I’ve recently joined a Silicon Valley Enterprise Tech start-up - Confluent.
The Digital Revolution continues to accelerate - I truly believe we're living in historic times, largely driven by Digital.
DATA is driving this digital revolution as much as any new tech. Given the significance of data, the mechanics of data flow becomes nearly as important as the data itself.
I see Confluent's approach of using a streaming platform to manage data in the Enterprise, as game changing. Joining this hot start-up and helping it grow, is simply too good an opportunity to miss.
For more on point 1, read The WEFs fourth industrial revolution, or just watch this 2 min video. The pace of change is mind blowing.
I've discussed point 2 above in other blogs. Here I will expand on point 3.
First, to fully understand Confluent one probably needs to understand Apache Kafka - at which point many non-technical types may switch off. Let’s just say here, Confluent has a data or event-streaming platform that enables companies to easily access data as real-time streams.
This requires a fundamental shift in how companies think about data – less as something stored to be processed after the fact, and more as something that flows and can be processed continuously – making real-time data the heart of the business itself.
Why is this exciting? My previous two blogs tell this story. Data is the fuel of everything Digital. I talk about the explosion of data and the value of data.
But still, why confluent? Why not any other big data business?
Confluent is exciting because it’s now changing how we work with data.
Do we want to store all that data in static databases? Static data in a fast moving digital businesses is often out of date within hours, if not minutes, or even seconds. And yet, passive storage is the primary model of most data systems. Most systems offer a place data goes to sit. We use phrases like “data warehouse”, “data lake” or “data store”. We mostly have applications working on a request / response basis, with data sitting in relational databases.
In the last few years a new style of system and architecture has emerged. In addition to passive storage, this focuses on the flow of data in real-time streams. Confluent is at the forefront of this. It has the software and expertise that helps manage data in flow. It's no longer just big-data that's interesting, it's fast data.
If you think about it, most things happen in streams of events. Conversations, Transactions, even business processes. We have input streams, understanding, or transaction and corresponding output streams:
Retail has streams of orders, sales, shipments, price adjustments, returns, etc.
Web sites have streams of clicks, impressions, searches, etc.
Finance has orders, stock prices, transactions, and other financial time series.
Big software systems have streams of requests, security, errors, machine metrics, and logs.
Given this, the more traditional data 'storage' as rows in databases rather than as events feels rather old fashioned. Confluent is interesting as it's turning the database on its side. As Jay Kreps, CEO of confluent, says here: We think streaming platforms represent a genuinely new category in infrastructure and we’re going to be working hard to build that vision.
Whereas once we accepted a 24-hour delay in our bank statement updates, due to slow hidden back-end batch processes across legacy financial systems, we now expect to view our on-line account, on our smart-phone and see immediate updates. We also now expect additional features or services, such as access to immediate micro-loans if we're overdrawn at the cash machine.
Many of the latest digital first businesses have adopted data streaming, creating customer facing applications, using real-time data to offer exceptional customer experience. Examples include many Silicon Valley companies such as; Uber, Ebay, Netflix, Yelp, or virtually any other modern technology company, where data is core to the business. But many traditional businesses across Retail, Finance, Heathcare, even Government are appending their systems to enable real-time access to data.
As Matt Miller, partner at Sequoia (and investor of Confluent) said; “Some customers we spoke to attributed cost savings in the millions of dollars annually to the use of Confluent’s platform. We are enthusiastic to partner as we believe Confluent has the opportunity to be one of the most impactful enterprise technology companies of the next decade.”
As the importance of real-time data becomes increasingly clear, Confluent has the potential to be the central nervous system for all modern businesses. A Confluent colleague said something which resonated during on-boarding, "Real time data is becoming critical to most businesses. Would you rather cross the road based on real-time information, or information that's five minutes old?"
A recent McKinsey paper stated: "Understanding where an industry is moving and repositioning to ride a trend is one of the most fundamental skills of corporate success.” I'm hoping this statement also holds true for personal success. Here’s to the next chapter…