Cloudera Looks Like A Hidden Gem In The World Of Data Cloudification

Rob Bearden, Cloudera CEO

Data never dies. Its lifecycle extends from creation through a never-ending stream of business cycles. At the same time, enterprises are swimming in data that ranges broadly from customer-generated information, financial transactions, edge-generated data, and even operational IT server logs.

Understanding how to mine an organization’s data for maximum impact, securely and in compliance with a vast and growing array of regulatory frameworks, is one of the most significant challenges facing nearly every CIO across every industry today. This is a challenge that is expanding, as the volume of enterprise data is estimated to be doubling every 18 to 24 months, with no sign of slowing down.

Complicating matters is the explosion of cloud-based architectures. Between edge, on-prem, public cloud, private cloud, and the rapidly expanding array of on-demand and as-a-service offerings, things can become confusing fast. It truly is a multi-cloud world in which data can live nearly anywhere. Understanding how to wrangle that data is paramount.

It’s at this intersection of cloud solutions that Cloudera lives and delivers value. I believe its Cloudera Data Platform (CDP) is the hidden gem of cloudification. Cloudera’s fundamental goal is to help organizations get a handle on the data to allow them to manage it effectively, wherever it may reside.

I recently had the pleasure of talking with Cloudera’s newly minted CEO, Rob Bearden. He talked to me about the challenges facing CIOs as they navigate this world, while also attempting to break down the silos between business units that are created by segregated and unmanaged pools of data.

Focused on multi and hybrid cloud

There was a time, during the early days of cloud, where it seemed as if the public cloud was the answer to all of IT's woes. Public cloud provided a simple model delivered without the burdens of capital expenditures that often plague data center expansions. An IT administrator could push a button, and a server would suddenly appear. The pitfalls began to emerge quickly. Data ended up where it was impractical to utilize and expensive to move around. The phrase "data gravity" began to take hold in nodding acceptance of the underlying challenges of placing data where it belonged.

The real answer, as IT discovered, is not to limit yourself. Options are good. Place data and workloads where they make both the most practical and most operational sense. This has given us the hybrid multi-cloud world that we find ourselves in today. It’s also given us continued challenges in understanding and managing the data that lives across the various environments.

Cloudera’s vision is to build a modern data architecture to help organizations derive very fast time-to-value from their data. Data management begins at the point of creation, which is why the company’s solutions begin at the edge, where data is collected from multiple streams, and extend to the where it is ultimately consumed – which could be the public cloud, private cloud, or in an enterprise's own on-prem data center.

Managing data from cradle-to-grave allows Cloudera’s platform to break down the barriers between business units that exist in every enterprise and expose an organization’s data to where it makes the most sense. Data delivers value, after all, when it has real-time visibility and applicability across the enterprise.

The common wisdom is that unstructured data is the bulk of an organization’s data, with unstructured data expected to comprise nearly 80% of all data within the next half-decade. Managing that data requires understanding what that data is so that it can be consistently and transparently secured and managed within a growing universe of regulatory requirements. Metadata must be normalized and cataloged, and data must be placed where it makes the most sense from both economic and operational considerations.

Delivering these capabilities is a formidable challenge, yet one that I believe Cloudera is successfully taking on. The benefits of bringing Cloudera’s solution into an enterprise are quickly realized, which is why it is no surprise that the company has over 400,000 servers under management, providing insight into more than five exabytes of data.

A powerful merger

Cloudera has a long history of understanding how to leverage AI and machine learning to help enterprises manage contained data. As the world evolved, and edge computing became a more significant part of the equation, it was clear to Cloudera that any enterprise data strategy must span edge to cloud. Data must be managed from its point of origination to where it comes to rest. 

Hortonworks, a leader in big-data solutions, thought about data management in the same way. In January of last year, the two joined together under the Cloudera name. Cloudera’s traditional offerings of AI-driven data management with Hortonwork’s expertise in managing data from its point of inception make the combined organization a powerhouse in data management that is nearly unmatched in the industry.

The vision for the combined company, Rob told me, is to provide the tools to manage an enterprise’s data cloud with a platform that is natively multi-cloud and multifunction. Data is managed from creation through its entire lifecycle, all with consistent security and governance, and managed through a single pane of glass. That's no small challenge.

Rob said that all of the tactical and organizational elements of the merger are now complete. The two companies today execute as a single team, with fully integrated roadmaps. 

Illustrating just how smoothly the integration was, note that in just 9 months Cloudera delivered its Cloudera Data Platform on public cloud, including Cloudera Data Warehouse and Cloudera Machine Learning services. It’s available on AWS and Microsoft Azure today.

Beyond its existing solutions bringing together data management for edge and cloud, its on-going focus is centered on delivering private cloud capabilities to its CDP products. These features will be in beta soon, with a general availability happening sometime this summer.

A new CEO, focused on execution

One of my favorite parts of my job is getting to spend time with CEOs of great technology companies. It helps me understand the company’s vision while also allowing me to gauge the passion behind the products. 

Meeting Rob Bearden is an excellent example of this. Rob is genuinely excited about the challenges facing both Cloudera, and in how Cloudera is helping CIOs face the mounting challenges of a mountain of data.

Rob was named CEO of Cloudera about a month ago, and he told me that he’s a little bit grateful that he came in after the hard work of the integration between traditional Cloudera and Hortonworks was complete. This allows him to immediately focus on execution, delivering to the promise of the vision.

Cloudera’s business is built on a total addressable market worth nearly $26B today, doubling to $52B within the next three years. That a huge market opportunity.

Rob believes, and made me believe, that Cloudera has the right vision and right sets of technology to ride the growth of hybrid-cloud moving forward. Without giving enterprise organizations the ability to manage its data in this complex world of mixed solutions, Digital Transformation can't happen.

Cloudera’s future

There is no question that managing data is one of the most challenging problems facing both enterprise IT and the business units that those IT organizations support. The rise of edge, which is only accelerating as 5G deploys and enables new capabilities, brings new challenges in providing the capabilities required for cataloging, security, compliance, and placement.

The integration of the various private and public cloud offerings, with on-prem architectures and the emergence of on-demand and as-a-service offerings, makes data placement and management seem nearly insurmountable.

There’s more than one solution on the market to help enterprises manage data. There are fewer that look across the horizon, providing a consistent experience and set of capabilities from edge to cloud. I believe the combination of Cloudera’s technologies and its expanded portfolio puts Cloudera on a perch where it poised to dominate the space.

I recognize this is aggressive, but I can’t help but to see some of the similarities between Cloudera and Microsoft when Nadella took the helm. If you recall, when Nadella took over for Ballmer, Microsoft was very much an on-prem company. Sure, Azure existed, but it was in its infancy and on-prem was 95% of the revenue. In a very similar way, Cloudera is very successful on-prem and is moving rapidly to a hybrid and multi-cloud model. Trust is another aspect. The reasons many choose Azure and Azure Stack is that the company is very trusted. Cloudera, with its management of so much data in very regulated industries, is a very trusted company. Anyways, I wanted to share that compare.

I asked Rob why he stepped up to be CEO . He told me that it’s Cloudera’s opportunity to define how data will be managed over the next 15-20 years that excites him. I believe the company is poised to influence a generation of IT. He plainly states that the opportunity is Cloudera’s to lose. That's what gets him out of bed in the morning.

Note: Moor Insights & Strategy data and storage analyst Steve McDowell contributed to this article.

Patrick Moorhead

Patrick founded the firm based on his real-world world technology experiences with the understanding of what he wasn’t getting from analysts and consultants. Ten years later, Patrick is ranked #1 among technology industry analysts in terms of “power” (ARInsights)  in “press citations” (Apollo Research). Moorhead is a contributor at Forbes and frequently appears on CNBC. He is a broad-based analyst covering a wide variety of topics including the cloud, enterprise SaaS, collaboration, client computing, and semiconductors. He has 30 years of experience including 15 years of executive experience at high tech companies (NCR, AT&T, Compaq, now HP, and AMD) leading strategy, product management, product marketing, and corporate marketing, including three industry board appointments.