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Big data as an opportunity for the channel has proven to be somewhat elusive, largely because of the investment required to attain the skills to build and manage big data applications.

The good news is that major players such as IBM and Cloudera are moving to make big data more accessible to the channel.

At the IBM PartnerWorld conference Feb. 10-13, the company will tout IBM Big Data Stampede, which details a series of use cases and reference architectures for building big data applications that solution providers in the channel can build a practice around. As part of that program, IBM brings partners in to work on big data projects for a few weeks; the idea is to provide on-the-job training to help give partners the skills to create big data practices of their own.

In the last year, IBM has seen 620 percent growth in the number of big data projects it’s involved in with some 1,250 business partners at more than 1,500 customers, said Bruce Weed, IBM worldwide leader for big data and PureData System business development. In fact, IBM signed up 530 of partners in 2013.

Meanwhile, Cloudera, which works closely with Oracle, has moved to simplify the pricing model around its distribution of Hadoop. Cloudera’s new enterprise data hub is packaged in three editions with content ranging from entry-level projects to complete enterprise-class data hubs.

Cloudera is trying to make it easier for more than 800 partners and their customers to engage with Hadoop, said Clarke Patterson, senior director of product marketing.

Big data is clearly a huge opportunity for the channel that covers everything from the building of applications to the managing of petabytes of storage. In the years ahead, there is going to be no avoiding big data, which is applicable across thousands of use cases across multiple industries.

For the channel, that means the question is no longer whether big data is going to manifest itself as a business opportunity but how large is it going to be this year versus the next. That doesn’t mean that solution providers need to master every aspect of big data overnight. But it does mean that some aspect of their business is clearly applicable to big data projects; and the sooner solution providers figure out what that is, the more money they are likely to make at a time when interest in big data is clearly much higher than the internal skill sets most customers currently have on hand.

Michael Vizard has been covering IT issues in the enterprise for 25 years as an editor and columnist for publications such as InfoWorld, eWEEK, Baseline, CRN, ComputerWorld and Digital Review.