Frank Slootman on Snowflake's blossoming partnership with AWS

Frank Slootman on Snowflake’s blossoming partnership with AWS

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Snowflake Inc. built its data warehouse business on top of Amazon Web Services. In the early days, the company looked at AWS as a platform to remove the hassle of managing infrastructure, while at the same time enabling virtually infinite scaling of resources.

That allowed Snowflake to rethink database architecture entirely to exploit the native advantages of cloud by, for example, separating compute from storage and having multiple clusters query the same data without making endless copies. It did all this while dramatically reducing the complexity of spinning up data warehouses.

In time, AWS and Snowflake became increasingly competitive, particularly as Snowflake encroached on the domain of AWS Redshift and AWS added Snowflake-like capabilities. Rather than market against those similarities, Snowflake continued to innovate, adding multicloud support and data sharing features with strong governance and so-called data clean rooms. And last June Snowflake extended its platform to allow developers to build applications on top of Snowflake.

But customers are the final arbiter. In the field, sellers soon realized that partnering was far more lucrative than competing and the relationship between AWS and Snowflake has blossomed. On track to generate about $2 billion in revenue this fiscal year, about 80% of Snowflake’s business runs on AWS’ cloud.

Collaboration at scale

In an exclusive emailed interview with SiliconANGLE, Snowflake Chief Executive Frank Slootman (pictured) said his company’s partnership with AWS has matured to become a huge win-win, with both parties delivering material value to each other and their joint customers. It has also helped Snowflake to close on hundreds of new opportunities, he said.

“[It] is collaboration at scale, and it’s a boon to our customers to have their data platform provider working so closely with their cloud services provider,” Slootman insisted. “Last year we did $1.2 billion in co-sell without cloud partners, most of which was with AWS. This year, that number will be much larger.”

One of the ways in which the collaboration is bearing fruit is that it has helped Snowflake to offer more focused, industry-specific solutions to its customers. Slootman said Snowflake has responded to this need by advancing its Data Cloud as the standard across multiple industries, collaborating closely with AWS on multiple sales, marketing and production initiatives.

“AWS has been a supporting partner for each of these launches, providing industry solutions with complementary AWS services,” he explained.

Putting data into operation, together

Data is increasingly being put into operation as the lifeblood of business applications and application development, and Snowflake’s collaboration with AWS has enabled customers to accelerate their digital transformations in pursuit of this. According to Slootman, companies today are faced with more data than ever before, and are challenged by where to start, how to manage that data, and how to derive key insights from it efficiently. Yet they need to “lean on that data to inform what they’re building, how they’re building it and what issues their solutions will address,” he said.

“A company that has been completely transformed with technology is able to effectively garner data driven insights by breaking down data silos, leveraging third-party data through data sharing, and building applications that take advantage of this data,” Slootman added.

AWS innovation: lifeblood for Snowflake

Snowflake has been aided in this by the evolution of AWS. In recent years, the cloud giant has focused higher up the stack in terms of higher-level services and line-of-business-focused solutions. Some might perceive this innovation as AWS trying to compete with Snowflake, but Slootman said it has instead created “ample opportunity” for his company to “level up with new services and solutions.”

He explained that innovation is the lifeblood of Snowflake. “Innovation across the industry gives customers a choice in the solutions and tools that they choose, and drives organizations to level-up their offerings with better products and services,” he said.

For instance, Snowflake and AWS collaborate very closely in the area of artificial intelligence and machine learning, which is being rapidly adopted across their joint customer base. Slootman said the companies’ AI and machine learning teams often work collaboratively, for example, and that they have a history of announcing integrations at previous re:Invents.

Here’s the full interview with Slootman:

Q: How many years have you been an AWS Partner and how many years have you been participating in AWS re:invent?

A: We joined the Amazon Partner Network in 2013 and have participated in re:Invent every year since 2015.

Q: Describe your company’s journey to the cloud (born in the cloud, add-on cloud offerings, on-premises with links to key services)?

A: The Snowflake Data Cloud was born in the cloud and is a cloud-native solution. We continue to evolve and announced earlier this year partnerships with organizations like Dell Technologies and Pure Storage to enable integration with their on-premise storage solutions.

Q: Chronicle your partnership with AWS – things haven’t always been smooth sailing. What were some of the challenges and how do you characterize it today? How have your market opportunities evolved?

A: The Snowflake and AWS partnership has matured over the years to be a win-win, delivering material value for each of our organizations and our joint customers. Today, our partnership with the AWS field is very strong. Our own account executives have confirmed that AWS has helped us close many hundreds of opportunities so far this year. That is collaboration at scale, and it’s a boon to our customers to have their data platform provider working so closely with their cloud services provider. Last year, we did $1.2 billion in co-sell with our cloud partners, most of which was with AWS. This year, that number will be much larger.

We are very happy with the AWS partnership now. Both companies have come to the table time and time again to expand strategic investment across joint sales, marketing, and alliances – a focused effort to explore new frontiers and drive customer-focused innovation.

Q: Cloud adoption is continuing to accelerate, yet it is still early days in cloud with a majority of IT remaining on-premises and staying there in hybrid “steady state” operational mode. But it feels like we are at a tipping point, with platforms and industry clouds being built on top of AWS (and other CSPs) primitive services – more horsepower, higher-level services, industry-specific capabilities – rendering itself into a new kind of cloud, a next-generation cloud. What are you seeing customers doing differently now? Is the role of ISV or SaaS application changed? Do you consider yourself an ISV?

A: The needs of our customers are becoming more industry-specific, so we are focused on advancing the Data Cloud as the standard across industries. In working with partners like AWS, we can deliver best-in-class, industry-specific solutions to our customers. We have invested in sales, marketing, and product initiatives with AWS to hone in on promoting industry solutions to line-of-business managers alongside IT.

We launched four industry-specific Data Clouds in the past year, to offer partner-delivered solutions to our customers that are designed to increase overall impact. AWS has been a supporting partner for each of these launches, providing industry solutions with complementary AWS services. Take the CPG industry for example – we’re integrating order data from Amazon Vendor Central and using Amazon Forecast for customers to identify forecast demand.

Q: As AWS continues to innovate and reinforce its leadership with new capabilities and maturity of some of its core building blocks, what are you seeing as the challenges customers continue to face? How does Snowflake plan to address or capitalize on those challenges? What is the most important thing happening right now that can transform business and why?

A: During uncertain economic times, the ability to uncover data insights from across an organization’s entire data stack at speed and scale is essential.

Organizations have data silos on-premises and across different applications in the cloud, making it difficult to see a full view of a business to make an informed decision. With Snowflake as the Data Cloud enabling nearly all types of data workloads and AWS as an infrastructure layer, we are well positioned to offer our joint customers a holistic view of their data, as well as the capabilities to use the data for business impact.

Q: Let’s talk about data. If you take digital (business) transformation to completion, companies have been completely transformed with technology, what does that look like? In particular, how do you see the tsunami of data being operationalized as the lifeblood of applications and application development?

A: We are in the age of data – it is not possible to transform a company or run operations effectively without leveraging data. On top of that, companies are faced with more data than ever and challenged by where to start, how to manage it, and most importantly, how to efficiently derive insights from it that drive better business outcomes. A company that has been completely transformed with technology is able to effectively garner data driven insights by breaking down data silos, leveraging third-party data through data sharing, and building applications that take advantage of this data.

We are laser-focused on our next frontier of innovation – transforming how cloud applications are built, deployed, sold and transacted. Companies will lean on data to inform what they’re building, how they’re building it and what issues their solutions will address.

Q: How is Snowflake helping to address these challenges for customers who have already standardized on AWS? What is it that Snowflake brings to the table that AWS services are not already solving?

A: We can deliver the most compelling solutions through joint collaboration between our account teams to bring a combination of Snowflake and AWS products to our customers.

Together with AWS, we’re looking at the full digital transformation journey for our customers, providing powerful capabilities and services throughout that can be leveraged to address specific customer needs.

Q: We can certainly expect AWS to make some significant announcements in Machine Learning and AI, in addition to many other areas. What are you seeing in terms of AI/ML adoption across your joint AWS/Snowflake customer base and how you are helping to build success in this process?

A: Our AI/ML product teams work collaboratively – AWS has announced integrations between our companies in past years at re:Invent. We innovate based on customer needs and are always seeking opportunities to build integrations between our products in order to utterly amaze our customers.

Q: AWS has made significant strides in developing its own chips to increase performance, lower prices, and improve the sustainability of cloud computing. What are your thoughts on this direction they are taking? Are you taking advantage of AWS’ chip innovations and how do you think it serves AWS’s partner community?

A: Graviton chips have allowed AWS to deliver better functionality at lower cost to their partners and customers. This is obviously a benefit to AWS’ ecosystem as it has driven 10% improvement in price performance.

Q: One of the directions we’ve seen from AWS over the last few years is an increasing focus higher up the stack in terms of higher level services and even line-of-business-focused solutions. Do you see this as an area of opportunity or contention for you and the broader AWS partner community?

A: AWS’ continued innovation provides ample opportunity for Snowflake, and the entire AWS ecosystem, to continue to level-up with new services and solutions.

Innovation is the lifeblood of our enterprise. Innovation across the industry gives customers a choice in the solutions and tools that they choose, and drives organizations to level-up their offerings with better products and services. In continuing to build and innovate together with AWS, we can provide more compelling solutions to our ecosystems and our customers – that remains our joint center of focus.

Q: Let’s talk about security and governance in the cloud, which has come a long way, but is a job that is never done. Especially for customers who are adopting cloud services and solutions on top of AWS and sharing data. How should the customers think about the role of security and governance from the data perspective as it relates to partner solutions. How are security and governance changing?

A: Security and governance ensure sensitive data maintained by any organization is protected from inappropriate access and tampering, and helps businesses achieve and maintain regulatory compliance. Especially if a company is large or in an industry subject to regulation such as healthcare or banking, data governance and security are critical. Snowflake’s platform, and its broad ecosystem of partners, provide a foundation for improved data governance. Snowflake interoperates with security and governance tools such as Collibra, Informatica, Talend, Atlan and Immuta, among others, to provide the highest levels of governance and security for our customers.

Customers need to make sure they have the right practices, processes, and tools for handling and using data — so everyone within the organization can use the data to fix business problems and discover opportunities, ultimately allowing the entire organization to march toward the same objective. Effective data governance today means it is a repeatable process, especially since it is not a one-and-done project.

Q: If you had to put a bumper sticker on your activities at re:Invent 2022, what would it be? What’s the bottom line?

A: Snowflake + AWS: Mobilizing the World’s Data, Together

Photo: SiliconANGLE

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