By 2016, big data technology will account for $232 billion of worldwide IT spending, according to a recent study by research firm Gartner. The report said spending will reach $28 billion in 2012 and $34 billion in 2013. 

While most current spending goes toward adapting traditional software to big data technology, 45% of future spending each year will go to social network analysis and content analytics, the study noted.

Gartner also projected that development in "big data functionality" (which can be defined as, essentially, turning big data into something functional) will drive $4.3 billion in software sales in 2012. 

"Big data will evolve to become a standardized requirement in leading information architectural practices," said Gartner's research vice president Mark Beyer in a company statement.

Big data is, indeed, a fast-growth industry. As Inc. recently reported, market research firm IDC projected the total revenue of big data companies to reach $17 billion by 2015. Last week, three big data-focused start-ups received millions in venture capital funding: SQL programming developer Splice Machine, database management provider Mongo HQ and cloud marketing platform Bloomreach.