Snowflake Summit 2022: Here’s what digital leaders found interesting

From an ever-widening partner ecosystem to fresh data-sharing capabilities and a focus on data governance, here’s what three executives are taking away from the conference.

Fast-growing enterprise software company Snowflake is on a mission to create an integrated data stack. At Snowflake Summit 2022 in Las Vegas this week, the company announced a slew of new functionality for customers that will help businesses get more from their data. VentureBeat spoke to three digital leaders who explained what they’re taking away from the event.

Making more of the partner ecosystem

Brandon Hootman, director of digital data at Caterpillar, is pursuing a range of projects to help the construction machinery and equipment company build digital services for its customers. His team is responsible for bringing data from the company’s dealer network back into the enterprise, harmonizing and cleansing that data, as well as ensuring it’s available across the backend of Caterpillar’s ecosystem.

Hootman says Snowflake is a key part of his team’s ongoing work. Caterpillar stores the information it cleanses in a Snowflake data lake. He says Caterpillar started using Snowflake since 2017 and the cloud-based nature of the product has always been appealing. Now, he’s keen to see what’s coming next in terms of the data stack, particularly when it comes to new capabilities.

“I’m excited to hear about the partner ecosystem that’s developing around Snowflake and to learn more about that,” says Hootman. “There is a continuing evolution of capabilities and data-sharing functions that look interesting, too.” 

Snowflake CEO Frank Slootman explained at the conference how the software company wants to create an integrated data stack for enterprises by either developing its own tools or by working with partners. Snowflake announced a new Native Application Framework that will allow developers to build applications and monetize them on Snowflake Marketplace, a platform that currently allows companies to use a variety of third-party datasets.

Other Snowflake customers, such as global healthcare company Novartis, have proven the benefits of becoming heavily involved in the Marketplace. Business leaders who find like-minded executives at other organizations can share information and enrich their datasets. Hootman expects data sharing to be a big theme going forwards.

“From an enrichment standpoint, it’s very interesting,” he said. “I think what makes the ecosystem interesting is the Marketplace and the availability of external datasets. The ability to very quickly combine and get value from those datasets is key. It’s an area that we’re keeping a very close eye on in terms of availability of external datasets and being able to integrate those more easily.” 

Exploring new data-sharing capabilities

While some of its banking rivals continue to struggle with the challenge of legacy systems, finance giant Capital One has spent the past decade embracing data-led digital transformation, pushing systems to the cloud and exploiting the Snowflake platform. 

Salim Syed, vice president of Slingshot Engineering at Capital One Software says the slew of product releases at Summit highlighted how the bank’s early shift to the Snowflake platform was appropriate. What was once a technology that helped you push legacy systems to the cloud is now very much an integrated data stack.

“Run everything on Snowflake,” he said, referring to the key lesson he’d pass to other digital leaders from the Summit. “I mean, that’s the beauty of it, right? It started out as a data warehouse. Now you can use Snowflake to run your data lake, data transformation and machine learning. It’s a complete data platform that’s easy to manage.”

Syed also points to Snowflake’s efforts to boost data-sharing capabilities. The software firm continues to refine its Data Cloud, which aims to help organizations create a cross-cloud data platform to eliminate technical and institutional silos. It also announced Unistore at the conference, which is a new workload approach that helps companies work with transactional and analytical data together on a single platform.

“I think their focus on data sharing is a completely revolutionary concept,” says Syed. “People five to 10 years from now will say, ‘you know, we used to have copy data all the time.’ Now, Snowflake is making it so much easier to share data securely with a wide ecosystem of people and partners. And I think that this is just going to be so powerful.”

Syed does issue a word warning, though – companies that are looking to take advantage of new data-sharing capabilities must ensure the right safeguards are in place. If they do this, then there are big gains to be made from using the Snowflake data stack.

“You must build the right governance controls and access policies to share data,” he says. “But what Snowflake is doing is prove that architecture is not a barrier. Before you had to create a data infrastructure. Now, Snowflake can be your access policy.”

Beefing up governance and cybersecurity

Putting the right access policies in place is also top of mind for Prabhath Karanth, director of security compliance and assurance at travel management company TripActions. Karanth is creating a data-based security program that allows the business to manage its information while meeting stringent compliance requirements. He says developments here are key.

“I attended the keynote and I spoke to a bunch of folks in the Snowflake leadership team. There’s a big push on governance and data sovereignty. And that’s crucial, because if you’re a company that is doing business in the EU, there are very state-specific regulations in various nations,” he said.

Karanth is also impressed with Snowflake’s desire to deal with the “metadata problem,” which he describes as the challenge of organizing datasets for various business uses cases while ensuring data is labeled effectively: “It sounds like Snowflake is really thinking about this in a very, very holistic way.”

He’s also impressed by Snowflake’s “big push” on cybersecurity. At the event, Snowflake executives talked about the company’s aim to ensure customers can pick best-of-breed third-party security applications that meet their business requirements and run these tools safely and securely on the Snowflake platform. 

“The partner ecosystem is hitting every security program that you need, right from endpoints to application security, to cloud security tooling, detection and response and continuous compliance. I think they’re bringing the ecosystem together. Security is a very crowded marketplace,” he says. 

“I feel that vendors who partner with each other to build a single pane of glass for the practitioner, and a holistic solution with data in mind, are going to succeed. And that’s a clear theme that I can see in this conference.”

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