“The advent of the cloud needs a very different database,” said Bob Muglia, chief executive, Snowflake, explaining how his product stands apart from the competition due to its architecture.
Snowflake does not only cater for structured data as per traditional relational databases, but also for semi-structured data like that coming out of “modern business systems, modern cloud applications, mobile devices and Internet of Things devices”, he says.
Competitive platforms also cater for semi-structured data but they “were built before the cloud, and built to operate in that environment. With the advent of the cloud we can build a very different database,” he says.
Specifically, “traditional data warehouses, as well as systems like Hadoop, have shared nothing – they are a cluster of servers that work together and the data is tightly coupled. That cluster becomes the unit of scalability for these systems. When the cluster is exceeded the database is saturated,” Muglia said.
“Snowflake is effectively infinite. Our architecture is multi-clustered shared data.”
What this means in practice is, as many compute clusters can be spun up automatically as needed at any time to handle the demand, and down again as the demand abates.
“Other systems scale to what a single cluster can provide. Snowflake can scale to an entire cloud region – thousands and thousands of nodes can be used to perform whatever operations you want to do on your data, literally instantaneously,” Muglia says.
Companies see enormous value in Snowflake’s ability to work with vast amounts of data and apply huge computational resources to it. “It’s the world’s most powerful database,” Muglia claims. “Our customers get a very rapid time to value when compared to other offerings. You can bring in semi-structured and structured data and get a solution running in Snowflake in days or weeks.”
These customers span large financial institutions, airlines, large advertising and media, communications and government.
Snowflake has 20 customers in Australia, including InfoTrack, Domain Group, The Big Red Group, and Fitness and Lifestyle Group who run Fitness First gyms. There are around 1000 customers globally.
This list also includes very small customers. Despite being touted as the world’s most powerful database, its per-second pricing and accessibility means small and medium-sized customers can take it up also, with a rapid online sign-up.
Muglia claims the Snowflake model is the future of the data warehouse. “It’s an exciting future,” he says. “There are a lot of features we're bringing online. Snowflake has revolutionised and modernised what it means to have a data warehouse. However, beyond the power and capability, we’re also enabling customers to share data between each other, in ways under their control.
“SaaS apps integrate because of API connections in the cloud. Yet one thing not connected is data. Techniques for sharing data across disparate silos go back 50 years. You export a file, ship it across the wire and load it into a different database. That’s how it worked in the 1970s. The cloud never revolutionised that.
“We’re now revolutionising this and allowing people to share data between organisations without having to move the data. Nobody’s done that before. The future of data warehousing is data sharing."