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Snowflake launches Government & Education Data Cloud

The industry-specific platform is the vendor's seventh and includes data sets and other pre-built capabilities to meet the needs of government agencies and educational institutions.

Snowflake on Tuesday launched a version of its data cloud designed specifically for government agencies and educational institutions.

The Government & Education Data Cloud is the seventh industry-specific version of the vendor's platform. It is generally available now.

Founded in 2012, Snowflake is a data cloud vendor that began developing industry-specific versions of its platform in 2021 with the unveiling of its Financial Services Data Cloud. Most recently, it launched vertical industry versions of its platform for manufacturing in April and telecommunications in February.

Over a similar period, Snowflake rival Databricks has also launched five versions of its data lakehouse platform geared toward specific industries, most recently in April for manufacturing.

Beyond developing tailored versions of its platform, Snowflake in late May reached an agreement to acquire Neeva in a move aimed at adding generative AI capabilities to Snowflake's data management tools.

Tailored tools

Like previous industry-specific versions of Snowflake's platform, the Government & Education Data Cloud comes with pre-built capabilities that differentiate it from the vendor's general-purpose data cloud, with the aim of better meeting the needs of organizations in a given vertical.

To enable government agencies at all levels to meet security and compliance standards, Snowflake's platform has attained FedRAMP Moderate and StateRAMP High status. FedRAMP and StateRAMP are authorization programs that provide standardized measures of cloud security.

In addition, Snowflake's platform supports workflows that meet International Traffic in Arms Regulations, Criminal Justice Information Services standards, Internal Revenue Service 1075 guidelines, and Federal Acquisition Regulation and Defense FAR Supplement safeguarding requirements in certain U.S. government-designated regions, according to the vendor.

Beyond enabling government agencies to meet regulatory requirements, the Government & Education Data Cloud comes with the following:

  • Relevant data sets that organizations can use to supplement their own data.
  • Pre-built templates designed to enable new customers to deploy Snowflake faster than they could with the general-purpose data cloud.
  • Partner-built applications available on Snowflake Marketplace.

Ultimately, Snowflake said the aim of the Government & Education Data Cloud is to help government agencies and higher education institutions break down isolated data repositories so that they can better share data and collaborate, establish a complete view of their data, monitor fraud and abuse, and take advantage of the data work done by other organizations in Snowflake's partner ecosystem.

While there are broad data challenges that all industries experience, there are several unique challenges that certain industries experience. In the public sector, some of those unique challenges include privacy, governance, data sharing and citizen engagement.
Mike LeoneAnalyst, Enterprise Strategy Group

Perhaps the most significant pieces of the Government & Education Data Cloud for Snowflake users are those that address the unique challenges of government agencies and colleges and universities, according to Mike Leone, an analyst at TechTarget's Enterprise Strategy Group.

"It's really about specialized guidance from Snowflake and their industry-specific partners," he said. "While there are broad data challenges that all industries experience, there are several unique challenges that certain industries experience. In the public sector, some of those unique challenges include privacy, governance, data sharing and citizen engagement."

Leone added that time to value is another important benefit of not only the new government and education platform, but also all of Snowflake's industry-specific data clouds.

"The industry-specific solutions enable businesses to ramp up much faster," he said. "This is especially important for organizations that recognize the power of a data cloud, but may have significant skills gaps in areas related to data management, analytics and AI."

One higher education institution that used the Government & Education Data Cloud during its testing phase was New York University (NYU).

Satya Kunta, the university's chief data architect and senior director of technology, noted the value of access to third-party data and the Snowflake partner ecosystem.

"The data sharing has been very positive," he said. "The way we're working it in makes it easier [for us]. The marketplace is also very [helpful]. They make it so easy to build up data pipelines."

Real-world implementation

NYU first became a Snowflake customer in 2018 after previously using Oracle for its data management needs. Its goal at the time was to reduce the manual burdens placed on data engineers and other data workers who were spending the vast majority of their time doing administrative work, according to Kunta.

"It was about not having someone sitting and managing our back-end system," he said. "The platform needed to be servicing itself and running on its own so we didn't have to do fixes and patches."

NYU looked at Amazon Redshift in addition to Snowflake, but ultimately chose Snowflake after a lengthy pilot program due to its speed and agility.

Since deploying Snowflake and making it part of a complex data operations stack -- including Tableau and Oracle for analytics, Qlik and MuleSoft for data integration, AWS for data lakes, and Databricks for data science -- the university has been able to process its data much faster than it could when it was using other tools for data integration and management.

For example, a finance data process that used to take NYU about 10 hours can now be done in about 45 minutes, according to Kunta.

"We can do things about 20 times faster," he said. "Even if something goes wrong, we are able to correct it. That has been a major win. Our businesses are happy, clients and customers are happy, and the students are happy."

Students and their instructor during a college lecture.
Snowflake's latest industry-specific data cloud is tailored to meet the needs of government agencies and higher education institutions.

Besides efficiency, the university has been able to use data to better inform a product it developed called Learning Analytics. The tool is designed to enable administrators and instructors to both assess how lessons are being received by students and also how well students are performing before they reach the middle of a semester and take their first round of exams.

The intent is to make administrators and instructors more proactive, giving them information that lets them know whether lessons need to be changed to make them more engaging or if a student might be in need of help.

"What it's giving the instructors is the ability to take early action and see whether they need to fine-tune their courses so that the students are successful," Kunta said. "It's about student success and how they are keeping up with the coursework. It's given a lot of good feedback to deans. It's a very broad spectrum of who it helps."

NYU's use of the Government & Education Data Cloud figures to make its data operations even more efficient, which will further benefit the university's students, faculty and administration.

"It's going to provide a lot of capabilities that are more common across industry-specific standards," Kunta said.

Next steps

With seven industry-specific versions of Snowflake's data cloud generally available, Leone said the vendor has done well to address the needs of its customers within specific verticals.

Now, however, he noted that it would be wise to focus on expanding the existing industry-specific data clouds to better enable users to do more with AI.

"Snowflake has done a fantastic job prioritizing industries based on data maturity, but the next wave for them isn't necessarily in a specific industry," Leone said. "It should be more about enabling businesses within those sectors to scale the use of data and AI."

Kunta, meanwhile, said that as the Government & Education Data Cloud evolves, he'd like to see even more common data sets and partner-developed products on Snowflake Marketplace. In addition, regarding Snowflake's broader platform, he noted that more online analytical processing capabilities would be beneficial, as would better connectivity for APIs.

"That would give us faster transactional volumes," Kunta said.

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.

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