What is the cloud’s role in making big data accessible? | #reInvent


While the many advantages of cloud regarding data management and analysis have received deep examination, one of the advantages brought to data by cloud is the way it simply makes huge stores of data accessible in ways that were unimaginable before it arrived.

At the AWS re:Invent 2016 event in Las Vegas, NV, Walter Scott, founder, CTO and executive VP of DigitalGlobe Inc., met with Stu Miniman (@stu), co-host of theCUBE*, from the SiliconANGLE Media team, to discuss his company’s focus and the revolutionary effects cloud has had on its work. (*Disclosure below)

Wide views

“If you’ve ever looked at a satellite image on a mobile device or a web-mapping portal … it’s DigitalGlobe imagery behind that,” Scott said. With involvement in location business around the world, including governments, gas companies and global development organizations, “a lot of what we provide is global transparency,” he stated.

“With DigitalGlobe, you can see what’s going on around the world, literally anywhere in the world, within a few minutes of it actually taking place,” he explained. And as the company has been around since the days when investors thought the internet would be just a fad, it is now “sitting on a hundred petabytes worth of imagery,” dating back to the time of their first operational satellite in 1999.

“I think of that as a time machine, a time-lapse library of the entire planet,” Scott commented. The problem was, “There aren’t many people on the planet who can accommodate a hundred petabytes of data,” Scott explained. “So up until the advent of cloud, our data was basically in jail. We had access to it, and we could dribble it out … but there were very few people who actually had the ability to do anything with it at anything remotely approaching the scale at which we collected it.”

Data freedom

Cloud enabled them to break their data out of that jail, enabling them to do things such as using machine-learning and crowd-sourcing, along with leveraged data in the Amazon cloud, to map thousands of buildings on demand “at a price point and speed that is orders of magnitude better than what you could do with clipboards and people running around,” Scott said.

And the company’s data stores continue to increase, at an annual rate of approximately 10 petabytes. As Scott explained, a significant part of the business is in providing visual access to area of interesting activity, something that can be difficult to predict. As such, it’s necessary to have preexisting access to all of the data, augmented by practices such as using social media trending to start floating relevant data for a locale up from the data-stores in advance.

“Eventually, our plan is to migrate out of data centers for our commercial business,” Scott said. Though he noted, “There are really two key business benefits of being in the Amazon Cloud. One of them is that it allows us much more rapid access to data that was previously stored on tape … at a scale that was not possible before.”

The other key benefit, he said, was simple economics. “… It’s reached the point where it’s more economical to operate on these large data-sets on the cloud than it is to maintain your own data center,” he said.

Looking at the changes brought on by cloud’s viable usage, Scott placed value on the ability to compare practices. “The ability to see, ‘Hey, somebody else has figured out how to do X,’ means we don’t have to go through the hard work of figuring out how to do it ourselves,” he said, which allows the company to focus on growing and improving its existing services when such a roadblock arrives.

Watch the complete video interview below, and be sure to check out more of SiliconANGLE and theCUBE’s coverage of AWS re:Invent. (*Disclosure: AWS and other companies sponsor some AWS re:Invent segments on SiliconANGLE Media’s theCUBE. Neither AWS nor other sponsors have editorial control over content on theCUBE or SiliconANGLE.)

Photo by SiliconANGLE