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Protocol | Enterprise

How Databricks is powering the next generation of SaaS

The company, along with rival Snowflake, sees a big opportunity in courting the next generation of application developers.

How Databricks is powering the next generation of SaaS

Databricks CEO Ali Ghodsi.


Any company angling to be around for the next decade is strategizing around how to capitalize on the rise of artificial intelligence. And enterprise software companies are no different.

Vendors like Salesforce, Atlassian, Adobe and others are all rushing to build new AI-based services that tap their huge, often specialized data sets to power the advanced algorithms. And those SaaS providers are turning to Databricks and others to help build the necessary foundation.

"Intelligence is going to be super critical," Databricks CEO Ali Ghodsi said at a Protocol event on Monday. "Wherever you have software, that software can become more intelligent … and all the CEOs of companies that develop software know that."

When you search for something in Jira and it auto-populates suggestions, that's Databricks. The tech also underpins Adobe's marketing cloud. But while the software giants are realizing the potential of platforms like Databricks, so are entrepreneurs. In fact, Ghodsi says the "vast majority" of its customers are startups. (The bulk of its revenue, however, still comes from enterprises.)

But Databricks isn't alone in trying to penetrate tech companies. Rivals are also courting startups and developers to build new applications on their platforms. Snowflake, for example, is poised to announce this week a new initiative further targeting that audience. The company already works with big-name SaaS providers like DocuSign, Dropbox, Okta and Twilio.

"We see a rich ecosystem running on us," product head Christian Kleinerman told Protocol last week. "What emerges as a really interesting, entirely new category of players are people that are doing value-add specific industry products … that run on this platform."

Large corporations have the advantage of years, if not decades of stored information. But data is often stored in multiple places across the enterprise. That's why those legacy software vendors are investing so much in companies like Databricks and Snowflake to serve as a central repository. And they are trying to move quickly. Many of them disrupted the status quo by being born in the cloud. Now, they risk being out-innovated by startups that can embrace new tech offered by the likes of Databricks and Snowflake as their foundation.

It's harder for big business and "that's why we focus so much on them," said Ghodsi. "They just need technology, the people and the processes to organize themselves so that they can actually leverage the data. A lot of them have proven that they can."

That's why Ghodsi isn't counting out the legacy organizations entirely.

"You're not going to see Silicon Valley startups replacing all the companies on the planet," he added.

Here's the full video of Ghodsi's interview:

The Inside View with Ali Ghodsi

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