Interview: Joe Otto, Alpine on Why Big Data is all about Empowerment & Collaboration

We discuss the story of Alpine Data Labs, the recent recognition of Alpine, effect of YARN, major customer use cases, and challenges in consumerizing Big Data.

Joe OttoJoe Otto is President and CEO of Alpine Data Labs. In his role, Mr. Otto is responsible for Alpine’s strategic direction, growth initiatives and overall execution. Prior to joining Alpine, Joe served for five years as the Senior Vice President of Sales and Services for Greenplum, where he established Greenplum’s commercial footprint and developed it into a global business.

Joe’s 30 year technology career includes significant leadership roles at Sun Microsystems, Cisco Systems, and EMC, as well as executive leadership positions in early stage startups in Artificial Intelligence, Networking and CRM. Throughout his career Joe has developed high performance sales and marketing teams, driving innovation to deliver business transformation and extreme growth. Joe is a graduate of The Ohio State University with a Bachelors degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering.

Here is first part of my interview with him:

Anmol Rajpurohit: Q1. Congratulations! It was a pleasure to see your name on the list of “10 Hot Hadoop Startups to Watch” issued by the CIO magazine. Looking back at the time since Alpine was launched in 2011, what do you consider the most important milestones achieved? What are the next target milestones for near future?

Joe Otto: Alpine Data Labs continues to gain momentum. The role of collaboration in the Big Data process Alpine Data Labsis the next big thing. Alpine is leading the way with Alpine Chorus, the industry’s first collaborative Advanced Analytics solution for Big Data. Our mission is straightforward: empower all stakeholders — from executives to business analysts to data engineers and partners — to engage in the process of analytics.

As you know, we recently shipped Alpine Chorus, our latest software version but other recent milestones include the following; Alpine was one of the first Enterprise Advanced Analytics Platforms to be certified by Databricks on Apache Spark, showcasing query performance up to 100x faster than Hadoop MapReduce; Alpine joined the Gartner’s exclusive Magic Quadrant club and we’ve established significant partnerships with important companies like Pivotal, Cloudera or QlikTech. Last year Alpine closed $16M Series B Funding – bringing our total funding to $23.5M.

AR: Q2. What effect do you expect from increased functionality of Hadoop 2 and YARN?

JO: The improved resource management and job scheduling provided by MR2 and YARN have positively affected Alpine in a number of ways. Most prominently, we've seen a major improvement in our ability to control resource usage of long-running analytic workflows in Hadoop. The ability to have multiple Application Masters provided by MR2 also allows Alpine to support more concurrent users of our application. YARN also allows Alpine to easily deploy new execution frameworks, such as Spark, to give our users more flexibility and choice as they develop complex machine learning models. Hadoop Yarn AR: Q3. Today Alpine has customers in several domains - media, telecom, healthcare, finance and so on. Is there any use case or customer experience which is remarkably memorable for you? What is the biggest impact delivered by Alpine to its customers?

JO: Yes, we have a fast growing list of happy customers in all verticals at this point. And for each, our goal is the same. Help drive as much business value faster on top of their Big DataBig Data investment. Customers choose us because of our modern and collaborative approach and also because our technology innovation: we provide machine learning at scale, our platform can process every algorithm in parallel and works equally on Hadoop and non-Big Data sources. That’s a lot of value. If you add to this, our scalability and usability advantages, and, the fact that you can procure Alpine Chorus simply via a subscription and host it on a light-weight server, our product couldn’t be any more ideal for the “Big Data” era.

Customers are achieving amazing breakthroughs with our solution. To pick one, I’d talk about Havas – the world’s fastest growing media company. They use Alpine Chorus to empower employees and customers with advanced analytics. They have been able to generate more value out of their data faster, involve more people into their analytical process and build a business centered around the idea of what we call “Big Math” (e.g. data computation at scale, on all data and available to all people). Havas has gone way beyond making data science accessible to their business analysts, and not just made it usable by their customers. Havas is harnessing the power of strong understanding of the correlation between marketing activities and results. Now, that’s what I call ‘culture change’!

AR: Q4. Given the current state of technology and talent, what do you see as the biggest challenges in the way of consumerizing Big Data on a massive scale?


Often solutions are far too complex for use without guidance from IT so the first challenge is finding ways to simplify them. Collaboration is also key to consumerizing Big Data on a massive scale.

By broadening the base of people who can participate in the data analytics process across the entire organization, we are creating a Data Nation inside your company and our approach has a profound and lasting impact on the culture of the organization.

Second part of the interview.