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Startup Showcase: Snowflake

Steve McCaskill is editor of TechWeekEurope and ChannelBiz. He joined as a reporter in 2011 and covers all areas of IT, with a particular interest in telecommunications, mobile and networking, along with sports technology.

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Snowflake CEO Bob Muglia talks about data warehousing, the company’s origins and admiration for Amazon

What is your company and what do you do? 

Snowflake specialises in data warehousing, and for those unfamiliar with the concept, a data warehouse is used to store and analyse all of an organisation’s available data. No matter the size of your business or how much data you have, a data warehouse loads, transforms and provides access to turn your data into actionable insights that drive business decisions. 

Forrester estimates that approximately three-quarters of companies aspire to be data-driven but only 29 per cent turn their data into action. This often raises the question, what’s so hard about accessing and analysing your own data? 

Bob Muglia Snowflake CEO

Most organisations still rely on a traditional, on-premise data warehouse, which was adequate for yesterday’s IT and data analytics needs. But these conventional data warehouses weren’t designed to keep up with the exploding demand for data-driven insight that we see today. They are complex, costly and inflexible systems that have become obstacles rather than solutions to accessing and analysing all your data by all your users. 

More organisations now source their data from a variety of new technologies such as social media, IoT and artificial intelligence. Combining these data sets into a central location, rather than separate silos, is crucial for extrapolating key, data-driven business insights. 

To make this a reality, Snowflake has developed a dedicated, built-for-the-cloud architecture that combines the power of data warehousing, the flexibility of big data platforms and the elasticity of the cloud – all at the fraction of the cost of traditional solutions. 

Tell us a bit about your career to date 

I spent 23 years at Microsoft starting in 1988, which definitely played a big part in shaping who I am today. I helped make Windows NT, SQL Server and other tools staples of the data centre, and I was fortunate to experience the peaks and valleys of a global technology company that continues to help shape the IT industry. 

I left Microsoft in 2011 and moved over to Juniper Networks where I spent two years. At that time, the IT industry experienced a seismic shift brought about by cloud technologies. Many of the large tech companies that dominated the market faced significant challenges as the cloud took hold. I quickly realised the primary opportunities and changes would emerge from smaller companies disrupting IT. That’s what led me to Snowflake. 

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Snowflake’s founders include some of the top database architects in the world. But these folks wanted to build a data warehouse the world had never seen. One that would forever change how organisations acquire, combine and analyse data to tackle problems. And a data warehouse to help businesses streamline their operations and create new, industry-leading products and services. So, here I am. 

 What services or products do you offer and how will businesses and/or consumers benefit? 

One of the biggest attractions of Snowflake is our built-for-the-cloud infrastructure. Most data warehouse providers, such as Teradata, and big data platform providers, such as Hadoop or Hortonworks, have retrofitted their infrastructure to accommodate the cloud. But only a true built-for-the-cloud data warehouse can offer the flexibility, scalability and efficiency needed to quickly and easily gain full insight from all your data. 

Since data is a highly valuable commodity in today’s business world, we’ve ensured our customers can to tap into an infinite pool of data in real-time, without enduring massive delays. Deliveroo, a British online food delivery company, is a great example of a customer exploiting the benefits of Snowflake. To become a data-driven company,  Deliveroo required a solution to serve its business intelligence teams and its entire workforce of 1,500 employees. Deliveroo now uses these insights to reveal demand for particular cuisines in local areas and launch new restaurants as a result. 

Cloud data

 Say one thing your company does that no one else can do? 

One of the most innovative solutions we offer is data sharing. Analysing data sets was once limited to the internal departments of an organisation. But now, through the power of cloud, we’re enabling organisations to easily share their data in a governed and secure manner across its enterprise, ending the segregation of data among internal departments, and with companies external to the enterprise. The Data Sharehouse, as we call it, enables data sharing in near real-time.   

 For example, if we look at the field of science and health, getting data to relevant people and markets is often difficult as this is often siloed. But if we put ourselves in a particular health crises, having the ability to share critical information and data can enable quicker emergency response times and potentially save lives. 

What’s most exciting about the Data Sharehouse is the opportunity it delivers to our customers. Data sharing is a new paradigm, enabling dramatic streamlining of business processes that span organisations. It also allows businesses to turn that data into monetisation opportunities that were never before possible. 

 Where is the company based and why? 

Our HQ is in San Mateo, California – in the center of Silicon Valley. But following our successful round of series D funding, most recently with Capital One Growth Ventures, we’ve expanded our operations globally to include the UK, France and Australia. These are core markets for our customers and are growing tech hubs, and important we’re able to increase our presence within these regions.  

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