Keep it Simple, Stupid! Simplicity in IT Infrastructure
December 11, 2014

Today Norwest announced its Series B investment in Qubole, a leading provider of big data in the cloud. We are very excited to be supporting Qubole’s mission to help every company use the cloud to turn data into business growth. Qubole is changing the big data conversation by tapping the power of the public cloud. From my perspective, adoption of the public cloud is a matter of “when”, not “if”. When it reaches an inflection point, Qubole is poised to be the strategic big data platform for all cloud applications and analytics.

Simplicity in IT Infrastructure

IT infrastructure used to be all about features, features, features.  For instance in the networking space, companies like Cisco and Juniper squeeze as many bells and whistles as they can into each software release. These features are managed through a command line interface (CLI) – a black and white screen with thousands of obscure commands that required an engineer with a dozen Cisco certifications to configure (I was that guy!). This was the status quo until Meraki came along and said we’ll ship you a wireless access point, you open up a browser to manage it, and your gear will automagically appear alongside pretty dashboards. This was a huge paradigm shift away from complexity and toward simplicity.

Norwest invested in this simplicity trend three years ago when we backed Pertino, a company that is disrupting the $6B Virtual Private Network (VPN) market by offering a simple software-only alternative. A customer visits Pertino.com and downloads a client just as you would with other modern cloud services such as Dropbox. Then, with the snap of a finger, you have created your own private VPN connecting your offices and devices wherever they are located. We have revisited this idea of simplicity with other Norwest investments such as Blue Jeans, Exablox, and Bitglass. Qubole is the next step in this direction, applying the concept of simplicity to big data in the cloud.

Founded in 2011, Qubole has developed a next generation platform that simplifies big data by leveraging the public cloud. Today, Qubole helps notable companies including Pinterest, Quora, MediaMath, and Answers.com get insights from their big data in a simple and cost effective manner.  Qubole is also enabling these companies to extend accessibility to this data across their organizations.

Hadoop is becoming the de facto big data processing platform in many companies. It is a platform for processing large-scale data sets in a distributed fashion. Hadoop can be used for small clusters of a few nodes up to several thousand computing nodes. While it is an extremely powerful platform, it is not “plug and play”. It poses a significant technology and complexity hurdle and has been largely inaccessible without the help of expensive data scientists and sophisticated IT and DevOps departments.  This all changes with Qubole.

Qubole provides Hadoop-as-a-Service via its Qubole Data Service (QDS) platform, a cloud computing solution that abstracts away the operational challenges of running Hadoop to make medium- and large-scale data processing accessible, easy, fast, and inexpensive. QDS has built-in data connectors, data governance and sharing features, as well as tooling and tool integration.  It consists of a completely self-managed and auto-scaling big data infrastructure and puts big data analytics in the hands of enterprise users while enabling IT teams to accomplish all of this with a low operations footprint.

Pinterest is a terrific example of how Qubole’s technology is empowering companies to manage big data in the cloud. The Pinterest interest graph is comprised of more than 30 billion Pins.  Qubole is enabling Pinterest to traverse this interest graph to extract context and intent for each Pin. Pinterest generates an astonishing 20 billion log messages each day and processes nearly a petabyte of data with Hadoop each day. Pinterest started with a team of 30 Qubole users and the Qubole web UI for non-technical users expanded that number to 250. This is a great example of how Qubole democratizes access to data within an organization and empowers both developers and non-developers, e.g. data analysts, to learn actionable insights from that data.

Before founding Qubole, Ashish Thusoo and Joydeep Sen Sarma ran Facebook’s Data Infrastructure team where they built one of the largest data processing and analytics platforms in the world. As Ashish states, “The platform achieved not just the bold aim of making data accessible to analysts, engineers and data scientists, but drove the big data revolution.” In the process of scaling Facebook’s Big Data infrastructure, they drove the creation of a host of tools and technologies that are used industry wide today. The caliber and expertise of Qubole’s founding team was a significant factor in our investment decision.

Qubole is changing the big data game by leveraging the public cloud to provide a simple, cost-effective solution that turns the complicated task of analyzing data into a seamless everyday business process.  The Hadoop/ big data market continues to evolve and represents a huge market opportunity. Ashish, Joydeep and their team are working rigorously to meet the evolving needs of the enterprise in this space.  Our investment in Qubole underscores our commitment to the big data space and represents another step in the shift away from complexity and toward simplicity.

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