People to Watch 2019
Bob Muglia is the CEO of Snowflake, and has over 30 years of management and leadership experience. Most recently, Bob was president of Microsoft’s $16 billion Server and Tools Business, responsible for products such as Windows Server, SQL Server, System Center and Windows Azure. He also led several business groups at Microsoft including Developer Tools, Servers, Office, and Online Services. Following Microsoft, Bob was EVP of Software and Solutions at Juniper Networks. Bob holds a bachelor’s degree in computer & communication science from the University of Michigan.
Datanami: Bob, Snowflake just closed a $450 million round of venture funding. What made Snowflake such a hot company all of a sudden?
Bob Muglia: We’re seeing this rapid transition of enterprise companies of all sides moving to the cloud. It’s really happening right now and it’s happening at a very fast pace. Snowflake has a very unique product offering. I mean, really we’re the only enterprise quality cloud data warehouse natively build that works across multiple clouds and provides the solution for customers who are looking for an enterprise quality solution with the scalability and native support for the cloud. Snowflake is really uniquely positioned and I think that’s why we’re growing so fast. We solve problems that no one else can solve and we solve them faster and easier than anyone else has ever solved them. It’s also really fun to see the enthusiasm and adoption by customers.
Datanami: Lots of workloads are migrating to the cloud, but many companies are still reluctant to give up control of their previous data. Why should they consider running their data warehouse in the cloud?
If they look at the desire to really take control of their data and to understand and manage their data it’s much easier to do that in a cloud environment where you have the elastic scalability of the cloud underneath you. It’s very difficult for companies with fixed resources to fully get control of all of their data and what’s wound up happening is virtually every company has data scattered in many differed silos and it’s very difficult if not impossible to cohesively manage it in that format. So the cloud provides a tremendous opportunity for companies to simplify the way they work with data because for the first time they can put it all in one place, it can be secured and managed in a consistent way and they can institute the controls that they need to ensure that they’re achieving the compliance that they have to such as GDPR. The cloud is solving a problem for customers particularly with a solution like Snowflake, that’s very difficult to solve in a non-cloud way.
Datanami: You were an early critic of Hadoop, which you said was too complex. The market has definitely swung toward simpler cloud solutions. Is more complexity in the cloud inevitable?
It’s not inevitable, but you have to think about it to avoid it. Hadoop is fairly different than the cloud; it is essentially an open source tool kit with a variety of different services inside of it that can be put together by the customer. The thing that makes Hadoop so particularly challenging is that these components and tools are quite low level and it really is incumbent upon the customer to figure out how to run, manage, and connect them. As a result, very few and really only the most sophisticated customers have been able to be successful.
The cloud is a little bit different in that if you look at what Amazon provides for example, or other cloud vendors like Microsoft or Google, they also provide a toolbox but in general the tools are higher level than the tools you would get from Hadoop, but of course Amazon or Microsoft runs those for you so you’re not burdened with that. If Hadoop is a do-it-yourself toolbox, where you’re given a set of instructions and you then have to put it all together yourself and find all of the components you need, Amazon is a set of tools that are available that you can mix and match, we think there is a third solution and it really is what a product like Snowflake is delivering which is a full and complete database and data warehouse as a service.
This provides customers with a much more complete data solution if you look at the kinds of solutions customers are solving with Snowflake, they’re using Snowflake to solve a problem that they would need a half a dozen different tools in Amazon’s toolbox to solve. So we do simplify things even more than the cloud vendors do and I would say the cloud vendors are quite a bit simpler than Hadoop.
So I don’t think it’s inevitable, but I do think that it takes a certain approach to prevent that complexity from creeping in.
Datanami: Outside of the professional sphere, what can you share about yourself that your colleagues might be surprised to learn – any unique hobbies or stories?
One of my favorites which is one of my oldest…I’ve always been a technologist and I’ve always enjoyed technology and I’ve certainly had my share of playing with it over the years. When I was a little younger, I was running Windows Server at Microsoft. I was in the process of remodeling my house and I put a full data center in my house. At one point I had 11 Windows Servers running inside of the house to manage the house. I did this because back then we had a product called Small Business Server, which could run a small business with a single server. Certainly, that was much more than adequate to run my house, but what I found was larger customers were trying to assemble a number of different components from Microsoft and other vendors and they were struggling with it. So I decided to put myself in my customer’s shoes and try and learn that.
It was pretty tough, I have to admit there were a lot of technical issues and I used to joke saying, “How much technology does it take to turn on a light bulb?” The answer is quite a bit. If you work at it you can put quite a bit in there! My daughter, who’s in her twenties now, used to joke when she was growing up saying, “Dad, I want a real house! One that doesn’t need to be re-booted!”
So I learned my lesson and I think the services world really is the future because I don’t run that data center anymore and I’ve flipped to everything now provided through services. We still use Office 365 at home, but the company is on Google. My rule of thumb now is that I’ve learned to avoid home technology unless it’s purchasable at Best Buy, meaning consumer grade. In a way, it speaks to my transition from thinking about these individual components to providing a full service for customers, which is really what we’re doing with Snowflake.