This week we spoke with the CEO of Snowflake, Frank Slootman, about the latest developments at the data company and the developments towards the future. Snowflake has been positioning itself as a data cloud platform, as opposed to a data warehouse, for some time now. Slootman’s focus is now fully on expanding that data platform into industry verticals.
The Snowflake Cloud Data Platform has been very well received by customers, according to Slootman. The platform has helped Snowflake grow enormously, and for customers, it’s easy to start using Snowflake. It also doesn’t matter in which cloud the customer has stored its data because Snowflake is available in all major clouds. Rendering and visualisation of data can be done in real-time through the scalability of the platform.
Challenge for companies remains the different data silos
Slootman goes on to say that the challenges for customers are not really changing. Companies with legacy systems have to deal with data silos, whether it’s a CRM, ERP or property management system. The data is hidden in those applications. To get value out of that data, it needs to be brought together in the Snowflake Cloud Data Platform. The data platform is scalable to enormous proportions, which means it can also handle huge data sets such as those from ERP and CRM suppliers, whether it’s Oracle, SAP or Salesforce.
According to Slootman, the challenge of data silos is not something that only applies to legacy solutions. Even today, many companies choose a hybrid or multi-cloud strategy, storing data in different clouds. This creates more data silos.
However, data sets in cloud solutions offer more possibilities to work with. In many cases, real-time connections are possible so that not all data needs to be brought into or virtualised in Snowflake, but through real-time connections.
Industry focus makes every data cloud different
According to Slootman, the data cloud looks different for every industry. Every industry has its own datasets that define what is important in that industry. CRM data may be universal, but that is about it. By the way, there is only one Snowflake Data Cloud Platform. Snowflake did not set up different data clouds for each industry. It’s one gigantic platform. Slootman means the data that customers use within a certain industry.
The biggest industry Snowflake is active in is the media industry. According to Slootman, this is because the media industry is ultimately focused on the consumer. Large media companies want to target their visitors as precisely as possible with advertisements so that the results are better and their income is maximised. This used to be something only Google and Facebook could do. By using Snowflake effectively and combining the right data streams, Snowflake enables big publishers to compete with the big ad exchanges.
Snowflake is also looking at how different industries can learn from each other. How certain datasets or applications can also be used by other industries.
Snowflake takes big steps with its marketplace
With the transition in strategy from the data warehouse to the Snowflake Cloud Data Platform, the Snowflake Data Marketplace has also been given a major role. Here companies can find more than 500 datasets that they can use in real-time in combination with their own data. This has led to significant growth for Snowflake. Companies can now perform even more effective data analysis by enriching their data with available datasets from the marketplace.
Companies that share datasets through the marketplace can also make good money, because once a company has used such a dataset, the chances are that it will continue to use it.
Snowflake as a platform for data privacy, security and compliance
Companies that work a lot with data often also have to share data with partners and customers. This brings the necessary risks because one does not want the data to fall into the wrong hands or violate the GDPR legislation. Therefore, the privacy of customers and companies must be guaranteed, and before data sets are shared, they must first be anonymised. This involves a lot of work, and the overview of which datasets have been shared is quickly lost.
Snowflake will is developing a tool with which datasets can be automatically anonymised. Also, companies can already share their datasets with other Snowflake customers through the Cloud Data Platform. Data sharing is already being done regularly, but according to Slootman anonymization is still a big hurdle. Snowflake wants to solve this with a new tool so that companies can share their data without worries. The tool will automatically scrub the PII (personally identifiable data) out of the datasets in real-time.
This new tool will lower the threshold for companies to share data. This, in turn, will lead to more and better datasets, which in turn will allow for better analyses. Another big advantage is that companies can keep an overview of which data they are sharing with who. Through Snowflake’s control plane, they can see exactly which datasets they have and who has access. They can also revoke these rights immediately. As a result, compliance is much better arranged.
Snowpark – data applications in their own programming language
Finally, Slootman explained that the introduction of Snowpark is imminent. This will allow developers to develop data applications in their own preferred programming language. With this, data can be processed or transformed using their own custom build functions. This allows companies to use Snowflake with their existing development and data teams. It brings the world of data and cloud applications together. The intention is that these applications, but also custom queries, will eventually become available through a marketplace.
Performance and cost improvement
Finally, a Snowflake presentation addressed the improvements in the performance of the Snowflake Cloud Data Platform and the fact that costs have been reduced. According to Snowflake, the necessary innovations have been made which let the platform perform better and work more efficiently. It has also reduced the cost of storing data by up to 30 percent.
All in all, Snowflake still seems to have the wind in its sails and growth will continue for some time. The question is whether Snowflake can continue to perform at a high level. The company has gone through an enormous transition and will have to continue to perform while they are growing at a fast pace. We will keep Snowflake on our radar to see how the company develops further.