Arun C Murthy Of Hortonworks Talks About Democratisation Of Data And Technology


hortonworksArun C Murthy (second from left) along with the other founders of Hortonworks.

Hortonworks has emerged as a noted innovator in the big data space. The company creates, distributes and supports enterprise-ready open data platforms and modern data applications. These platforms and applications deliver actionable intelligence from all data, including data-in-motion and data-at-rest.

This week Analytics India Magazine caught up with Arun C Murthy, co-founder and chief product officer of Hortonworks over a chat about Big Data and the talk about it losing the hype.


Analytics India Magazine: How ‘hot’ is Big Data right now? Have you noticed it disappearing from media and public discourse?

Arun C Murthy: Well, obviously there’s always a cycle which sets the trends in general, even in technology. I’ve been working in this field for almost 12 years now, which means the sort of excitement and exuberance for the Big Data was higher initially, has obviously come down now.

Now that could mean that Big Data has already been adopted by major companies. It’s not an “emerging technology” so to speak. Most people hadn’t heard of Hadoop till as late as 2012. So naturally, when one first hears about it, there’s a whole lot of buzz around it.

But what’s personally exciting to me is that now across the enterprises — telecom, retail, healthcare, agriculture, finance, automobiles, among others — Big Data has been very well adopted and established at this point. For example, I don’t know of a single Fortune 5,000 or even Fortune 10,000 company, which doesn’t have a Big Data strategy.


AIM: So you mean that Big Data will always be ‘in fashion’?

ACM: By the way, I personally never liked the term Big Data. I’d rather call it just Data! It is what it is, right? (Laughs) But I don’t think Data will ever go out of fashion. It’s like you think about what’s NEVER going to go out of fashion — enterprises will always need data. Drivers will always want their windshields clear and the customers will always want the best deal possible. Therefore, I think we’re lucky to be a part of a line of business that’s never going to go out of fashion like I said. The techniques we use to get value out of data will obviously continue to evolve.

It is one of the axioms of life — one needs to listen to the customer, know about his needs, and try to optimise your product or service. I’m actually glad that there isn’t too much hype about Big Data. It simply means that we’re past the hype phase, and are more into the execution, even regular usage phase.


AIM: Your comments on Hortonworks’ competitors?

ACM: In general, the Hadoop market is really doing well. I’d rather have 30-40% of a $100 billion market, than 100% of a $20 billion market. At this stage, everyone’s doing well — in fact, we’re raising each other’s bar. I like how our company is doing and how we’re positioned.


AIM: Have you ever seen the demand for data ever decreasing?

ACM: Oh no, for sure! With the advent of 3G and LTE, established industries such as telecommunication, automobiles are generating a lot more data. The bandwidth is cheap as well, and therefore transporting and analyzing the data is cheap. For example, if a company was drilling for oil somewhere in the Middle East, one of the things they spent the most on was satellite communication. Now it’s all covered by 3G, 4G. Now you can store, send a lot more data for a fraction of a price.


AIM: Where do you think you stand in the industry? As in, why do your customers or partners choose you, instead of someone else?

ACM: It’s a straight-forward answer — we are open source. We’re the only vendors who are open sourced and we’ve seen the benefits of it multiple times. Our customers are immensely comfortable working with us because they don’t have a threat of ‘lock-in’ hanging over their heads. It also forces us to have a better skin in the game, because the customers have a choice of going with any other vendor every year. If a customer buys a proprietary software, he has no choice but to go with it forever. In our case, they use our software because they’re paying us. Our partners, as well as our customers, work with us because they get our expertise.

We’ve had very fruitful partnerships with Microsoft as well as IBM.


AIM: What’s your India strategy for the next couple of years?

ACM: India and Bengaluru have been a key part of our R&D strategy. I spent the first 2-3 years in Yahoo Bengaluru before I moved to the US. There is a huge talent pool here. It’s been a key for us.

Commercially, I think the Middle East and the APAC region hold great potential. Thanks to our partnership with IBM, we are seeing a lot of growth from this region.


AIM: What is your strategy for the SMEs?

ACM: Small companies with a couple of hundred people could benefit a lot with the cloud. The emergence of the cloud is important, we don’t give just give a vanilla software to everyone, we offer higher-level services. And since we’re open source, the SMEs can consume someone’s algorithms as well — provided it fits their requirement. They don’t need to hire 50 data scientists for that. I think this is the true democratization of technology and how a field is leveled for everyone.

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Prajakta Hebbar
Prajakta is a Writer/Editor/Social Media diva. Lover of all that is 'quaint', her favourite things include dogs, Starbucks, butter popcorn, Jane Austen novels and neo-noir films. She has previously worked for HuffPost, CNN IBN, The Indian Express and Bose.

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