OpenGov Expert Opinion
Unlocking the potential of Big Data through data integration across multiple platforms
Recently we sat down for a discussion on big data trends with Mr. Mike Tuchen (above), CEO of Talend. Mr. Jason Bissell, GM & SVP, Sales- APAC also participated in the chat, providing his perspective on the local markets.
Mr. Tuchen said that Talend is basically a data integration company. He said that data integration is about helping people take advantage of their data. Every company has data all over the place, out in the cloud, on-premise, in different applications, in different databases, in different file formats. The company needs to pull it all together, blend it, transform it to the right format to be able to analyse it and draw insights. That’s the problem Talend solves for its customers.
For example, Keolis, a Talend customer is the world leader in trams and automated metros, and transports 3 billion passengers annually, across 16 countries. It is the largest provider of public-transportation services in France.
“They have 70 different systems to manage their data. So, if you want simple things to work, like buying a ticket online and have it show up in an app on your phone, have it be consistent with what’s on the kiosk if you want to print it out, have the conductor be able to scan it using his/her smartphone application and confirm that the ticket’s valid, all those different systems need to connect together. That’s what we do,” Mr. Tuchen explained.
Four big trends in big data
Mr. Tuchen highlighted four big trends that reshaping the way companies and governments are using data right now. The first one is that the amount of data is just exploding. And so, companies are moving to these so-called big data or noSQL platforms, like Hadoop and Spark.
The second one is a move to the cloud. Though the trend has been stronger in the commercial space, compared to the public sector, Mr. Tuchen thinks the move will happen in government as well. The primary constraint preventing the shift to cloud for government are concerns over privacy and security. Usually, there are stringent data sovereignty compliance requirements for government data, even if it is not even if it is not sensitive or classified data.
Mr. Bissell said that in several countries in south-east Asia (outside of Singapore) where data centres aren’t being provided by the majors, the telcos are stepping in. By the very nature of their being a local company, the data sovereignty issues are dealt with.
The third trend is a shift towards more self-service. Rather than requiring an IT developer to always do all the data manipulation, you can have someone like a data analyst, who’s comfortable using Excel, to do it in suitable situations.
And finally, there is a move to real-time data and applying machine learning. “Those 4 trends we believe will completely remake how companies use data over the next decade. In those 4 areas, we see ourselves as a leader. We are competing primarily with large incumbents, who haven’t done a great job of adapting to the changing marketplace. In those 4 areas, we do a far better job,” Mr. Tuchen said.
Mr. Bissell added, “The governance, the compliance, the regulation, applying them requires you to have full data lineage. You need to know where it is, what was done with it, if it was masked, how it was masked. Is it being masked throughout the entire process. Is the personal data held in one system and the attributes held in a separate system? You need an integration platform to bring those two together, once you have separated them. The great thing about Talend is that we provide one environment, where you can not only construct those governance frameworks, but also see them at any one point, regardless of where the data sits, whether it’s on the cloud or on-premise.”
Big data in the Asian public sector
When asked about how well governments in south-east Asia are making use of big data, Mr. Tuchen replied that the Asian governments, led by Singapore, are playing a leading role.
He said that Singapore has really been visionary in their data strategy. “They are betting on data not just because they believe it makes their government more effective. They are betting on data because they believe it is a growth area and they want to make sure they have a skill base of highly trained, highly skilled people, that will drive growth for the next couple of decades,” he elaborated.
In Singapore, the government is a leading buyer, and it is supporting that with training programmes, investments in companies, incentives to put development teams here in Singapore, resulting in an all-encompassing, holistic initiative.
For the developing countries, they might not be at the same level at the moment. But they are not burdened with legacy infrastructure. Since, they are building that infrastructure from scratch, they can build it brand new and leapfrog.
Mr. Bissell agreed, saying that the emerging economics are able to adopt a much more modern, contemporary approach, such as the use of noSQL platforms, which are especially suited for handling big data, instead of the traditional relational, SQL-based databases.
Mr. Bissell went on to add, “What we knew about IT systems ten years ago, if we use that same lens and apply that to Asia we will get it wrong. We have to apply a contemporary lens which says these organisations in emerging economies are using much more open source, much more big data practices, than you see in Europe or even in the US. Because they can download open-source platforms, they can get developers skilled on them a lot faster. We as an open source vendor see a lot of downloads of our software in emerging economies even in countries like Myanmar, Laos.”
The Open Source ecosystem
Talend follows the open core model of open source, where there is a “core” of open source and proprietary software built around it.
Mr. Tuchen talked about a number of benefits of open source for customers. The first one is they can try it out before they buy, just to understand what the product does. He said, “By the time they choose to work with us, they are already confident that we can solve their problem. It’s very different from an old traditional software model, where you had to spend a lot of money in advance only to find out a year or two later if you have actually solved your problem.”
Mr. Bissell told us that Talend gets approximately 6000 free downloads of their products in Asia every month. Talend doesn’t track who the downloaders are.
He said, “That’s the whole promise. That they can download our product, they can use it, and then when they recognise that they want to have a commercial relationship with us, they want enterprise capabilities, and service, they come to us."
The second one is that there tends to be less lock-in. The third benefit is that the community can contribute back and add more value to the products.
Mr. Tuchen explained that integration, in particular, is a long-tail problem, because there is an infinite number of different systems that we could connect to. The community can solve those problems themselves and then contribute those back.
“That means that even though we are only a 100 million Dollar company, and we are competing with billion-Dollar companies, that are ten times our size, we actually have more connectivity than they do because of this community, where everyone is helping each other to solve these problems.”
Open source platforms also encourage developers to make use of open data. They can download the open source platform, join the community if they want to, discuss with like-minded developers and solve problems.
Open source tools can also help developers to explore the opportunities provided by government initiatives, such as the smart lampposts in Singapore, as part of the Smart Nation Sensor Platform. Half of each lamppost might be available for commercial use. But all developers might not want to invest at an early stage. Tools such as those provided by Talend, can step in here.
Mr. Tuchen described the radical transformation, “What we are seeing is that the entire infrastructure is being reinvented. We are seeing the database layer being reinvented, we are seeing the integration on top of that being reinvented. We are seeing the analytics on top of that being reinvented. And almost all of those new players are open source. So, it’s clearly becoming the preferred model. The reason why that’s happening is that customers are saying they want it that way. And governments are saying they want it that way.”