The next big battle in the IT marketplace is taking shape as vendors fight to help enterprises find solid ways to sort, store and use large volumes of hard-to-use unstructured data, from e-mails to images to video and more.\n\tHewlett-Packard's move last week to acquire information management software vendor Autonomy can be seen as a big blast in that war, which could dramatically help IT challenged companies solve their growing data problems, according to Charles King, principal analyst with Pund-IT Inc.\n\tFor enterprise CIOs, there are a couple of key things to keep in mind about HP's move and what it could potentially mean for users in the fledgling marketplace, King says.\n\tUnstructured data, or "big data," typically accounts for as much as 80 percent of a company's data, King says, and it is essentially wasted if it can't be analyzed and used. That's why many IT vendors are redoubling their efforts to be the ones that can finally help their customers find workable answers to the problem.\n\tSeveral HP competitors have been moving in this direction in the last couple years.\n\tLast year, EMC acquired data warehousing vendor Greenplum while IBM acquired data appliance vendor Netezza to bring in technologies that can help reign in unstructured data. In addition, IBM launched its Smart Analytics Systems more than two years ago to improve its business intelligence offerings and Oracle pushed its Exadata products to help deliver high-performance results from Oracle databases.\n\t"I think that what HP was after last week was to basically acquire some software that would help them become more competitive with IBM and EMC," King says. "At this point big data is what most people would call an emerging market but it's a market that companies like IBM and EMC are spending billions of dollars on."\n\tSo why did HP make this move now?\n\t"I think it shows that [HP CEO] Leo Apotheker and HP clearly recognize that if they want to be competitive in this area then they've got to get their game up," King says. "EMC's [CEO] Joe Tucci thinks big data technologies will have the same kinds of impact on enterprise IT as VMware and virtualization (EMC acquired VMware in 2004) have had in the marketplace in recent years. If Tucci is as right about acquiring Greenplum as he was about acquiring VMware, then we're looking at an explosion of data analysis."\n\tTo get ready for the coming wave, CIOs need to be watching the marketplace shifts and planning their strategies, King says.\n\t"Do your homework and take a look at competing offerings," he says. "There's some very cool stuff out there. If CIOs haven't looked lately, [they should] take a look [now] and see how these technologies work."\n\tData storage and collection continue to grow and the amount of data that businesses save tends to double every 18 months, according to King. "I think that many companies are already drowning in data. Making sense of this is only going to get harder and harder."\n\tHP has made some other recent moves in the big data marketplace, King says. In February, the company acquired data warehousing and analytics vendor Vertica Systems, while last year HP acquired utility storage vendor 3PAR Inc. "The acquisition last week actually aims to add some proprietary software to improve these big data hardware products that HP purchased previously," King says.\n\tAll of this should currently be on your corporate radar to help your enterprise figure out how to better use the huge amounts of unstructured customer and business data that presently goes to waste.\n\t"If companies aren't actively trying to figure out ways to use all that information more effectively and creatively, then what the hell are they doing?" King says. "If the problem hasn't already exceeded the grasp of most IT people, then it's going to exceed their grasp in short order."\n\tThat's why all of these new innovations are under way, and the promise of real help for data-swamped businesses is there, King says. "What's happening is that over time as vendors put more investment into this area and the developer community recognizes the financial opportunities that exist, the market for big data is only going to become richer and richer."\n\tBig data is coming and you'd better be sure that your company is ready for it.