Numbers streaming into a structure.
Illustration: Surasak Suwanmake/Moment/Getty Images

Do you really need real-time data?

Protocol Enterprise

Hello and welcome to Protocol Enterprise! Today: the rise of real-time data and the startups that think you need it, Qualcomm makes an interesting hire that could revive an old project, and where enterprise venture capital put its money last week.

Spin up

On top of everything else that’s happened over the last two years, health care providers and companies are seeing a surge in ransomware attacks given how valuable their data is and how little they invest in cybersecurity, according to new research from BreachQuest. The number of attacks on those organizations is expected to increase 5x by the end of this year compared to 2020, and the average ransom paid was $875,874, compared to a median payment of $500,846.

Funny how time slips away

The term “real time” has been infused throughout tech, from real-time stock picks to real-time pizza tracking. But there’s near-real time, and then there’s real time.

As everyday enterprises begin incorporating data tools and tactics used inside the biggest of big tech companies, a sector of data services providers has emerged to help them take advantage of the truly real-time analytics and machine-learning approaches only giant companies with far larger database teams and resources could have afforded in the past.

These companies promise to leave plodding batch-data processing for old-school business intelligence analysis in the dust. But whether every enterprise needs, wants or is ready to operate at a clip as fast-paced as a Citibank, Uber or Amazon remains to be seen.

  • Updating data every few days, every night or even every hour or so for business analysis using a typical batch processing approach “is like playing Monday morning quarterback,” said Venkat Venkataramani, CEO and co-founder of Rockset, a company that provides a database for building applications for real-time data, analytics and queries.
  • These startups believe the increasing influx of real-time data flooding into data lakes and lakehouses — from ecommerce site clicks to IoT sensor pings — will compel businesses to use that information immediately as it flows in.
  • Some of Hazelcast’s customers process data they consume in real time for machine-learning model-based predictive analytics used to maintain equipment on oil drilling rigs and windmills, said CEO Kelly Herrell.
  • Tecton, which helps companies run real-time data pipelines to feed ML models, has seen insurance providers use its services to operate their driver behavior-based discount programs, according to Mike Del Balso, founder of the company.

But those are rare use cases.

  • These startups say most of their inbound interest is coming from banking and ecommerce customers that want to prevent fraud while someone waits for a banking transaction to happen at an ATM, or to detect right away when a payment app stops working in a particular country.
  • “Wherever there is real money and risk involved if you don’t manage something in real time” is where companies are using real-time data services, said Venkataramani.
  • “The top use case for us is recommendations,” said Del Balso, who said customers “want to make a recommendation based on what the user just did.”

Across the business spectrum, there are a few key factors fueling the rise of real-time data processing and analytics, and the rise of AI and machine learning is an important one.

  • While traditional business intelligence analytics efforts don’t need real-time data or processing, “real time and machine learning really go hand-in-hand,” said Gaetan Castelein, vice president of Marketing at Tecton, who explained that real-time data and machine-learning trends are converging, feeding off one another.
  • Consider a bank conducting millions of transactions each hour, for example.
  • Whether or not the model decides to approve the transaction could be dependent on as many as 2,000 individual pieces of information: some relatively static, such as a zip code, and some brand new, such as a numerical amount of a cash transfer.
  • However, data systems like Tecton’s can optimize for the most efficient approach to managing that process by separating the data pieces that are fresh from the ones that remain the same.

Some experts say processing data every few minutes should suffice for many businesses.

  • “There are extreme ends of this where you really, really need [real time],” said Ryan Blue, co-founder and CEO of data platform startup Tabular, and a former Netflix database engineer who helped build Iceberg, a core data architecture used for lakehouse-style analytics.
  • “The question is, when is a five-minute batch process sufficient?” Blue said.
  • The growing interest in real-time analytics and data processing represents what Gerrit Kazmaier, Google Cloud's vice president and general manager for Database, Data Analytics and Looker, called a “paradigm shift” away from traditional data stacks to systems that “connect the systems of intelligence” to applications that let companies influence customer behavior or take action using machine learning and analytics on the spot.
  • “So now, you come to a tipping point, where suddenly the strategic platform of the enterprise is not anymore the functional system, it’s the data system,” he said.

— Kate Kaye (email | twitter)


A resounding 96% of respondents claimed that there is work to do in digitizing their AR departments, yet 60% agreed that their AR departments haven’t been prioritized as much as other departments for digitization. At a time when the importance of securing cash flow is higher than ever, many businesses are not putting enough focus on it.

Learn more

Is Qualcomm going to make server chips again?

Qualcomm’s latest hire suggests the company is possibly eying the server market once again.

Leendert van Doorn announced Tuesday that he had joined Qualcomm as senior vice president. Van Doorn has previously worked at Microsoft and played an important role developing Arm cloud instances for Azure, which has led to speculation Qualcomm was mulling tackling the market (it killed its earlier effort in 2018).

The company has made no secret of its interest in markets beyond mobile. Last year, it bought startup Nuvia for $1.4 billion essentially to bring aboard its chip design team, which was founded by former Apple employees that worked on its custom silicon. And then late last year it unveiled plans to launch new Arm-based processors for PCs that it claims will compete with Apple’s M-series chips.

There are skeptics that Qualcomm would make this kind of attempt in the server market. Executives have said publicly that the Nuvia team, which was working on a server chip, would no longer be pursuing those efforts. And making a server processor requires a significant investment in the software ecosystem around the chip, and Qualcomm is not hiring those types of people, according to one industry watcher.

— Max A. Cherney (email | twitter)

Financial corner

Motive was valued at $2.85 billion after raising $150 million to build software primarily for the trucking and logistics industries.

Monte Carlo was valued at $1.6 billion after raising $135 million to provide data observability software for enterprises.

Nowports was valued at $1.1 billion after raising $150 million to automate freight forwarding.

Semperis raised $200 million from KKR for its identity security software.

Cribl raised $150 million for its observability data software.

— Aisha Counts (email | twitter)

Around the enterprise

Salesforce reported a 24% jump in revenue and easily surpassed Wall Street expectations for its first quarter, but lowered its full-year revenue expectations.

Microsoft disclosed a workaround for a particularly nasty flaw in Office and Windows that has been exploited in the wild but has yet to be patched.

After it changed the way it priced certain cloud products in response to complaints from European regulators, Microsoft won’t extend those discounts to customers running its software on AWS or Google Cloud.

Qualcomm would be willing to join a possible consortium of chip companies hoping to buy Arm before its IPO.


A resounding 96% of respondents claimed that there is work to do in digitizing their AR departments, yet 60% agreed that their AR departments haven’t been prioritized as much as other departments for digitization. At a time when the importance of securing cash flow is higher than ever, many businesses are not putting enough focus on it.

Learn more

Thanks for reading — see you tomorrow!

Recent Issues