Snowflake on Thursday launched a version of its platform tailored to meet the data management and analytics needs of manufacturers.
With the addition of the new Manufacturing Data Cloud, Snowflake now has six industry-specific versions of its platform. Other iterations are tailored for healthcare and life sciences; retail and consumer goods; and advertising, media and entertainment. Most recently, in February 2023, it released a data cloud for telecommunications companies.
The data cloud vendor's data warehouses -- unlike those of many cloud data storage vendors -- enable customers to access and work with their data in-database rather than requiring the extract, transform and load process that slows and complicates data preparation and analysis.
The vendor unveiled its first industry-specific data cloud in 2021 when it released its Financial Services Data Cloud.
Rival Databricks has deployed a similar strategy over the past couple of years, launching five industry-specific versions of its data Lakehouse Platform. On April 5, it unveiled its own industry-specific platform for manufacturing.
Whether the developer is Snowflake, Databricks or another vendor, industry-specific platforms tend to make organizations more efficient and are therefore received well, according to David Menninger, an analyst at Ventana Research.
"In reality, very few organizations in any industry want a general-purpose platform," he said. "What they really want is technology that can help them be more efficient and more effective so as to improve their bottom line. Anything the vendor can do to streamline the implementation and maintenance of the system will help."
The new data cloud
Data is growing exponentially. That's the case both overall and in most individual industries.
Manufacturing is no different. Beyond the point-of-sale data they've always had, manufacturers now collect intricate data about their factory floors and supply chains, and IoT devices deliver reams of data that, if harnessed, can lead to significant insights.
Therefore, Snowflake built the Manufacturing Data Cloud to help organizations operationalize data that might otherwise be siloed or simply sent to a data warehouse and never even looked at, according to Tim Long, the vendor's global head of manufacturing.
"Manufacturing is in the midst of transformation," he said. "Specifically, we're seeing investment in transforming the supply chain and the shop floor itself. This is now where manufacturers are bringing big data and artificial intelligence together to create better quality products and improve factory efficiency."
The fully managed data cloud -- which is available at the same consumption-based price as Snowflake's primary data cloud -- comes prebuilt with the following:
- Third-party data from Snowflake partners and the Snowflake Marketplace that provides perspective on their own data and their industry.
- Data sharing and collaboration capabilities to better work in concert with supply chain partners and address potential issues before or as soon as they arise.
- Native support for the different types of data -- structured, semi structured and unstructured -- that contribute to a full view of an organization's operation, including data from IoT devices.
- A set of best practices developed by existing manufacturers using the Snowflake platform.
- About 20 prebuilt applications designed for various manufacturing use cases.
Those prebuilt applications are one of the key aspects of the Manufacturing Data Cloud, according to Long.
He noted that Snowflake has a broad definition of manufacturing that includes sectors such as aerospace and defense, automotive, energy, industrial, oil and gas, and technology. The Manufacturing Data Cloud combines Snowflake's data management technology with the expertise of partners and customers in the various manufacturing sectors.
"The Manufacturing Data Cloud is really a combination of Snowflake's capabilities and industry content that we believe is relevant and timely for the manufacturing industry," Long said.
It's also a tool to help manufacturers gain insight from assets that weren't previously part of an organization's data pipeline, such as documents, photographs, videos and thermographic imagery. All can show abnormalities that can be fuel for predictive analytics and preventative action.
"There's so much data that we didn't traditionally think of as data because it wasn't in rows and columns, but that data is now becoming part and parcel of manufacturing initiatives," Long said.
Other key aspects of the Manufacturing Data Cloud -- and other industry-specific platforms -- are the abilities to deliver insights faster to take actions as well as provide an ecosystem of partners, according to Menninger.
By providing sets of best practices, access to curated data sets and prebuilt applications, the data platform for manufacturers make it easier organizations to get started with their analytics and data management operations.
"Industry-specific data clouds are initially all about speed to insight and action," Menninger said. "The industry-specific data clouds basically provide a head start. Without them, purchasers need to spend significant amounts of time building and testing their own data models and analyses. The other potential advantage … is the network effect or ecosystem of partners that it creates."
Thursday's launch marked the release of the initial version of Snowflake's Manufacturing Data Cloud. As with any platform, it will be updated and enhanced with new features and functionality.
The data cloud already includes some of the most recent capabilities added to Snowflake's general-purpose platform. Among them are collaboration tools and access to Snowpark, the vendor's workspace for developers to use Python, Java and Scala to build AI and machine learning models.
David MenningerAnalyst, Ventana Research
"[Snowpark] is helping manufacturers radically simplify architectures that are historically quite complex and difficult to manage," Long said.
He declined to detail the roadmap for the Manufacturing Data Cloud. He did, however, note that it will continue to take advantage of new capabilities added to the Snowflake environment as they're developed and that as more partners and customers build manufacturing-oriented applications, those will be made available to all customers.
He said the Manufacturing Data Cloud won't be the last industry-specific version of the vendor's platform but declined to give specifics on what will come next.
Snowflake has not yet introduced a public sector data cloud or one that is specific to technology.
Additionally, Menninger noted that some of Snowflake's existing industry-specific data clouds cover a broad spectrum of sub-sectors. Some of those sub-sectors could be ripe for their own data cloud.
For example, healthcare and life sciences include drug discovery and development as well as clinical healthcare. Similarly, financial services includes all the different types of insurance, commercial banking, investment banking and retail banking.
"I'm sure customers would appreciate more granular industry solutions," Menninger said. "These industry sub-segments do not all operate in the same way."
Eric Avidon is a senior news writer for TechTarget Editorial and a journalist with more than 25 years of experience. He covers analytics and data management.