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Data Integration

Exasol CEO: The need for real-time analysis used to be "laughable"

“I’ve been flabbergasted by the last five years…” says Aaron Auld CEO and chairman of Exasol as we sit down for coffee, in the café attached to the Saatchi Gallery, in London’s Chelsea.   

Exasol is a German company that provides a high performance MPP In-memory database for analytics. “People thought our tech wasn’t relevant five years’ ago,” he explains. “Trying to see things in real time seemed laughable. Then all of a sudden the old systems were no longer fast enough…”

There are clear benefits of analysing data directly in the database if the volume is large enough. And Exasol emerged out of research rather than marketing hype. Founded in 2000, as a spin-off from a parallel computing project at Jena University, it released its first solution in 2008, as Bloor Research explains.

“We took a bet that memory prices would drop and were lucky that we could design that technology without external pressures,” says Auld, who has been with the company a decade. Previously acting as COO, he prides himself on the fact his solution is fast, open, semi-automated and can work with any programming language. “We can work with any front end,” he adds.

This is relevant because as data volumes have increased exponentially (“it used to be difficult to find a customer with more than a terabyte of data”), the need for analytics has sky rocketed. Now even the most reactionary players want to be seen to be getting the most value out of their customer information.

Yet although Big Data and Business Intelligence are words that get flung around a lot, in practical terms, they can mean a variety of different things. While in the popular conception they tend to represent all the pretty graphics spat out on the front end, rather than all the unseen power and mechanics working away in the background.

As a niche in-database solution, Exasol is entirely behind the scenes. So, in Europe Exasol partners with Tableau for the front end. And in December it started a strategic partnership with Birst as a way to transition into the US.

“We have a free edition you can download,” says Auld, and after trying this Brad Peters, chairman of Birst “phoned us up” to discuss a collaboration.

“We don’t have the resources to jump into the US market,” he explains and “we were looking for a front end BI vendor to work with [over there]” so this seemed like the ideal solution. The new product will be a super-fast second tier for Birst customers, powered by Exasol, in both cloud and on-premise versions.

So, would Exasol ever see a need to develop its own front end?

“No,” says Auld anxious to stress that he would never want to dilute their core business strengths: “Those that try to offer end-to-end solutions don’t work and get lost.”

In the past he adds, the company was advised to make all kinds of changes that he is now very glad it didn’t make.

“Data driven business is our sweet spot,” he says. “And our customers are collecting data today that we don’t know we’ll use tomorrow.” This in turn has created a community of very engaged, loyal users who are very excited about possibilities that advanced analytics can bring.

“It is the way I always wanted to do business,” concludes Auld. “I rarely come across anyone who just does it as a job. And if the last five years are a measure of the next five years who knows what is going to happen next…”

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