How Disney Built A Big Data Platform On A Startup Budget

Derrick Harris | GigaOM | September 16, 2012

The big data world is full of small, scrappy startups using their ingenuity to build complex systems out of open source software, but the Walt Disney Company is not one of them. Here’s what goes into building a big data platform in a Fortune 100 company.

Disney is a massive company, but when it comes to its big data platform, the entertainment conglomerate looks a lot like a startup. Kind of, that is. By the sheer power of its will (and ingenuity), a small team has been able to craft a large custom platform out of Hadoop, NoSQL databases and other open-source technologies. But for better or for worse, doing big data at such a large company means playing by a different set of rules.

When it came to putting a big data platform in place, Arun Jacob, director of data solutions in the Disney Technology Solutions & Services group, told a room at the IE Group Big Data Innovation conference in Boston on Thursday that Disney chose to build something from scratch rather than buy software from a large vendor. Cost certainly played in a role, but really it was flexibility that made the decision.

In order to provide the most value to the company, Disney’s big data platform has to be everything to everyone, which it turns out is a tall order. Initially, Jacob said, “We treated ourself like a small consulting organization and we had something to sell.” When a division wanted it to use the platform for a particular function, Jacob would say yes and then get busy actually figuring out how to build it...