Death of the digital SLR and the EDW

Earlier in the year I attended the O’Reilly Strata conference in San Jose. The conference itself is a fantastic blend of big data technologies and social trends – with a focus on the data, the content (unlike SXSW where you are more likely to run into the Foo Fighters than a data scientist…yet we did have Rodney Mullen.)

canon_6dOne of the keynotes that stood out was from one of the founders of Cloudera and their current CTO. He kicked off the round of sponsored keynotes carrying a # of white boards onto the stage. In a relatively relaxed style, he engaged the audience with a picture of a digital SLR camera… “How many of you in the audience have used one of these in the last year” …about 1/3 of the hands went up. He then turned the board around and it said ‘EDW’ – representing the enterprise data warehouse.

He then lifted up the other card high into the air with a picture of a smart phone on it… he then repeated the question to the audience… “How many of you in the audience have used one of these in the last year” …all of the hands went up. He then turned the board around and it said ‘EDH’ – representing the enterprise data hub. (yet I saw no one put a hand up here)

He then closes with the slide ‘Cloudera – The only complete EDH’

This keynote stuck out with me for 3 reasons:

    • The pitch approach was memorable – Props are always a bit cheesy – but they are memorable. Having a few charts with a single picture on it (these of the camera and the mobile phone) surprises the audience and gets their attention… “hmmm – what is that for?” …”No PowerPoint, …OMG, this must be serious.” ..Smart .
    • The claim was implausible – While Cloudera is currently a darling of the Hadoop movement, they are way out of their element making a claim about being an ‘Enterprise Data Hub’ – albeit, the only complete EDH (the skeptic technologist in me made me want to raise my hand to call this guy out… you are a respected CTO, ..why the heck are you pitching your company like a fluff marketer, especially to a room full of well educated data engineers and academics?). Build the vision, sure… a future state, ok… but even as a Hadoop evangelist, I am fully aware of the current limitations of the technology…as well as most of the audience. ...Not so smart – but, he can blame it on marketing.
    • I own an iPhone, and recently purchased a digital SLR. I agree that the mobile smartphones of today are ‘good enough’ for an everyday camera, but for the enthusiast or professional shot, they fall a bit short. This 3rd reason is where I started to think…

What got to me on this analogy was that it was backwards. On the surface it might seem like the smart phone is displacing the digital SLR (and in the future, it will) but the mobile phone has displaced the plain digital consumer camera as a regular ‘must have’… not the prosumer/professional camera. I’m talking about the pocketbook Casio and Sony cameras… just not needed any more. But something like a Canon EOS 70D? – I think not. In all honesty, I think that a level of reverse truth is evident here – the ubiquity of the smart phone camera has placed decent digital photography in the hands of the masses. This then lends itself to a greater demand for digital editing software (ie Adobe PhotoShop and the like… on the low end we have Instagram, yech) and absolute quantity of photos. (There is a whole study on the emergence of personalized cameras as a growth area, yet I don’t believe that a person will carry both a smartphone and a consumer camera – Stranger things have happened though – and for clarity, the early #s show that my analysis of the Digital SLR is incorrect... yet I will remain patient)

As we become accustomed to ‘good enough’ photography and the deluge of photos in our hard drive – we start to get irritated with the clarity of the picture, the lighting, the imperfection of ‘good enough’ and desire something just a bit more. Since we are already masters of the digital age, the Digital SLR is the next step in our photographic journey. In essence this is what happened to me – The iPhone is awesome for taking shots on a quick business trip, at an event or on the spot at dinner or at a game – BUT – when it comes to getting a shot of the kids, …at a holiday, with family or on vacation… the digital SLR is what I pack. It is for the times and memories that really count.

As we share more and more digital images, I have a better appreciation that a great camera (and lens) can offer.

So back to the whole talk around the enterprise data hub… Some Hadoop based data lake in the cloud might be great for ‘good enough’ big data (…if it really exists) and heck, with the commoditization of technology on the cloud – sure, the masses can leverage it (albeit, they are going to need more than some Hadoop-based data store… you need ETL, analytics, reporting, transactional feeds, etc…. all things that are missing from this presentation)… But when it comes down to your most important customers, …your most important transactions… your business as a whole, …are you going to settle for a pool of semi structured (potentially unknown and unstructured) data as your back bone? – or are you going to have a mastered, governed and secure enterprise data warehouse at the core?

Data Warehousing might be changing (it is), but the EDW is not dead – and I suspect that Canon, Nikon and the like may start selling more and more digital SLRs in the face of (or because of) the smartphone revolution – yet with technology advances in the mobile phone camera area they will ultimately merge and fully ca
nnibalize the consumer SLR market.

Props are great – but let’s get the analogies right before we start making presentations. (Personal blogs are another story :) )

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