Snowflake reflects on 10 years have passed, and is delayed 10 years before that

(Michael V/Shutterstock)

When Snowflake Computing was founded 10 years ago, the big data market looked a lot different than it does today. Momentum was gathering behind something called Hadoop, while cloud computing was viewed with suspicion. Despite these headwinds, the founders of Snowflake stuck to their initial vision, eventually playing a major role in turning the big data script and finding massive success along the way. But where will this success lead over the next decade?

The first two years of Snowflake computingHis existence was spent in stealth mode. Co-founders Benoit Dageville, Thierry Cruanes, and Marcin Zukowski were all data warehousing veterans who previously worked at inspirationAnd the IBMAnd the Actian, and so they had an insider’s view of the limits of data warehouses. They believed that by running a data warehouse in the cloud and separating computing from storage, they could overcome these limits.

snowflake For the first time in the public eye He was modest enough. On October 21, 2014, the company simultaneously came out of disguise and announced a Series B funding round led by Redpoint worth $26 million, not a large amount by today’s venture capital standards. former Microsoft CEO Bob Muglia, chosen to be the first CEO, has unveiled his first commercial offering, called Elastic Data Warehouse, which ran exclusively on… Amazon Web Services It became generally available in 2015.

The next several years were spent putting the head down, iterating on this first version of the Snowflake data warehouse running on AWS, hitting the cylinder for its approach to processing big data in the cloud. company Took home in the first place at the Strata + Hadoop World Startup Showcase in 2015, and raised $45 million in a Series C round later that year (later expanded to $76 million). Partnered with BI vendors such as TableauAnd the viewerAnd the MicroStrategy; denounce against Failed Big Data Projects; and boosted cost savings versus other nascent cloud vendors.

Left to Right: Snowflake founder Thierry Croanes, Snowflake CEO Bob Muglia, Snowflake co-founder Benoit Dageville, and Snowflake founder Marcin Zukowski

The feisty Muglia took shots at rivals, including Hadoop. CEO of Startup Company Rip the open source software project to shreds in 2017 Datanami Interview, before a Hadoop explosion seems imminent. “I can’t find a happy Hadoop customer. It’s kind of simple,” he said. “It’s very clear to me, from a technological point of view, that it is not the technological base that the world is going to be built for going forward.”

Momentum began building for Snowflake in 2017 with a pair of new features. the first The newly launched product was Snowpipethe ability to continuously ingest data, the second is the beginning of data sharing.

That year, Snowflake laid “the essential building block that allows separate Snowflake accounts to collaborate on shared data assets in a meaningful, secure, and well-controlled manner,” says Torsten Grabs, Snowflake’s director of product management for Data Lake, Data Pipelines and Data Science.

The company’s customer growth signaled confidence to potential investors, and in April 2017, the company completed a $100 million Series D round, bringing the fledgling company’s total funding to $205 million.

Buoyed by strong growth, Snowflake has expanded to Microsoft AzureThis has opened up the company to many companies working on that cloud infrastructure. By late 2018, the company had crossed the 1,000 customer mark, barely three years into its existence. It’s also starting to get more serious about how to partner with the launch of the Partner Connect program, “which allows users to rotate their Snowflake account through the partner experience and vice versa,” says Grabs. Snowflake closed two mega foundation rounds in 2018, including a $263 million Series E round in January and a $450 million Series E round in October. At that point, it was worth $3.5 billion.

Snowflake celebrates his 10th birthday in 2022 (Image courtesy of Snowflake)

2019 marked a period of transition for the company, which was still called Snowflake Computing and is still based in San Mateo, California. On the product front, it expanded to Google Cloud. It also launched the Snowflake Data Marketplace, as well as the cross-cloud building blocks that would eventually be known as Snowgrid. On the business front, Muglia was replaced by Frank Slotman, the former CEO of ServiceNow, as CEO in May 2019.

The COVID-19 pandemic was a huge blow to many companies’ plans in early 2020, but Snowflake appears to be rolling along with the punches. company Launched many new products At its annual user conference, including the availability of Snowsight, a new graphical user interface designed to allow users to get closer to data. It also introduced Snowpark, which will give users the ability to work with Snowflake data in a language other than SQL. Finally, in a sign of the importance of the partners, it launched a new official partnership program, called Snowflake Partner Connect.

And who can forget Snowflake’s first big debut on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol SNOW? This September’s initial public offering raised $3.4 billion (giving the company a $33 billion valuation) and was described by the mainstream press as the “largest IPO ever for a software company” (although it is a cloud service provider). The company also doubled its customer base, from 1,550 in July 2019 to 3,100 in July 2020.

2021 was another busy year for the new public company, as Snowpark launched for Python, which is still in public preview. Snowflake has also expanded support for unstructured data, which is most important for the kinds of AI use cases where Python will be used (while traditional SQL queries work on structured and tabular data). Snowflake has also started allowing Snowflake Marketplace participants to monetize their data. It also launched clean data rooms, in addition to the first two vertical clouds, for media and financial services. We can not forget the short time in early 2021 when the snowflake identified as “HQless”, before Slotman settled in Bozeman, Montana.

snowflake CEO Frank Slotman making snow at the top of Snowflake in 2019

Snowflake’s evolution continued into 2022, with Many unmarked unveiling In shindig used for June, including Unistore, the first transaction repository; Improvements to Snowpipe for streaming data pipelines; And a private preview of the new data application framework based on $800 million acquisition of Streamlit in March. The company also Announced support for Apache Iceberg, open table format that is gaining momentum; launched new vertical zippers for healthcare and life sciences, as well as for retail; It also debuted in a new security show.

Today Snowflake has 6000 customers, and with a market capitalization of over $55 billion, is considered one of the giants of the cloud, a title you have to share with another big data star after Hadoop, Databriks. The company generated more than $1.2 billion in revenue in fiscal 2022, yet it is struggling to please Wall Street, which cut its share price to about $180 a share, less than half its all-time high in November 2021. And while there have been grumblings about unexpected costs from customers, Snowflake’s number of customers clearly shows it’s doing something right.

No longer providing customers with instant access to unlimited SQL computing on massive data sets in a data lake environment, Snowflake is playing the long big data game and positioning itself for the next big thing. For Grabs, who joined the company in 2017, the shift away from traditional data storage is less of a continuation of the company’s original path.

Snowflake has outpaced most of its Hadoop competitors (mw2st / Shutterstock)

“To me, it doesn’t feel like a drastic shift in where we were initially, because already in the beginning, Benoit and Terry were thinking of Snowflake as a display of the data lake,” he says. “They deliberately thought of Hadoop as another big data processing platform that should compete well with Snowflake from the start.”

Hadoop was the big contender in those early days, and Snowflake spent a lot of time doing Hadoop replacements like green enterprise data warehouse facilities, Grabs says. The fact that Snowflake rose while Hadoop fell is definitely relevant to this conversation. “We are the best Hadoop,” Grabs joked.

But where will the company go next? The company has put stakes on the ground in several areas directly adjacent to the world of advanced analytics, including artificial intelligence, data flow, data applications, converged OLAP/OLTP, data cleanrooms, and vertical data clouds. Which of these will define Snowflake 10 years from now?

This answer is unclear, but there is one thing: the company will not sit idly by. “We have to innovate on a daily basis,” Grabs says. “We cannot sit on the laurels of what happened in the past.”

Grabs likes to remind customers that every year, the amount of time they have to process new data and make a decision diminishes. When this window goes down, data volume goes up, and latency requests get tighter and tighter. These are some of the business challenges that drive a lot of investment in streaming data analytics and real-time databases. Snowflake also tracks this challenge, looking for ways to keep customers on its head.

“We’ve gotten very creative about the different storage layouts and how we actually represent storage. We’re by no means just a vertical store,” Grabs says. Quite frankly for mixed tables, with our Unistore workloads, which provide a different latency profile, and a response time profile, which gives the normal Snowflake table does.”

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