What it does: Oracle’s Big Data Appliance is an integrated hardware and software solution for managing and analyzing large-scale data sets.

How it’s different: Oracle’s engineered systems approach offers best-of-breed hardware and software components that are engineered and tested to work together out of the box, the company says. These pre-assembled solutions are designed to be more efficient and easier to deploy.

Mark A. Johnson, director of engineered systems for Oracle Public Sector, added that the company’s Big Data Appliance can tie existing data together without a steep learning curve. For instance, it can take old SQL databases and combine them with new technologies such as Hadoop and NoSQL, allowing users to access new data capabilities through a familiar interface.

Reference customer: The National Cancer Institute (NCI) in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services needed to search an unstructured data set of 22 million medical abstracts to correlate research studies of a particular genotype that figures prominently in certain cancers. Oracle’s Big Data Appliance, built for Hadoop analysis, ran the query in three days, Johnson said, after the NCI’s staff had spent weeks trying to analyze the data on its own.


What it does: Platfora Big Data Analytics is software that processes data in Hadoop and gives a visual overview of analytics from events, actions and behaviors.

Why it’s different: Agencies can use Platfora software to illustrate relatively simple findingslike the number of clicks a website receives by region, but the company is focused on drilling deeper into data, said CEO Ben Werther.

The idea is to look at patterns of behavior across different streams of activity, Werther said, which could be particularly helpful for intrusion detection and other cybersecurity tasks. The software lets users observe net-flow and packet-capture data to spot suspicious activities. “We think that is meaningful — and business users, analysts and regular people can engage in a way that doesn’t require everything to be a statistics problem, which it isn’t,” Werther said.


What it does: SAS offers a range of big data capabilities, but fraud detection is a big emphasis for the company. The SAS Fraud Framework helps agencies detect fraud, waste and abuse. And the company’s Visual Analytics solution is used by agencies to forecast demand for government services like Medicaid.

Why it’s different: SAS software lets users access and analyze data from any type of source, said Paula Henderson, vice president of the company’s state and local government practice.

For instance, SAS Fraud Framework includes an enterprise data management function that collects information from a variety of sources, cleans it up and analyzes it using SAS analytics technology.

Reference customer: North Carolina used SAS technology to create the Criminal Justice Law Enforcement Automated Data Services, a platform that contains data about gun ownership, traffic violations, driving records and other information. Police officers can access the data on the Web, giving them better information during traffic stops and other encounters.


What it does: The company specializes in capturing and analyzing machine data — information generated by systems themselves. Splunk Enterprise software monitors and evaluates this data, giving agencies new insight into user behavior, system performance and cyberattacks.

How it’s different: Splunk software analyzes data produced by applications, servers, network devices, security devices and remote infrastructure and presents results in a visual format that’s easy to understand. Splunk also offers a virtual store containing 400 downloadable apps for viewing data from various sources.

Reference customer: One of the company’s latest public-sector customers is the Texas Health and Human Services Commission. The agency uses Splunk software to analyze more than a terabyte of information daily, said Bill Cull, the company’s vice president of public sector. The commission has 200 Splunk users spread throughout the organization, ranging from security and application teams to the deputy commissioner.

“We essentially provide insight into everything from servers, routers, switches, networks and all the way up to what we term operational intelligence where a government customer [is] able to see unprecedented insight into not only errors in the application, but also traffic and usage statistics,” Cull said.


What it does: Teradata provides cyberdefense analytic solutions; prevents fraud, waste and abuse; and improves government/citizen interactions.

Why it’s different: Teradata offers a revenue share model for government agencies lacking the resources to invest in analytic solutions. The company will deploy an entire hardware and software solution for fraud prevention or similar function and finance the system by taking a percentage of revenue recovered by the new technology, according to Bobby Caudill, Teradata’s program director for government.

Reference customer: Caudill said 16 states use Teradata technology, including Michigan, which has been working with Teradata since the mid-1990s. In early 2012, the state estimated it was realizing an ROI of approximately $1 million per day using the company’s analytics technology, he said.


What it does: Unisys offers what it calls “Big Data Analytics as a Service,” providing data scientists and data analytics environments on public and private clouds.

How it’s different: The company reduces big data complexity by letting agencies outsource both the technology and expertise needed to take advantage of sophisticated analytics, says Rod Fontecilla, vice president of application modernization. Customers send Unisys their data and the company provides business insights and predictive models based on the information.

“People have realized that buying products doesn’t solve your data analytics problems,” Fontecilla said. “And getting a data scientist that really understands how to build predictive models is not easy — they’re very hard to find and train. So the ability to have all that in one place, makes us kind of unique in the marketplace.”

Brian Heaton  | 

Brian Heaton was a writer for Government Technology magazine from 2011 to mid-2015.