Profile: Cloudera co-founder Mike Olson

Profile: Cloudera co-founder Mike Olson

Talks on his company’s meteoric rise, the Internet of Things and the future of Big Data

Mike Olson, Cloudera CSO and co-founder

Mike Olson, Cloudera CSO and co-founder

Where to next?

The pace of innovation in the data analysis market is absolutely breathtaking right now.

Machine learning is an area of enormous investment, these days you’re seeing companies like Google and Baidu, that are buying these deep learning companies that do neural networking. I think we’re still going to see an ongoing explosion of activity there.

Even just from a cost saving perspective, if I leave a petabyte of data somewhere, I want to know that I can do even more with it next year than I can this year. What Hadoop was 5 years ago is very different to the platform you see today.

What’s your channel strategy?

We are 70 per cent direct sales today – but we obviously have our partnerships.

Let’s be honest, no one rolls out a Cloudera in a bare naked datacentre. There’s always HP or Cisco gear. There’s warehousing, document analysis. The relationships with those big vendors are all good.

We’re pleased with the team we have hired here, and we know it isn't big enough. And we know we can't run this region from the US. Our recent hire Richard Jones, is brilliant, and has great experience in the local eco system. We have 32 staff locally, excluding Intel.

That’s good point, Intel has been a key partner for Cloudera for a while. How did that come about?

Our partnership with Intel allows us to look at their chip roadmap for the next 10 years, so that as soon as the silicon hits the street, our software can take advantage of it. Intel’s CIO Kim Stevenson sits on our board, and her company owns 18 per cent of us.

We kind of raised $740m by accident, without having to go to market.

So are you looking at an IPO? Or an outright acquisition? IBM has made a huge shift into data analytics through Watson et al – are they a threat?

It would be disastrous if IBM swooped in and brought the company. If IBM did make a move Kim would recuse herself, saddle up and wail into the fray. That way, Intel only has to buy 82 per cent of the company, IBM has to buy 100 per cent - that gives us insurmountable protection from aggressive acquistions.

When you have that kind of cash you can buy companies as need be. If we do have an IPO one day, it won't be a fundraiser. We’re in a position where we can invest in our platform, in the industry, and in growth, outside the glare of the public market.

We are the largest vendor in this space. By every meaningful topline metric, we are at least a factor of two bigger than the other guys. If you take out our shareholders, then that number becomes five. We’re outperforming the metrics we’re tracking. We’re very pleased with where we are.

It's not about us vs IBM, or Pivotal. We’ve all got to realise, we’re still just building this industry.

Allan Swann is the Editor of ARN, published by IDG Communications Australia. Follow Allan on Twitter @allanswann, and at Google+.

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