From building a company around APIs before APIs were a thing (see, Apigee) to helping enterprises and developers solve for scale-out data, Chet Kapoor is a proven leader and innovator in the tech industry. As Chairman and CEO of DataStax, Chet is focused on partnering with enterprises and developers to deliver the open multi-cloud data stack built for modern applications. He has 20 years of leadership experience at software and cloud companies like Google, IBM, BEA Systems, and NeXT.
What’s the secret to finding innovative solutions that accelerate digital growth in this decade of data? Chet believes that it always goes back to serving the needs of your customers. We discussed the major challenges CIOs face today, how enterprises can derive value from data, and why inspired leadership is critical to creating valuable customer relationships.
M.R. Rangaswami: What are some of the biggest challenges CIOs and other technology leaders are facing today?
Chet Kapoor: In the 2000s, the data industry solved scale-out networking, connecting to billions of devices. In the 2010s, it was all about scale-out computing to run billions of instances of cloud applications. Today, we are solving for scale-out data. Data continues to double every year. Everyone wants to use it to understand their customers and make thoughtful decisions. The key for those racing ahead is data that is accessible, analyzable, and actionable. But companies and leaders are still faced with challenges of cost and innovation.
Eighty percent or more of the budget in an enterprise typically goes into maintaining products. While that’s happening, data is growing like crazy. So the total cost of ownership (TCO) of data continues to increase as time goes on. Enterprises still have to maintain too many products and skills, and managing the costs of scaling data is a challenge. This is the “TCO death spiral.” All CIOs face this.
Because data is growing and enterprises are spending on “run the business” projects, there can be an “innovation stalemate.” Companies are going to the cloud, but they have very limited cloud-native architecture. Without modern, cloud-native technologies, it’s difficult to innovate. So CIOs get stuck between the TCO death spiral and innovation stalemate. They’re inching ahead; but they need to move fast. My advice to CIOs and even developers is to be bold on how quickly they can modernize to avoid this paralysis.
M.R. Every business will be data-driven, that’s a given. But how do they get value from data?
Chet: Data management is going through a radical shift. It’s not enough to just collect data and do rearview analysis. It needs to be real-time, streaming data to fuel revenue-generating applications. In my eyes, the data world is made up of two parts: the deep lane and the fast lane. The deep lane is all about serving the analyst. The fast lane serves the modern app.
While a company like Snowflake operates in the deep lane, DataStax lives in the fast lane. We believe that fast lane data (and the modern apps it serves) requires an open data stack. An open data stack is:
Kubernetes-based for cloud-native agility
Developer-ready with APIs to reduce time to market for new revenue-generating apps that customers love
Cloud-delivered to simplify operations and reduce TCO
Built around open source for zero lock-in
This type of tech stack allows enterprises to build applications that process real-time data and output recommendations, analytics, and decisions at the moment you need them. Why is this important? Because it’s all in service to the end user. Customers expect rich, reliable experiences that fit seamlessly into their lives.
Let’s take The Home Depot as an example. Their in-store traffic dropped significantly due to COVID, but customer demand remained high. With Cassandra and DataStax, The Home Depot was able to launch curbside pickup in less than 30 days. They had an open stack based on Kubernetes, giving them the ability to go fast while maintaining scale and reliability, ultimately increasing Q2 sales by 100 percent.
M.R.: DataStax counts some of the largest and most innovative companies in the world as customers like The Home Depot, Verizon, T-Mobile and others. How do you inspire your teams to effectively partner with enterprises everywhere – including industry titans – on their business-critical data initiatives?
Chet: We start by obsessing over customers — it’s about our partnership and serving their needs. When you do this, you see your journey as a mission, not a job. The best leaders inspire people to execute by aligning them to something that is far bigger than their job—far bigger than who they are. It’s about sharing a mission, in service of customers. So how do you do this?
Provide context and operate at all levels by staying connected to the org and priorities
Inspire teams by earning trust and making people better
Move the human heart by providing meaning, energizing people, and pushing them to meet challenging goals—ultimately driving execution and results that serve your customers
At DataStax, our short- and long-term goals are the same: deliver products that developers love and that change the trajectory of enterprises that they work for. We stay focused on our customers, inspire teams and execute like crazy.
M.R. Rangaswami is the Co-Founder of Sandhilll.com