, videos, spreadsheets and web pages.

Data Mining

It is an analytical process designed to study large data resources in search of regular patterns and systematic interrelationships between variables, and then to evaluate the results by applying the detected patterns to new subsets of data. The final goal of data mining is usually to predict customer behavior, sales volume, the likelihood of customer loss, etc.

Cluster Analysis

It is an explorative analysis that tries to identify structures within the data. Cluster analysis is also called segmentation analysis or taxonomy analysis. More specifically, it tries to identify homogenous groups of cases, i.e., observations, participants, respondents. Cluster analysis is used to identify groups of cases if the grouping is not previously known. Because it is explorative it does make any distinction between dependent and independent variables. The different cluster analysis methods that SPSS offers can handle binary, nominal, ordinal, and scale (interval or ratio) data.

Comparative Analytics

I’ll be going little deeper into analysis in this article as big data’s holy grail is in analytics. Comparative analysis, as the name suggests, is about comparing multiple processes, data sets or other objects using statistical techniques such as pattern analysis, filtering and decision-tree analytics etc. I know it’s getting little technical but I can’t completely avoid the jargon. Comparative analysis can be used in healthcare to compare large volumes of medical records, documents, images etc. for more effective and hopefully accurate medical diagnoses.


Ok, that was helpful – now what? Well, you can read a similar glossary related to DevOps and Kubernetes, check out examples of difficult JavaScript interview questions, or – send us an email to discuss if Big Data solutions could be applicable to your business case (