It's no secret that big data is going mainstream. Digital data is now more vast than all the world’s oceans (there is 2.7 zetabytes of data on the planet versus the 1.37 zettalitres of seawater) and it’s multiplying at breakneck speed. And it’s just as easy to drown in information if your organization doesn’t have the right tools to garner useful insights from big data, says Eron Kelly, general manager of product marketing for Microsoft SQL Server.

Today, the promise of big data remains largely unfilled. Microsoft’s goal is to make big data accessible to the masses, Kelly said. As big data becomes more mainstream, the tools used to manage it must follow suit, which is why Microsoft has invested in providing a wide-ranging suite of tools for all types of users – the geneticist sequencing and comparing DNA, a hotelier looking at occupancy rates alongside weather data, or a car manufacturer looking for ways to increase productivity and reduce inefficiencies. “Those that are able to derive insights from data will make better decisions,” Kelly said. “They’ll be more efficient, and they’ll move whatever agenda it is that they have forward much faster than those that don’t.”

Hospitality companies could uncover some critical insights from big data.  “Say I have a hotel on the beach in Florida, and I want to bring in weather data to improve my business planning for my hotel’s occupancy, and to better forecast room rates and demand. Now I can take my data, and combine it with information from an outside organization without making a lot of investment,” Kelly said.

Shish Shridhar, Global Director of Business Intelligence Solutions in Microsoft's Enterprise Partner Group, talked about opportunities in the retail industry at the National Retail Federation 2013. With the data retailers own, they can uncover the purchase patterns of customers, then overlay that with demographic data to get a valuable picture of customer behaviors. With this knowledge, they can introduce the right product, at the right price and right time for incredible impact.    Find out more from Shish about the range of big data solutions available to retailers through Microsoft and its partners.