Fast Forward!

Categories: Corporate Data Science Machine Learning

Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) are topics of serious interest among mainstream enterprises these days. This isn’t new. Cloudera’s customers have been building AI applications on our modern platform for machine learning and analytics for years, and we have hundreds of large enterprises in production with those applications today. Momentum is building, though. Even Gartner is covering AI.

We love those applications, because they’re ravenous for data. Training ML models uses data to tease out patterns. The models can then predict the future, or spot anomalies in new data. Figuring out which patients will be readmitted to a hospital after discharge, knowing when a truck needs servicing and spotting money laundering in transaction flows all depend on data and machine learning. Those applications, and many others like them, bring us new customers and growth in consumption of our product by existing customers.

These techniques are new, though, especially to large enterprises. It’s essential for Cloudera to ease development and use of ML-based applications. It accelerates growth. We’ve embraced that strategy for years — as the first commercial vendor to adopt Apache Spark for scale-out model training, for example, and by introducing the Cloudera Data Science Workbench to simplify life for analysts, developers and data scientists.

Today, we’re announcing another major strategic move to advance machine learning in the enterprise.

We have acquired Fast Forward Labs (FFL), one of the very best applied research companies working in the field. Hilary Mason, FFL’s co-founder and CEO, will serve as Cloudera’s Vice President of Research. She and her team join us to deepen our expertise in applying machine learning to practical business problems, and to give Cloudera a much clearer view of the future of the field.

Fast Forward Labs’ tag line is “reporting on the recently possible.” This is key to FFL’s value to Cloudera: They continually survey academic and industrial research for new techniques. They take those that are newly available and use them to attack actual business problems, building code and developing expertise in applying those techniques to real-world problems. Their customers, and now ours, benefit early from the latest advances in applied AI.

Previous research has explored topics like natural language summarization and generation, deep learning for image analysis and probabilistic methods for real-time streams. Those sound obscure, but are actually powerful and practical. The natural language work, for example, lets financial services firms understand, automatically and in real time, how changes in legislation may impact contracts they hold.

This merger adds outstanding talent to Cloudera’s already-deep bench. Anyone who’s ever met Hilary knows she is amazing — a gifted scientist, a compelling speaker, an able operator. I could not be more pleased to have her here. She and her co-founder, Micha Gorelick, bring us a very strong research and development team.

And so, today, we are launching Cloudera Fast Forward Labs. Hilary and her team, working closely with others here, will continue to investigate and report on the state of the art in machine learning and applied artificial intelligence. We’ll continue to apply those techniques to critical business challenges for large enterprises. We’re adding the research subscription to our portfolio. Each of us has a solid customer base that can benefit from the products we offer together.

While we don’t pre-announce offerings, I expect Cloudera Fast Forward Labs to extend both our product and our services portfolios over time.

A heartfelt welcome to Hilary, Micha and the team! We’re excited to be working with you.


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