Sharmila Shahani-Mulligan, founder and CEO,ClearStory Data has spent 15+ years building game-changing software companies in a variety of markets. She has been EVP & CMO at numerous successful software companies, including Netscape, Kiva Software, AOL, Opsware, and Aster Data. She drove the creation of several multi-billion dollar market categories, including application servers, data center automation, and big data analytics.
Since you have spent 15+ years building game-changing software for companies in a variety of markets. How market strategy has changed over these years? What are the main expectations and concerns in the market?
Sharmila: The Internet opened up the possibility of new business models and made it easy to access markets and customer segments and even get to deep consumer intelligence in ways never before achievable. Further, the “consumerization of technology” including in IT, has given companies loads of data to better understand and serve their customers. And now the growth of public and private clouds is giving both individuals and professionals access to lower-cost computing power that was previously restricted to only the highest-end research projects and largest Internet companies. All these technology trends allow you to now go-to-market faster, iterate product cycles faster and reach wider audiences with better, deeper targeting.
You have been selected on the board of Hadapt and Lattice Engines, advisor to numerous companies, large and small, and an active investor in early stage companies. How would you define the Big Data's possibility to transform SMB/SMEs around the world?
Sharmila: A few years ago, when people spoke about Big Data, they were referring to Google and Facebook or open source platforms like Hadoop that store large volumes of unstructured data. Now when we talk about Big Data it's not just about large volumes of data but rather the variety and velocity of data. So it's essentially volume, variety and velocity that make up the Big Data phenomenon. SMB/SME's generate and leverage a variety of data since data is diverse in nature, and they need to harness the velocity of data change. So SMB/SMEs should harness the power of the big data solutions that address data variety and data velocity.
What would you like to accomplish as the CEO and founder of ClearStory Data? What inspired you to start this launch?
Sharmila: The co-founders of ClearStory all previously worked together at Aster Data (acquired by Teradata in 2011), where the goal was to make it easy to store, manage and analyze your large volumes of data. Now at ClearStory Data we are making it possible to bring data together from many different sources, both legacy sources, and new sources of data off the web, and explore and analyze this data together to derive new business and customer insights. The user does not have to be a skilled data expert or data scientist but rather can be any business user. We make it far easier for business users to harness data from a variety of sources and glean quick insights. It's essentially about bringing together diverse data and making big data easily consumable by any business user.
With White House Launching Big Data, R&D Push for Government and Public sector. What are the major reasons behind such initiatives and how can Big Data/Analytics/Cloud can help in better governance?
Sharmila: The investment by the federal government in Big Data is very interesting. There are a lot of ways Big Data can play a role in healthcare, defense, and other industries, and it is the right time for the federal government to be investing heavily in this area and massive opportunity.
How would you define the convergence of Cloud with Big Data? What are the verticals were this convergence would have an impact and how?
Sharmila: The cloud makes it possible to store and access data from anywhere, so it can really benefit almost anyone or any vertical. Also, it provides massive compute power that previously would have only been affordable for select companies.
Large Internet companies were the first to leverage the power of the cloud. By virtue of their business, they had the easiest time understanding the pros and cons of the cloud, and they already had the talent in-house to take advantage of it. The cloud and big data converging are major trends within retail, consumer package goods, consumer Internet and financial services. Government agencies are investing heavily in this convergence to deploy massive private clouds as well.
What kind of Big Data & Cloud benefits are companies realizing, and what kind of questions should they be asking?
Sharmila: Companies are realizing that they have so much data, they can really do a better job understanding and serving their customers. They should now be asking how to unleash the wealth of information that lies in big data to a broader set of users so users can get to insights quickly and more easily to make business decisions and take quick action.
What are the emerging trends that you see in the coming years (Big Data)?
Sharmila: We feel like we are at the forefront of a trend in Big Data and analytics. We expect several approaches to emerge, but overall making it easier for business users to access and consume masses amounts of data is a major trend and opportunity. The traditional approach relies on relational data in databases and data warehouses with a scale-constrained BI tool for reporting. Now, you have data being generated at massive rates on the web, including social networks, and in this data lay a wealth of information. The sources of valuable data have exploded, volumes are exploding and the trend is towards allowing more people, not just business users to access and analyze this data.
Any final thoughts or any specific examples you'd like to share?
Sharmila: We’re excited to solve the “last mile” problem in big data exploration and analysis – to make it easy for people to combine data from a variety of corporate sources and web sources for fresh insights on their business and customers.