“Ocient enables customers to rapidly ingest and analyze massive data sets to solve complex problems and generate important business results while minimizing the amount of people and resources utilized.”
Hi Chris, welcome to iTechnology Interview Series. Please tell us about your journey in the data industry.
Thank you! I actually started my career as a database developer at Martin Marietta after graduating from MIT and have been in tech ever since. It’s amazing to see how much the data has grown and transformed over the years.
What is Ocient? What inspired you to start Ocient?
Ocient is a hyperscale data analytics solutions company serving enterprises and government agencies that struggle to analyze data at the speed, scale, and cost needed to power their businesses and missions at scale.
The idea for Ocient came from my last company, Cleversafe, where we created the software for many of the largest data storage systems in the world. Our customers were experts in hyperscale data storage and wanted not only to store petabytes to exabytes of data, but to do it reliably and cost effectively. It was those customers who asked us to create Ocient to see if we could bring the kinds of benefits to data analysis we had done with data storage.
Which markets are you currently targeting? What does your ideal customer profile look like?
We’re targeting customers who have a pressing need to ingest and analyze large amounts of data for mission-critical purposes. Across telecommunications, government agencies, adtech, and objects in motion, our customers are challenged to handle petabytes of data quickly, efficiently, and at an affordable cost. Our typical customer requires interactive analysis on an active dataset of half a petabyte — trillions of records — or more, continuously. These workloads require constant queries on massive datasets with up-to-the-minute results to power their business. Any customer on the globe with these needs would be a good candidate for Ocient.
How does Ocient align with the modern technology demands from global enterprises?
A key, indisputable trend in our industry is that data only continues to grow. Digital transformation leads to more data created and more data that needs to be analyzed. Effectively analyzing and driving business value from data at an accelerated pace is our core focus area. We are seeing the demand for hyperscale data analytics grow quickly as organizations look to grow their businesses with data to drive new opportunities and valuable insights.
What kind of IT infrastructure does a company need to benefit from Ocient’s data analytics solutions? What is the most convincing aspect of your data analytics solution that CIOs love the most?
Our customers have IT infrastructures that generate a lot of data. That data may be coming from a hundred million mobile phones, a hundred million cars, or millions of ad placements on an ad exchange. In addition to managing hyperscale data sets, our customers need trustworthy partners to build and manage technical solutions at a more accelerated pace than they could execute in house.
Ocient enables customers to rapidly ingest and analyze massive data sets to solve complex problems and generate important business results while minimizing the amount of people and resources utilized. We enable previously infeasible outcomes by delivering performance at scale for a reasonable cost. CIOs appreciate the combination of ultimate price-performance along with the solutions-first approach they get with Ocient.
How have new technologies such as AI/ML, cloud computing and analytics transformed the global economy? How do you work with these technologies at Ocient and its customers?
These new technologies are increasing the speed of business — that’s their real value in the market. They’re growing the economy because businesses now move faster, change faster, and innovate faster.
Ocient can accelerate the speed and efficiency of business even further, and we can do it at hyperscale. The reason customers engage with Ocient is because they use these new technologies to grow faster, but they hit a wall when the data they need to analyze reaches hyperscale. Whether it’s AI, ML, or other types of analytics, hyperscale data analytics is an area that needs to be addressed. Ocient is uniquely able to deliver value as the implementation of AI, ML, cloud computing, and analytics grows to hyperscale.
Tell us a little bit about the Ocient Hyperscale Data Warehouse (OHDW). Could you provide some case studies of how IT companies have been able to redefine their data ops with OHDW?
The Ocient Hyperscale Data Warehouse was engineered from the ground up to deliver unprecedented performance at limitless scale. At Ocient, we developed a Compute Adjacent Storage Architecture (CASA) on NVMe solid state drives that maximizes the parallelization and throughput of modern, standard hardware to eliminate the performance bottlenecks and scaling costs of legacy systems and other cloud-only data warehouses.
In addition to SQL-based analytics, the OHDW provides an ETL (extract, transform and load) service with no additional costs or tools needed. ETL, or data ingestion, is something many organizations are spending too much time and budget on, particularly when a high volume of data is loaded continuously. With Ocient, customers don’t have to worry about “turning off” their queries or loading less data to cut costs. From a data ops perspective, this enables customers to maximize the amount of data integrated, consolidating multiple pipelines within a single platform that can be leveraged across the enterprise.
Use cases that require continuous data streaming, transformation, loading, and analysis include workloads in adtech, telecommunications, financial services, operational IT, and emerging geospatial use cases. Ocient partners closely with customers to develop end-to-end solutions powered by the OHDW, ensuring each migration, replatforming and production deployment delivers higher performance and ROI from day one.
Talent War and Talent Shortage have slowed down the pace of many industries. Which industries, according to you, suffer the most due to the outcomes of talent management or mismanagement?
When we talk to customers, we see talent as a constant challenge across the board. From government to telco to adtech companies, we see talent shortages in data science and analytics from the C-suite down to entry-level positions. It’s something we see at Ocient, too. It’s really challenging to retain and recruit top talent because the industry is growing rapidly and experienced people are in high demand.
In a recent survey, we found that 65% of executives are concerned or very concerned about having enough staff to tackle their pressing data challenges. In that same survey, 78% of respondents tied their ability to analyze more data with the growth of their bottom line. The pace of disruption and innovation in tech continues to grow and change faster than ever. Throw in an increasingly remote or hybrid workforce, and the playbook for running a successful tech company is also quickly evolving as employees have more options for work than ever before.
As more industries embrace digital transformation, the way they engage their workforce will need to shift as well. It will be critical to build an inclusive and welcoming culture, promote flexible work environments, and take steps to mitigate employee burnout. These challenges haven’t historically been on the radar across the board, but they’re critical to promoting productivity and retention.
How can data-based industries, particularly those linked to the B2B, life sciences and healthcare, address talent shortages?
Without speaking to the intricacies of a specific industry, I can share some tips about how we’ve shifted our approach at Ocient since becoming a remote-first company. At Ocient, we focus a lot on culture and building connections in a remote-first world. In B2B, relationships are not only important to selling, but critical to finding the expertise and skills to drive success.
What tips would you offer to succeed in addressing talent shortages with long-lasting results?
Many companies are incorporating more social and emotional aspects into managing the work environment and workforce, building diversity and inclusion efforts, and taking climate action. At Ocient, our teams want to contribute to causes they care about through their work. Taking these elements into consideration, using technology to help address more mundane or administrative tasks, and empowering people with creative and strategic projects may help address talent shortages and keep existing employees engaged and thriving.
Data privacy and cyber threats continue to harm organizations with unprecedented, and most often, irreversible outcomes. As hyperscale data warehouse networks expand, how could organizations in government, automotive, manufacturing, mining and energy ensure protection from the invisible cyber threats?
The short answer: Upgrade and modernize the data analytics systems mining for abnormalities, breaches, and suspicious behavior. Cyber crimes are costing organizations trillions of dollars globally each year, and they are increasing at a fast pace. When you consider the growth of mobile, smart, and connected devices, you can understand why a legacy system implemented even three to five years ago may have trouble keeping up with the vast amounts of data that can help diagnose and identify security abnormalities and provide a digital forensic trail for investigators.
One of the things Ocient is designed for is full-resolution network metadata storage and rapid analysis, which enables customers to identify and mitigate security threats with a level of granularity that wasn’t previously possible.
Cyberthreats typically aren’t invisible, but they can be the kind of needle-in-a-haystack events that get missed if an organization must compromise the granularity of data analysis due to a tool’s limitations. In our recent Beyond Big Data survey, security and compliance were the top concern among 500 data and tech leaders surveyed. The cost of a security breach is greater than ever, and while not every threat can be prevented, they can typically be detected and resolved with enhanced visibility and intelligence.
Would an increase in investments into the private 5G networks really meet enterprise requirements for lower latency, data privacy, and secure wireless connectivity? Please explain with practical examples or case studies that you may have come across from the industry.
5G is likely to increase network metadata generated daily by 10 to 50 times. Much of this growth will be driven by B2B use cases. Today, the scale of network metadata stored is too large to effectively analyze using legacy tools and cloud-only solutions. When you factor in the 10 to 50 times increase in data that will be generated by 5G-enabled devices, it’s critical that providers invest in scalable data analysis solutions that can provide full-resolution insights to protect their users and the network. This is not only essential for consumer data privacy and secure wireless connectivity, but also for organizations that will increase their reliance on sensor data and the Internet of Things (IoT) to run and optimize their operations. A disruption, hack, or breach of an increasingly digital infrastructure could have massive ramifications for supply chains, energy production, communications, and more.
Your predictions on the future of data analytics and how most industries could benefit from adopting this technology to meet global demands:
- More businesses, products, and services will be powered by data. Auto manufacturers, for example, are predicting that in-car experience and services powered by first and third party data will drive more growth for their businesses than vehicle sales over the next 10 years. We are seeing a rapid increase in businesses that rely on streams of data to provide new products and services across telematics, energy production, financial services and more. With this trend, the industry will move beyond “big data” into the realm of hyperscale data analytics. There will still be big data use cases, but hyperscale data analytics will drive significant growth opportunities, as will the need to keep companies and our citizens safe and secure
- Non-tech organizations will adopt a tech and engineering mindset. In addition to adopting new technologies, we’ll see more industries adopt a tech and engineering mindset. From manufacturing to farms to banking and more, companies will embrace collaboration, iterative learning, alpha/beta testing, the concept of “failing fast,” and more. It’s not possible to have tech infused in your business and not be impacted by the processes and style of being in a tech-enabled company. This approach will unlock more new ideas and innovation in industries that have not traditionally been “techie.”
- Data strategy will become a make-or-break component of enterprise growth. The growth of the C-suite is primarily driven by technical roles, with a focus on data enablement and decision intelligence as the latest capability to be added at the highest level of an organization. In addition to the CTO, CIO, and CSO/CISO, chief data officers (CDOs) and chief data and analytics officers (CDAOs) will become ever more important as they use data to unlock more intelligence and efficiency and transform their organizations.
- Enterprises will reevaluate cloud costs at hyperscale. As enterprises move more data to the cloud, some workloads will become too costly to run continuously and may therefore be pushed back on premises. The introduction of modern on-prem solutions for hyperscale data analysis will support a new generation of workloads that will have higher price performance on prem or in a hybrid cloud environment.
Your advice to business leaders looking to adapt to ever-expanding data analytics and AI technology innovations for digital transformation
It’s a crowded marketplace with a lot of similar claims. My advice is to look for a partner who will learn your business and deliver solutions that meet your specific requirements and use case needs. Many digital and data projects fail, and technology is only one component of any industry transformation. Success requires people, processes and technology, and it’s critical to get the balance of these things right for your organization. Look for the right tool for the job and ensure your vendor partners are honest and upfront about what they do well and what they don’t do well. Anyone who claims they can do everything the best is likely not being honest and forthcoming.
I would also make sure anyone embarking on this path realizes that it is a never-ending journey. Digital transformation isn’t necessarily a destination. The systems, the tools, and the solutions will constantly evolve, and the pace of innovation will become ever more important for organizations looking to grow and stay ahead.
A technology event/ conference/ webinar/ podcast that you would like to attend in 2022-2023:
We just attended Big Data London, which had 30% more attendees than the largest show before the pandemic. This demonstrates how our industry continues to grow, in part due to the pandemic. I look forward to attending Mobile World Congress next week and DoDIIS toward the end of the year.
Thank you, Chris! That was fun and we hope to see you back on itechnologyseries.com soon.
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In 2004, Chris founded Cleversafe which became the largest and most strategic object storage vendor in the world (according to IDC). He raised over $100M and led the company to a $1.4B exit in 2015 when IBM acquired them. The technology he started generated over 1,000 patents granted or filed, creating one of the ten most powerful patent portfolios in the world. Prior to Cleversafe, Chris was the Founder and CEO of startups MusicNow and Cruise Technologies, and led product strategy for Zenith Data Systems. He started his career at Martin Marietta, and holds a mechanical engineering degree from MIT.
Ocient is the leading hyperscale data solutions company that enables organizations to unlock value by analyzing trillions of data records at performance levels and costs previously unattainable. Leading organizations around the world trust Ocient’s team of industry experts to design and deploy proven complex solutions that enable and fast-track new revenue opportunities, streamline operations, and improve security on 5-10x more data while reducing their storage footprint by roughly 80%. Ocient’s pilot-to-production solutions are rapidly deployed on-prem or in the cloud with little to no resource-intensive integration. Ocient is a carbon-neutral company, headquartered in Chicago, and backed by leading investors including Greycroft, OCA Ventures and In-Q-Tel.