Snowflake Summit 2023 Recap: AI Takes Center Stage

By Matt Turner

Published on July 12, 2023

A robotic hand reaches for a human hand in a way to reflect the connection between humans and AI.

What a week! Alation joined customers, partners, and a flurry of innovators from around the world at Snowflake Summit 2023 on June 26-29. The four-day event in Las Vegas featured inspiring keynotes, eye-opening use cases, and even some fun skits that demonstrated how Snowflake empowers data teams to collaborate and innovate at scale. 

The Alation team was there in full force, sharing how our platform provides the trusted data that global teams need to deliver trusted AI. We also debuted several exciting announcements, including the launch of the Open Data Quality Framework for Snowflake, which brings best-of-breed data quality and observability vendors to the Data Cloud, and Connected Sheets for Snowflake, which empowers business teams to access governed, trusted data in Snowflake without leaving Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets. 

Read on for a full recap of what transpired at this thrilling event. 

AI takes center stage

To kick off Summit on day 1, Snowflake CEO Frank Slootman joined Jensen Huang, CEO of Nvidia for a conversation hosted by Sarah Guo, CEO of Conviction. Guo opened the discussion by asking, “the hype around AI has been extraordinary, is it real?” The resounding answer was “yes!”. 

Huang set the stage when he said, “This is the biggest computing revolution we’ve ever seen” as AI introduces an entirely new way to interact with data. Slootman added that, for enterprises, this is a “huge step function” in improving our ability to work with data. They both agreed that this new phase of AI all depends on data. According to Huang, “data gravity is real”, and the new partnership between Nvidia and Snowflake will bring AI to your data in Snowflake and, according to Huang, deliver “intelligence, the most valuable commodity ever produced”.

Snowflake CEO Frank Slootman joined Jensen Huang, CEO of Nvidia for a conversation hosted by Sarah Guo, CEO of Conviction at Snowflake Summit 2023

On day 2, Slootman’s opening keynote also emphasized the value of data for AI, when he said, “to have an AI strategy, you have to have a data strategy”. The benefits of the new era of AI depend on data strategy, and, for Snowflake, that strategy begins in the Data Cloud. In it, individual customers store and manage data and also connect with each other to share data and collaborate around it. With the Data Cloud, customers can realize their goals to un-silo data, leverage all data (including unstructured), and power all their data workloads including creating applications and delivering AI. 

Slootman underscored that governance is central to the vision of the Data Cloud. Every new feature and capacity across the Data Cloud is created with governance in mind and the new capabilities all run within the fully governed Data Cloud.

Data Governance Partner of the Year

Data governance for Snowflake is, of course, near and dear to Alation. By making sure your data is protected and accelerating access to the right data for the right people, Alation’s data governance for Snowflake is key to delivering the new generation of AI. After all, trusted AI needs trusted data. And data governance is an essential mechanism for delivering trusted, high quality data.

It was with great pride that the Alation team was, again, recognized as the Snowflake Data Governance Partner of the Year … making this the third year in a row that we’ve received this award! With more than 150 technology partners in the Snowflake ecosystem, this represents a big recognition of the role Alation takes in delivering Snowflake data cloud success to our joint customers. 

Hear more from Alation CEO Satyen Sangani during his interview with Bloomberg Technology.

Alationauts gathered together with Snowflake bear at Snowflake Summit 2023

Alation everywhere, all at once: DIRECTV

The excitement didn’t stop at the award ceremony. The Alation team was, to paraphrase the title of the DIRECTV session ‘everywhere all at once’. From the show floor with a packed booth to the customer sessions, the topic of data intelligence was everywhere. This year, customers were particularly excited to share how centralizing knowledge while federating access and governance truly delivers data driven outcomes.

In his session, DIRECTV’s Joe Conard shared how DIRECTV uses Alation and Snowflake to better understand their viewership. By moving to Snowflake, the DIRECTV team broke down their data silos, while metadata in Alation provides clarity on what data to trust, and how to use it best. Joe shared, “to meet our needs for daily discovery, democracy, and quality we wanted to get all the metadata into our catalog so that everything is discoverable.” The result: data scientists and business analysts can escape the ‘legacy monster’ to better discover data and build new transformations and views while speeding up access to data. 

How Discover balances data offense and defense 

Prakash Jaganathan, Senior Director, Data & Analytics Engineering at Discover, elaborated on these themes when he shared how Alation helps Discover put data on the ‘offense’ as well as make sure it has good ‘defense’. 

Discover is a truly digital financial services company that relies on being data driven. How do they balance the need to move quickly with the need to mitigate risk? The key to both strategies, according to Prakash, is metadata. With metadata, users are able to find data faster, acquire new data, and speed up automation (or play offense). With metadata, users can also ensure data is secure and compliant (or play defense). Prakash summarized this nicely when he said, “To become data driven, we first have to become metadata-driven”. 

Discover uses metadata in Alation to answer the tough questions that everyone wants answered ‘yesterday’. And with over over 150 databases and over 1 million tables scanned, that’s a lot of metadata to put into action!

With so much data, the team has taken a decentralized approach to governance, using Alation to centralize the knowledge about the data and empower teams across the organization to participate in stewardship and data governance. The end result? Metadata is key for defense and offense and, with Alation and Snowflake, the Discover team is speeding up access to data to stay ahead of all those tough questions.

Prakash Jaganathan, Senior Director, Data & Analytics Engineering at Discover joined Alation CEO Satyen Sangani for a Data Cloud Now news desk interview

Prakash also joined Alation CEO Satyen Sangani for a Data Cloud Now news desk interview. “Being data driven, big or small, means that all the decisions we make, by executives or someone internal – all our actions are driven by data,” Prakash shared. “Whether we extend credit to a customer, whether we detect fraudulent transactions, whether we underwrite a loan, whether we provide excellent customer service or manage a risk, all our actions are driven by data more so than expert judgment.”

Prakash plays a key role in bringing people the data they need to fulfill that vision. “I’m a technology enabler for this data-driven culture we have at Discover,” he continued. “My team develops the platforms that provide a single pane of glass for all our data constituents to actually find the data that they need, ensure that it’s fit for use, ensure that it’s of good quality, and then take it for a spin – analyze and produce insights.” 

As an enabler, Prakash is proud to report that his efforts have paid off. “[Today] they have more time to come up with product innovations, create new customer experiences, and manage risks for our customers and the company. And that all happens with the global productivity boost that we get with the power of a data catalog.”

How Salesforce led a successful Data Cloud migration

From Salesforce, Vikas Sangwan, Global Head of Data Platform, Engineering and AI, joined Murali Kallem, Head of Data Platforms, to share their Snowflake migration story. 

This dynamic duo shared their tale in two parts. In their overall session, Vikas and Murali traded off sharing how the Salesforce team outgrew their on premises warehouse and planned and executed a move to Snowflake. With over 30,000 users, this was a major project, and their careful roadmap included plans to improve the self-service experience for everyone. 

Metadata was a key piece of that plan. The pair outlined the ways that Alation supported a successful migration, as they shared how the platform was instrumental in developing their metadata strategy. 

The first way was in the planning phases. Before migration, their teams used Alation to identify what data to migrate and who to tap for help. With Alation, they created the map of the data to migrate and also identified the key players to shepherd the migration and become data stewards in the new system. They also used metadata to create the data access rules to protect private information and scale of their system. Their secret to data cloud migration? Start with the catalog!

The Alation team wasn’t done. Besides a jam-packed booth, the team hosted two hands-on labs and over 150 attendees were walked through how Alation connects to Snowflake and helps you find, understand and trust your Snowflake data.

Alationauts gathered together in front of Alation’s booth at Snowflake Summit 2023

See you next year!

Wrapping up Snowflake Summit is tough; there is always something more to see and do, and it’s over too fast. Just ask the folks that came by AFTER the show closing time on Thursday – better late than never!

But you can get a glimpse of the excitement by trying Alation for Snowflake yourself. Our free trial starts with Snowflake partner connect and has guides and examples. You can see for yourself how to bring data intelligence to the data cloud and build the data foundation to power the next generation of AI.

The Alation team will be hosting our own industry conference, revAlation 2023, this fall, in the UK, Chicago, and Australia. And we’ll be back again at Snowflake Summit 2024 – see you next year!

  • AI takes center stage
  • Data Governance Partner of the Year
  • Alation everywhere, all at once: DIRECTV
  • How Discover balances data offense and defense 
  • How Salesforce led a successful Data Cloud migration
  • See you next year!
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