The Big Data services and analytics industry is experiencing rapid growth. The growing global Internet penetration, rise of e-commerce industries in emerging markets, and the shift to high-resolution media standards are some of its key growth drivers.

Wikibon, in a recently issued research report, affirmed its bullish stance on the industry. The research firm estimates that the big data industry is poised to grow from $18.6 billion in 2013 to $50.1 billion in 2017 -- a spectacular 28.1% annual growth. In light of this expected growth, which companies should you invest in? Let's find out. 

Massive chunks of raw data need to be securely stored in non-volatile memory before it can be processed and meaningful conclusions can be drawn from it. Moreover, the data needs to be backed up and should be accessible with minimal delay -- achieved using low latency memory disks. This is where Seagate (NASDAQ:STX) comes into play.

Seagate is one of the largest memory manufacturers around the globe. Its product portfolio consists conventional hard drives, NAND drives, and hybrid drives, which are available for retail as well as enterprise clients. The company commands a gigantic 48% market share in the enterprise storage industry -- the division that provides scalable solutions for big data analytics. 

Speaking of exposure, Seagate's big data related sales of $149 million represented about 1.3% of its overall revenue in 2011, positioning the company as the eight largest big data vendor by revenue. Plus, Seagate is developing its 3D NAND technology, which offers a scalable flash storage solution for enterprise clients at practical price-points; mass production to begin in the first half of 2014.  

Western Digital, one of Seagate's largest competitors, is not pursuing the development of 3D NAND drives. The lack of competition should, in theory, allow Seagate to benefit from the booming big data industry with minimal roadblocks.

Once the data is stored, its processing requires computing power -- a lot of it. Big data analytics firms require processors to work in conjunction with other computing units. To keep their processor count low, therefore, metrics like power-efficiency and performance-per-dollar are often disregarded in favor of fast processors. For this reason, I believe Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) is positioned well in the industry.

Although Advanced Micro Devices manufactures cost-effective processors with relatively better graphic processing capabilities, users seeking lots of raw computing power opt for Intel. As illustrated in the table below, Intel's high-end processors are significantly faster than AMD's.







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Computing Power





Overall Market Share



Note: Processing power measured in theoretical GFlops.

Wikibon estimates that Intel generated about 1% of its revenue from big data-related sales in 2013. Its acquisition of 18% stake in Cloudera for $740 million last week, however, will mark the chipmaker's entry in the analytics segment as well. This will not only expand Intel's product portfolio, but also increase the chipmakers exposure to the rapidly growing big data industry. 

The most important part of big data analytics is software. Processing terabytes of raw data requires highly optimized algorithms, which have the capability to overlook unwanted data and flag vital information in real time. In addition, meaningful data needs to be presented in simplified reports in real time. And this is where IBM's (NYSE:IBM) expertise lies.

IBM is the world's third largest software seller by revenue -- $29.1 billion in 2013 -- only behind Microsoft and Oracle. And speaking of its big data division, the software behemoth has spent $24 billion on product development and acquisitions to date. More importantly, its investments have paid off. 

IBM is currently the world's largest big data vendor by revenue -- $1.368 billion. From the perspective of gains, its big data related revenue has grown by about 43.5% over the last two years. In the meantime, its overall revenue shrank by about 5.9%. This highlights IBM's increasing exposure to the booming big data industry. 

Foolish final thoughts
Even though the big data industry is about $18.6 billion in size, it is still considered to be in its nascent stages. Companies are launching several new products every year, making the industry hyper-competitive. Therefore, investors might want to diversify their portfolio to spread their rewards and hedge their risks.