Recently, I had the opportunity to sit down with Michael Sick who is a Senior Manager on Ernst & Young’s Big Data and Advanced Analytics team.

He’s been in the big data space for over 15 years, and currently his main role is to help EY’s customers with digital transformation. As you can probably guess, Michael had some interesting insights to share about the challenges that Fortune 500 companies are facing when it comes to managing their data, and other trends that they are adopting.

Continue reading to learn more!

Q: You work on a variety of projects that relate specifically to time-series data. Can you tell me about some challenges companies are facing?

A: It really varies by industry. For example, in the cable and wireless industry we have a client with a very customer-oriented event/time series view of the world. They will accumulate large amounts of data and store it in a NoSQL database. When they actually want to use it, they will pull out the selection they need and put it in a time-series database for analysis.

When I come into the picture, I typically see somewhere along the pipeline that they are facing accessibility challenges like this. Essentially, I view our group as "fancy digital plumbers" who advise companies on how to extract the data and have it returned in a digestible format. Ideally we don't have to teach our clients about weird query languages that come with NoSQL databases, or even worse, build a bespoke service that translates the database. We like to come up with solutions that streamline processes and allow multiple groups to access the data.

Q: What are some considerations companies should take into account when transitioning to the cloud and what are some misconceptions about cloud adoption?

A: I feel that most companies are not really considering future issues associated with the cloud. For example, they don’t really take into consideration what will happen when one of the larger cloud providers falls behind. When that happens, there’s less competition for customers and it will ultimately affect prices. Right now it’s not a healthy competitive market. Additionally, in my experience, the exceptions are the folks who run SaaS companies who are terrified of vendor lock-in. They want to be able to move from the GCP to AWS within months or weeks, and they want to be able to push back on pricing pressures. Ultimately it’s about what the business wants, and if vendor lock-in is a main concern, then that will be on the top of the list.  

In terms of misconceptions, one is security. It’s not easy or uniform, and no one has really nailed it yet. And the second is that they think the cloud is cheap and they expect to see their hard costs go down. Sometimes they do, but most of the time they don’t. Moving to the cloud is certainly valuable, but I don’t think it’s “cheap”.

Q: Do you feel like your customers are interested in trying the new trends/services offered by cloud providers or are they waiting till they are more proven?

A: Generally people are very willing to experiment with something new. I also think multi-cloud is a trend, but it's early. When migrating to the cloud, successful companies will allow room for experimentation and have a policy for it. It's generally a pretty permissive policy, but it works because you have to justify the solution before it gets out of the sandbox to really pursue it as a development project.

Q: As a consultant working with a wide variety of customers in different industries, what are some of the biggest trends you see coming down the pipeline?

A: Well the first one is probably why we are working together: the resurgence of SQL and being able to standardize and unify teams across that. There can sometimes be friction between different departments - often IT and business - and the more that you can eliminate this friction, the better.

I also think there will continue to be cloud pricing pressure. I think thus far Amazon has been benevolent in its position in the sense that they are not trying to radically increase prices, and they keep drifting alongside everyone else - but at some point this will end.

In terms of bigger picture trends, I think that we are approaching what feels like “90s Microsoft” where the market can be sort of clouded by the intent of the big vendors, but not the reality of their execution.

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