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Top 3 Big-Data Stocks for 2012

EMC

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Market Cap: $59.81 billion

Storage giant EMC, which reports its first-quarter results on Thursday, is another top big data stock.

"They are front and center in terms of the trend of big data," Daniel Ives, senior analyst at FBR Capital Markets, said. "They are a major beneficiary, and, I think, as well positioned as anyone, especially on the storage side, which continues to see major secular tailwinds."

Other analysts have also highlighted the importance of EMC's Greenplum division in delivering big data dollars. "Big Data means different things to different people - some think storage and some think analytics," explained Jayson Noland, an analyst at Robert W. Baird, in an email. "[I] would say EMC can do both with the Greenplum acquisition."

The Hopkinton, Mass.-based firm acquired data warehouse and business intelligence specialist Greenplum in 2010, and has used the company as the launch pad for its big data efforts. Late last year, for example, EMC launched the Greenplum Unified Analytics Platform (UAP) as a way for businesses to quickly process structured and unstructured data, and share the results across different parts of the organization.

Speaking during EMC's fourth-quarter conference call, CFO David Goulden lauded Greenplum's performance, clinching new customers in industries such as health care, retail, technology and communications.

In addition to Greenplum, EMC also offers its Isilon hardware for big data storage, fuelling the firm's recent record results. Isilon revenue more than doubled year-over-year in the fourth quarter, and also in 2011. EMC plans to refresh its Isilon product line this year, which should strengthen its big data efforts.

ISI Group analyst Brian Marshall rates EMC as one of his "top three ideas" for investors in 2012, citing the company's ability to serve the cloud-computing boom and its successful M&A strategy in areas such as big data. Marshall also sees the growing adoption of technologies such as the Unified Analytics Platform as a near-term catalyst for the company's stock.

EMC also has a decent price-to-earnings ratio, particularly when compared to rivals such as Hewlett-Packard (HPQ), which points to future earnings growth.

TheStreet Ratings rates EMC's stock a 'buy' on the strength of its strong earnings and revenue growth, expanding profit margins, good cash flow from operations and solid stock performance.

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