Big Data: Cheap MIPS and Bot Marketing
On both occasions I left Acxiom mystified. The guides talked techie gibberish. I had no idea what the company did, or why or what the benefit was to anybody.
Tim Prunk to the Rescue
After my second trip to Little Rock, I flew to Denver and had buffalo burger lunch with Tim Prunk, a tall, bespectacled former Acxiom guy and database whiz. I told him I had been twice to Acxiom and could not figure out what the company did.
"That's easy. I can tell you in two words," Prunk said. "Cheap MIPS."
Prunk went on to describe MIPS—"Million Instructions Per Second"—the (then) measurement of computer power. Corporate CEOs who craved affirmation wanted the fastest and most fashionable hardware available and were willing to invest millions to acquire them.
Theirs was a "mine-is-bigger-than-yours" mentality rather than sound business practice. When I ran book clubs for Meredith Corporation, management gloried in the dual IBM 360/65s running in tandem. They let everyone know their installation was the third largest on Long Island—with only Grumman Aircraft and Literary Guild ahead of them.
It made no nevermind that the guys who ran it were in way over their heads and the place was a wreck. Mistakes were common and tapes were lying around in shoeboxes while customers and clients were continually pissed off. In disgust, Meredith shut the whole thing down and moved the entire business back to headquarters in Des Moines.
This was not the case with Acxiom. It was happy to buy up the older, slower discarded hardware at bargain basement prices and install it in the Little Rock black-ops basement. Dozens of older, slower computers tied together produced far more output than the outrageously expensive hot new models.
Hence Tim Prunk's line, "Cheap MIPS."