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You’re either real-time or out of time
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You’re either real-time or out of time

Every day, millions of us press the “order” button on our favorite coffee store's mobile application: Our chosen brew will be on the counter when we arrive. It’s a personalized, seamless experience that we have all come to expect. What we don’t know is what’s happening behind the scenes. The mobile application is sourcing data from a database that stores information about each customer and what their favorite coffee drinks are. It is also leveraging event-streaming data in real time to ensure the ingredients for your personal coffee are in supply at your local store.

Applications like this power our daily lives, and if they can’t access massive amounts of data stored in a database as well as stream data “in motion” instantaneously, you — and millions of customers — won’t have these in-the-moment experiences.

“Customers demand these real-time experiences, and companies that fail to meet those expectations risk falling behind,” said Chet Kapoor, chairman and CEO at DataStax, a technology company that helps businesses deliver real-time data at scale. “We live in a time where real-time applications are the engines of innovation and economic growth.”

In my conversation with Kapoor, he shared his perspective on why every business must embrace real-time data today.

Companies that don’t harness real-time data risk becoming irrelevant

While the concept of utilizing real-time data is not new, the urgency to do so is. Digital leaders — those at the forefront of building a data-driven business — are effectively capturing and processing data in real time, and then using it to deliver instantaneous experiences. Customers not only expect these digital experiences; they are increasingly demanding them from every business.

McKinsey & Company supports this view. According to a recent McKinsey report, “The Data-Driven Enterprise of 2025,” real-time data is key to success. It listed the following characteristics of top data-driven enterprises:

  • Data is embedded in every decision, interaction and process.
  • Data is processed and delivered in real time.
  • Flexible data stores enable integrated, ready-to-use data.

However, McKinsey & Company also reported that only a fraction of the amount of data from connected devices is processed in real time. The report found common roadblocks include legacy software, the challenges of adopting modern architecture and high computational demands.

“The great news is that technology has advanced to the point where real-time applications are now possible — not only for the largest organizations, but every organization,” said Kapoor. “And those who can’t deliver these experiences risk becoming irrelevant.”

Real-time technology is finally here — and it just works

Constant innovation is what solves today’s business problems. Leading enterprises prioritize giving their developers the tools and data that inspire them to innovate and do what they do best: Build the applications that improve our lives.

“Software developers are on the front lines, and their mission is to bring modern applications to life,” said Kapoor. “The good news is, the technology to build real-time applications is here; it’s easy and affordable. We’re enabling developers to do what they do best: build.”

Kapoor said that spurring developer creativity is one of the many reasons he’s excited about DataStax’s open data stack for real-time applications. Available on any cloud, DataStax delivers both a massively scalable database — Astra DB — and advanced streaming technology, Astra Streaming. Together, Astra DB and Astra Streaming provide developers with a stack that mobilizes all enterprise data to build powerful real-time applications.

“Astra DB brings the power and scale of Apache Cassandra to every developer. It uses simple developer APIs and works with developers’ favorite tools and languages, so developers can focus on what they do best — building real-time, high-growth applications that drive change,” said Kapoor.

Kapoor is also enthusiastic about the company’s event streaming and messaging technology Astra Streaming, built on the advanced Apache Pulsar open-source software. As the only streaming service that can easily turn existing messaging data into real-time data, Astra Streaming can give many types of data real-time value.

“An open stack with Astra Streaming and Astra DB enables enterprises to activate all real-time data — it just works,” he said.

Real-time data drives real change

Many of the challenges facing our world today are increasingly complex and critical, such as climate change, talent shortages and supply chain disruptions. Solving these problems requires analyzing large data sets, quickly. Additionally, organizations must use data to predict future issues and then determine the most effective solution. According to Kapoor, activating data in real time can be a powerful way to help organizations create the innovations needed to overcome both big and small challenges. In fact, new business models are being forged on the back of real-time data all the time.

As an example, a DataStax customer and AI-based irrigation company that made the Time Best Inventions list uses real-time data to conserve water while improving farmers’ outcomes. By using IoT devices sitting on or near the crops, the system sends data to the cloud, which then triggers alerts based on the data analytics. If fruit on the vine is at risk for spoiling, the system notifies the farmer to harvest the crops to reduce loss. The technology also helps farmers manage water resources, prevent plant stress, improve production and maximize crop potential — all in real time.

The Gartner report "Innovation Insight for Streaming Data in Motion: The Collision of Messaging, Analytics and DBMS”, explored opportunities for organizations to use event streaming for diverse business purposes. For example, “traffic, weather and vehicle telemetry streams enable trucking companies, railroads, airlines, shipping companies, car ride services and other transportation operators to monitor and manage fleet movements.” According to Gartner, "Large organizations already have copious amounts of streaming data in motion, but many fail to use it effectively. Data and analytics leaders must adopt recent advances in stream analytics, event broker messaging and data management technology to implement real-time systems with more business value.”

Kapoor observed that when we use data in real time, customers and companies get smarter together.

“Everyone succeeds by delivering more value, faster. We are all on a journey toward doing this. The only question is whether companies will be ahead of the curve — or playing catch-up,” he said. “Today, you’re either real time or you’re out of time.”

Learn more about DataStax’s open data stack for real-time applicationshere.