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Top 3 Big-Data Stocks for 2012

IBM

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Market Cap: $236.42 billion

Hardware and software giant IBM, which reports its fiscal first-quarter results on Tuesday, has an extensive strategy for tackling big data. At the heart of Big Blue's efforts are data warehouse appliances from the company's $1.7 billion acquisition of Netezza in 2010.

"IBM sells standalone Netezza Big Data appliances but is also incorporating them in a broader strategy with its other database, business intelligence and analytics and data management solutions," explained Charles King, principal analyst at research firm Pund-IT.

Speaking during IBM's fourth-quarter conference call in January, CFO Mark Loughridge noted that the firm's Netezza revenue climbed 70% year-over-year. "We could have done even better on Netezza but we sold out the box," he explained. "Netezza turned out to be a very, very strong acquisition for us."

Additionally, almost a third of Netezza transactions during the quarter were with new customers. Big Blue has also expanded the Netezza customer base by over 40% since completing the acquisition less than two years ago.

Netezza, however, is just one part of IBM's big data story, which also encompasses InfoSphere software for exploring, analyzing and cleansing data . The company also touts its Smart Analytics System, a combination of server and storage hardware with text analytics and data mining software, for companies wrestling with unstructured data.

Big data feeds into IBM's broader push into analytics, epitomized by its purchases of business intelligence specialist Cognos and predictive analytics firm SPSS. The Armonk, N.Y.-based tech giant, which has acquired 28 analytics companies since 2005, expects to generate $16 billion in analytics revenue by 2015.

Underlining this effort, IBM launched its PureSystems offerings last week; packages of servers, storage, networking and tightly-integrated analytics software. The company also purchased privately-held sales analytics specialist Varicent.

IBM, which recently a new all-time high, is expected to report yet another decent quarter on Tuesday, boosted by big data and analytics.

TheStreet ratings rates IBM's stock 'buy' thanks to the company's sales growth, return on equity and future upside potential.

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