Tech Wire Asia met with Remus Lim, Cloudera's VP of Asia Pacific and Japan, to talk AI adoption, hybrid cloud, and the region's prospects. Source: Cloudera

Tech Wire Asia met with Remus Lim, Cloudera’s VP of Asia Pacific and Japan, to talk AI adoption, hybrid cloud, and the region’s prospects. Source: Cloudera

Cloudera: navigating China and propelling in APAC

  • Cloudera recently recorded its most successful quarter in the APAC region. 
  • Tech Wire Asia had the chance to speak with Remus Lim, Cloudera’s VP of Asia Pacific and Japan, to discuss AI adoption, hybrid cloud, and the region’s prospects.
  • Lim highlighted challenges in China, where geopolitical tensions with the US are prompting a governmental shift away from American products.

Data is multiplying at an astonishing rate in the wake of the generative AI revolution. The surge urgently demands efficient data management across organizations and industries. After all, generative AI and large language models are only as good as the data on which they’ve been trained. This is where companies like Cloudera come in: enabling customers to manage their proprietary data across private and public cloud environments.

The abundance of both on-premise and cloud-based unstructured and structured data poses a significant challenge for businesses striving to access the correct data for optimal decision-making. Data silos further exacerbate this issue, leading to resource wastage and restricted data insights. Cloudera, having been a leader in Big Data for over a decade, addresses these challenges by preventing data silos, allowing businesses to harness data pools for more informed decisions.

On average today, nine out of ten of the largest global companies in various industries “trust Cloudera with their data assets,” according to CEO Charles Sansbury. That figure resulted in 25 million terabytes of data being managed with Cloudera solutions. While the company does not specialize in generative AI today, its Cloudera Data Platform (CDP) and related tools have been crucial in supporting the data infrastructure needed for generative AI applications in enterprises. 

Charles Sansbury, CEO of Cloudera, while delivering his keynote at Evolve NYC on November 2, 2023 in New York City.

Charles Sansbury, CEO of Cloudera, while delivering his keynote at Evolve NYC on November 2, 2023 in New York City.

During Cloudera’s Evolve conference in New York, Tech Wire Asia had the chance to catch up with Remus Lim, VP of Asia Pacific and Japan, to discuss AI adoption among enterprises, the prominence of hybrid cloud, and the region’s prospects in the near future. 

The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

TWA: What exactly is your role and how it has been since you assumed it?

Remus Lim, VP Asia Pacific and Japan, Cloudera

Remus Lim, VP Asia Pacific and Japan, Cloudera

I have been in this role for almost two years now. ASEAN is the largest territory across the Asia Pacific (APAC), and there have been various challenges and different contexts for Cloudera from a regional perspective. For context, APAC in the Cloudera context comprises ASEAN, India, China, Korea, Japan, and ANZ (Australia and New Zealand).

We separated Indonesia from ASEAN. We have a reasonably big team in Indonesia, as we do quite a bit in that country, with the largest telco being our biggest customer. In fact, all the telcos and banks in Indonesia are our clients.

In terms of the last year, there were more challenges from North Asia, particularly with the geopolitical situation between China and the US. The Chinese market, in particular, has been facing a lot of uncertainty because of the geopolitical and political situation and the economic conundrum. From a geopolitical front, the Chinese government is encouraging local enterprises not to use US products. It’s not a law, but it’s recommended. 

So, we are seeing a few headwinds over there. As for the rest of the region, Japan and Korea are substantial manufacturing countries. We know the sector is in a slump mode now, with companies being more conservative and pulling back on spending. On top of that, the strong US currency across our region needs to be helping. In a nutshell, geopolitical and economic situations, as well as currency, are the key issues. 

But having said that, our key customers are still investing and expanding fast despite delayed expansion plans. Hopefully, next year, things will be better.

TWA: Is China a big market for Cloudera? If yes, how are you circumventing the downturn?

China is a big market. If I ranked them, it would be second. To be honest, we’re very pragmatic. We continue to sell our values and solutions, and at the end of the day, we will convince customers that we are providing them with a platform. We are not building an IP; we are not taking your data. It is a platform that merely helps you to manage the data. 

So, it is challenging. Specific organizations will be okay, and some will not. We have some of the largest organizations in our portfolio, like Shanghai Pudong Development Bank (SPDB), a state-owned bank. Though it’s under pressure, it’s still investing in us. On the flip side, with telcos like China Mobile, that has been tougher. We do have partnerships with local cloud providers like Alibaba. 

TWA: Your chief revenue officer, Frank O’Dowd, mentioned that the recently concluded third quarter was the biggest so far for Cloudera in the APAC. Could you elaborate on that?

The success was due to three key regions, out of which two saw a record-breaking quarter: ANZ. India specifically grew by over 400% because we closed a huge deal. But it has not just been for this quarter. This year, India has been doing exceptionally well, and in the last quarter, we closed a deal with PhonePe, an Indian Fintech company. 

One of the critical things PhonePe wanted out of us was the assurance that Cloudera should not go 100% on the cloud because they also believed in on-premise strategy and wanted to ensure we did, too. That resonated well with us, so it worked well in our favor.

TWA: Does that mean that the momentum for Cloudera still lies within the telco and the financial industry?

As you can imagine, our most significant sector is customer, which has a lot of complex data. That is typically the financial, telco, government, and manufacturing sectors. These days, there are more vested interests in smart manufacturing and autonomous driving, and we are seeing that in China as well. Take SAIC-Volkswagen Automobile, for instance, the Sino-German joint venture operated by SAIC and Volkswagen Group, one of China’s oldest automotive joint ventures.

Cloudera is helping SAIC Volkswagen to construct a vehicle data monitoring platform to meet regulatory requirements for smart vehicle data in its Internet of Vehicles (IoV) business. Deploying CDP has resulted in substantial performance enhancements, reducing costs and optimizing data operations efficiency. The implementation has led to a 67% reduction in storage space needs, enhancing vehicle monitoring efficiency and optimizing vehicle data management for SVW.

Remus Lim of Cloudera in conversation with Tech Wire Asia on the sidelines of Evolve NYC about the APAC.

Remus Lim in conversation with Tech Wire Asia on the sidelines of Evolve NYC.

TWA: Enterprises are still wary when it comes to deploying generative AI. What are the narratives like in APAC?

OCBC, one of the largest financial institution in Southeast Asia based in Singapore, is one of those early adopters of AI and machine learning. It started five years back, setting up an AI Lab and recruiting the right people. Today, it has around 200 data scientists. The challenge, however, is that not all banks invest that way. So when we take the story to many other banks in Japan, Korea, and other countries, they’re all trying to do something. 

But the challenge is that they don’t have the skills, so they hit a brick wall before starting. You need to have a vision and build a foundation. So, for customers who are not at that stage, it is difficult for them to get up there. But AI, in general, has been around for a while, including machine learning. The typical use case for banks is fraud detection. So, there’s a maturity curve.

Generative AI, however, is something new, and most organizations will need to figure out how to use it.

TWA: But have enterprises grasped how data should be collected, cleaned, and managed overall for them to move towards utilizing it for generative AI?

Absolutely. I have been in the business intelligence or data analytics area for over ten years, and it was the same conversation back then. It is just now getting bigger because of the size of the data and the volume we hold today. So yeah, you’re right; people are still talking about silos, inconsistency, and the readiness to merge. That challenge is still there; the conversation is ongoing and will not change because technology keeps evolving.

That is perhaps why we adopt an open ecosystem to provide solutions because there is no such thing as “one size fits all .” It is essential for us to commit ourselves to the open source environment so that all these ecosystems can work together.

Bill Zhang, senior director product management, data warehousing.

Bill Zhang, senior director product management, data warehousing.

TWA: What do you see as the biggest priority for the APAC region, and what sort of customers Cloudera is targeting over the next year? 

I think for us, it’s moving up the value chain. When we started, we were on Hadoop, and when Cloudera and Hortonworks merged, we came up with a new product called CDP to re-architect the whole thing, modernizing the entire stack. So it became a single architecture, on-prem or on the cloud, which is more of a cloud-native architecture, giving us the agility and the scalability using separation of compute and storage. So we started that. 

So, in the past three years, we have been trying to make sure that Cloudera customers in the APAC move to CDP from legacy, and we have crossed that hurdle. Now the next thing is, how do I then get our customers to tap on what we promise, because there is a lot more potential that they can push, like how OCBC had moved from CDH (Cloudera’s 100% open source platform distribution, including Apache Hadoop and built specifically to meet enterprise demands) to CDP. 

Then, we found out that they had a big plan for AI. When they started moving to CDP, we introduced them to data services on CML (CDP Machine Learning), and that’s when the whole thing flew.

They began to see the value of CML, which is data services, and because of the whole ecosystem, they could plug in Hugging Face and LLM models and create the entire ecosystem into the CML as the base. So that makes a lot of value for them. Essentially, back to our point earlier, you’d need to have trusted data to have trusted AI. So, the foundation of that is CDP, which manages the trusted database.

TWA: It is a very competitive landscape today. How would you say Cloudera sets itself apart from the rest of the pack in the APAC, including hyperscalers?

Today, we must admit that we are in a competitive environment; we cooperate and compete. There are undoubtedly many rivals, and once we realize that, we will be able to understand how to operate and go into the market. Our key differentiator in the APAC is the fact that Cloudera is genuinely hybrid. 

If you look at all our competitors, everyone is eager to jump on top, and their strategy is 100% cloud, whereas we are hybrid. So we are in a unique position where we provide all rights: on-premise and cloud. Not just cloud; we even support multi-clouds like AWS, Azure, and others. So we don’t get customers locked in. From that perspective, we are in a very unique position.

TWA: What are Cloudera’s plans for APAC?

We provide the capability to our customers to build, because we’re still a platform. We are also building those capabilities into our platform. Our challenge was trying to move our legacy into the new platform. Now that has happened, how can we propel? So there is that.

What is new is that we are trying to build a natural language LLM where developers can use natural language to submit queries. So that is in the works and should be out pretty soon. That will enhance our product with generative AI capabilities, and that helps to improve the operational efficiency for customers.