Much of the excitement around the milestone announcement that Hadoop startup Cloudera would be scooping up a whopping $900 million in financing has centred around the eye-watering figures involved. But with Intel as its strategic partner, sinking its largest ever single data centre technology investment into the firm, big data devotees will be wondering what exactly will change for them. Information Age spoke with Cloudera CEO Tom Reilly, and Boyd Davis, Intel’s data centre group VP and data centre software division general manager, to find out.
Before the investment announcement we already knew that Intel would be promoting Cloudera as its sole distributor of Hadoop. What exactly will the investment be going towards in terms of the technology?
We believe that Hadoop and big data will be one of the fastest growing applications that is driving the greatest amount of new Intel processors and data centres, so we will be making sure that the software that runs on top of those Intel components takes advantage of some of the features they’re designing into their infrastructure that will optimise the performance of Hadoop. Because they’re running on Intel servers our big data applications are going to be faster, more scalable, more reliable and more secure than other platforms.
In the Xeon processors today we have instructions that accelerate a security algorithm known as AES (Advanced Encryption Standard). This encrypts data in file system to make the environment far more secure, but the acceleration in the Xeon chip allows us to do that without affecting user experience or performance.
We have worked to put those chip features in our distribution and now we have worked with Cloudera to get that same capability into Cloudera’s distribution and the enterprise data hub, so that’s just one example where we take advantage of our infinite understanding and knowledge of the capabilities of the chip to develop better user value in the software.
That’s the kind of collaboration we have committed to each other for the long haul and one of the reasons we think we will have such a positive impact on the industry in terms of the user experience with the Hadoop platform.
Intel’s backing is obviously tremendous validation of Cloudera. What does that mean for companies that might previously have been deemed too small to compete in this space, and how will it affect the whole Hadoop eco-system overall?
The backing will dramatically help our business. Prior to this announcement customers had six commercial distributions they could select from. Cloudera was number one by a significant amount but now we are the clear market leader. We hope this really communicates to customers that Cloudera is here for the long term. But there are going to be other players and we want to foster that. Our aim working together is to accelerate the market, to bring some great advantages to the big data industry, and a lot of this work will end up in the open source community and in our competitors’ distribution
When we entered the market with our own Hadoop software product in early 2013, a lot of people scratched their heads. What we said at the time was we are huge believers in this whole eco-system around Hadoop, and not just Hadoop specifically but the range of Apache products growing around the eco system that really had the potential to transform the data centre opportunity because of the value that the applications provided.
For the vast majority of customers the Cloudera platform is going to represent their best choice. But one of our absolute priorities was keep Hadoop open and interoperable and not evolve it into yet another proprietary data management platform, which I think the industry has quite enough of.
How will the collaboration help support the huge wave of initiatives emerging around the IoT (Internet of Things)?
With the innovation from Cloudera and the performance capabilities of Intel we are on track to make sure the Hadoop platform evolves in such a way that it can handle the huge amounts of data generated by devices on the internet in real time. You have the benefit of both batch oriented processing and real time processing.
The big data opportunity in many respects is bigger than the opportunity brought about by cloud computing over the past half decade, because cloud computing is really an efficient means of getting scale into applications, whereas big data technology like the Enterprise Data Hub offers transformative use cases economically. The key is making sure we have a platform to handle the scale requirements of IoT data. If you look at the capabilities already built into Cloudera’s applications in the market today, and what’s coming over the next two years, you’ll see thats exactly what we’re building.
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What are Cloudera’s growth plans for the Europe and the UK?
One of the great advantages of the partnership is that we will be able to expand our footprint internationally and get closer to customers with more local resources we can align with. We do have a presence in Europe: it turns out it’s’ our fastest growing segment year over year but there’s a lot more we can do. Intel’s sales organisation has already established a lot of relationships with our target customers and partners and a lot of the funding from Intel is directly allowing us to do that.
The Hadoop market has grown in parts of the world where people are wiling to maybe compromise a bit on the complexity or how well its integrated into other enterprise environment, but I think in general the European market is a very pragmatic market with very high expectations on how to get business value out of the platform. So a lot of the things we are doing together to try and get Hadoop higher performance, to make Hadoop more secure, and to get it integrated easily into the Enterprise Data Hub are going to be a really good fit for the European market so customers can get the business value quickly and not have to worry as much about the technology.
What are the inhibitors to seeing faster growth in big data space in the UK?
I always go back to the fact that this is a technology that comes down to the imagination and vision of business leaders to envision new business models and ways of engaging with their customers. We still see a bit of a bifurcation in the market between the haves and have-nots. There are people out there leading and innovating and astonishing me every day with with their creativity but we still gave a large number of organisations on the sidelines trying to figure out what to do. I hope this partnership is a bit of incentive for those organisations still on the sidelines to think about how to accelerate their plans to really drive innovation and the customer engagement model with big data.