a gathering of snowflakes
Snowflake proposes to democratize data warehousing with its latest release PHOTO: Kalle K

Any time a company boasts its product is 'first of its kind,' it's met with understandable skepticism. 

So when San Mateo, Calif.-based cloud data warehouse provider Snowflake Computing unveiled what it calls "the world's first data sharehouse" this morning, it was hard to believe that no one had done it before — but that appears to be the case.

A data sharehouse, according to Snowflake CEO Bob Muglia, enables easy data sharing between disparate organizations without putting data security, governance and compliance at risk. The way it works is two or more companies agree to share data in their individual cloud-based data warehouses. Snowflake provides the data warehouse. Users can then run queries against that data as if it was stored in exactly the same place.

This can be done one to one (between two companies), one to many, many to one, and many to many — provided all companies involved are Snowflake customers.

There's literally no copying of data or movement required.

Snowflake CEO Bob Muglia
Snowflake CEO Bob Muglia

Moreover the data can be shared in slices, so data exchangers can pick what they want to share in read-only mode. Data can be sold this way as well, opening the possibilities for new markets, turning what might look like a useless byproduct to its owner into gold when it is sold to someone who can leverage it.

Democratized Data Sharing

Of course companies, like manufacturers and suppliers, advertisers and publishers, have been sharing data for a long time, but it has been cumbersome via technologies like EDI (electronic data interchange, developed in the 1940s), email, file sharing, APIs and more. That kind of sharing takes time and wasn't created for the current situation, in which businesses need live data processed in real time to keep a competitive edge.

The data sharehouse changes the game and democratizes the possibilities, according to Muglia, because anyone can access the service. Rather than being charged a subscription fee, users pay only according to the amount of data they have processed. Snowflake's data sharing service is free to data providers, data consumers pay for the compute resources they use.

Not only that, but data providers and consumers make their arrangements independent of Snowflake Computing which is the infrastructure provider.

Early Adopters Explore Data Sharing

Boston-based Localytics, a mobile engagement platform provider, is an early adopter of Snowflake's data sharing service. One of its products, Localytics Direct, enables customers to access Localytics data without exporting anything first. This not only saves them time and frees them from the drudgery of exporting and copying data from CRM, Business Intelligence, mobile analytics and other sources but also eliminates multiple copies of data living in many places which costs more and can skew results.

New York City-based PlaceIQ, which provides location data, analytics and insights to its customers plans to use Snowflake's data sharing service to help their data clients combine geolocation with their other forms of data in order to inform their customer journeys and make data-driven business decisions.

Constellation Research analyst Doug Henschen told CMSWire that a data sharehouse can provide entirely new opportunities as well. “It's about monetizing data and supporting new business models,” he said.

In an increasingly collaborative world there is little doubt that sharing data easily, and in real time, without sacrificing security, privacy, governance and compliance is of great value. Whether it will create entirely new markets has yet to be seen, but actionable data-driven insights are likely to be huge differentiators the digital economy.