We recently had the opportunity to talk with Bertrand Diard, founder of Talend, one of the world’s leaders in BigData integration, counting 550 employees today. Their switch to BigData happened at a very early stage and last year their BigData revenue has been increasing by 122%! Bertrand now spends his time jumping from one company board to another, Talend, Bonitasoft, and Restlet. Among his side projects, he supports a BigData investment fund both in the US and Europe. In short, enough BigData topics in Bertrand’s life to have a discussion with him about it.
Rachel Delacour: In your opinion, what has changed in the last 2 years in the relationship that firms have with their data ?
Bertrand Diard: The concept of Big Data - we have to accept that it’s a reality, a new paradigm - even if we are only scratching the surface of its world-changing potential. It first started with infrastructure, which was quite complicated to understand and got little press coverage. This transformation of infrastructure - handling always greater volumes of data, in different formats, faster than ever - now enables a rapid adoption of Big Data, as well as new uses which now speak to everyone. We saw new architectures demonstrate their ability to deal with Big Data (NoSQL databases, Hadoop, ...). Even large traditional software vendors have embraced these technologies. So on one side, we have infrastructure ready for Big Data, opening more and more doors for what one can do with “Data Lakes”, and on the other side, we have incredibly powerful data processing technologies to complete the picture.
The current technology breakthrough is brutal; and yet too many businesses don’t fully leverage the potential that’s at stake.
Apart from "early adopters", such as Facebook & Google, the road ahead is still very long for many large companies. Few of them have already begun creating applications for tomorrow that will make the most of the infrastructure already available, and this delay will inevitably be detrimental in the short term. Today, building these applications are the main challenge.
RD: And could the Cloud accelerate things?
BD: Yes, but far too often, people only use the price argument. It’s a mistake to think you just have to implement existing infrastructures in the cloud for a successful cloud transition, and be able to manage Big Data, or even to cut down costs. Thinking about your information system this way, instead of rethinking your whole infrastructure, means you’ll only be taking advantage of 3% of this technological breakthrough.
RD: We see that most of the data to which businesses wish to connect is already online. Most traditional IT functions and capacities are close to being fully covered by cloud alternatives and new business data waiting to be analyzed continues to expand in the cloud: how do you see the advent of "API-centric” web services impacting the business of data integration?
BD: The daily creation of online data also adds as many new data silos. The web has seen it all: social, mobile, cloud, but at the same time, we still see many mainframes running in companies. I think that we should not oppose these worlds, and one of the challenges of Big Data is the ability to combine the best of both worlds for better leverage. Companies must (quickly) learn how to get the best out of all these applications, to correctly feed data lakes, creating tomorrow’s jobs along the way. This new generation of applications that will be created must primarily be "data centric", regardless of where the data comes from (online or on premises). It’s a company’s quick understanding of this that will make it more competitive than ever.
RD: Do you have an example of a Big Data project, by Talend or from elsewhere, that would be representative of this new world?
BD: Yes, one of our major customers, General Electric. Their Big Data shift happened very early and their approach for the connected industry or home is very impressive. Today, GE is turning into an energy service provider, thanks to their Big Data processing capabilities.
The example of PG&E in California is also interesting: their initiative to deploy smart electricity meters allowed them to switch from a person checking meters every 3 months, to an online check every 75 seconds... That’s 100,000 more readings per meter! It’s the underlying applications that will be created for these purposes which will be interesting to watch. This is where major projects start. And as we said previously, the good news is that the infrastructure is ready.
RD: Do you think the French have their chance in this brainpower competition on a global scale?
BD: France has a real asset today. For a long time you had to be very strong in sales & marketing, which was almost always the prerogative of studying in America. In France, our curriculum, very focused on maths and engineering, has often been criticized. Now more than ever it’s becoming an advantage. All jobs are switching to the mathematical world. For example, traditional marketing (marketing studies with surveys, etc.) isn’t relevant anymore; The company’s whole ecosystem is generating data, data points are everywhere. Never has there been such an interest for analytics, and in the end, having a mathematical background helps in marketing. The French system has actually trained us rather well, to participate in this massive breakthrough and opportunity. Today many countries, including the United States, are noticing a shortage in Data Scientists. Our national education has actually been quite visionary (laughs).
RD: What is your personal Big Data footprint?
BD: I wear Withings technologies for example... but my biggest footprint is all online Google services that I use every day, where I’ve been storing nearly everything for a long time already.
RD: One last question: Where did you get this passion for technology? What was the trigger?
BD: I am part of that generation which discovered the Internet in the mid-90s. For example, I saw the emergence of new distribution and media channels at a very early stage, and I realized that the world would quickly evolve around these technologies. I quickly changed my path instead of following what a classic business school would advise, by getting into this universe as fast as possible.
Thank you for this interview Bertrand Diard, and congratulations to Talend.