Making Sense of the Cloud and Big Data with Charles Fan


I had the opportunity to sit down with Charles Fan in Shanghai in December 2012. Charles is well known in China for having set up R&D facilities for EMC and VMware and for having created a world class integrated team at record speeds. Charles is currently a senior vice president and Chairman, China COE at EMC and is working on the Data Fabric of the future at VMware. During our interview I was struck by his vision and wanted to share his thoughts as I am frequently asked about the future of Big Data and how it relates to cloud.

Michael: First of all, what is Cloud in your definition?

Charles: When the Internet tidal wave really hits the enterprises, “cloud computing” is the result. Enterprise IT will be transformed in the process. There will be fundamental changes to every kind of IT application: the customer-facing web apps, the employee facing productivity apps, and the enterprise back-office apps. What will not change, however, is that the value of “I” in “IT” will continue to increase. The Information, or Data, will be where the value sits.

Michael: So what does it mean for Big Data?

Charles: We are observing significant changes coming to “data”, not only because of the new apps and the transformation of old apps, but also because of sensors and other generators of data. The data is not only “bigger” and “faster”, but also there are more varieties of data.

Michael: I know you’ve thought about a new model for this, can you share that?

Charles: Different kinds of data sets display different “physical” properties, such as mass, velocity, temperature and half life, that there can be a new study called “data physics”.

Michael: That’s a great way of thinking about it. How does this model help you architect for the future of Big Data in the cloud?

Charles: As it has been shown in the Internet space, classic RDBMS is no longer one-size-fits-all. There needs to be a “data fabric” that can weave together multitude of data stores, across multiple locations (both public clouds and private clouds) that can make it easier for the data to be accessed and operationalized.

Michael: What does this mean for the industry?

Charles: Whoever manages to set the standard on this cloud data fabric will own the ultimate API for the cloud generation of big data enterprise apps.

Michael: That’s a great vision Charles, thank you for sharing it with us. For me as a VC this is inspiring. It confirms our view of the disruption that Cloud and Big Data present. And where there’s disruption, there’s opportunity for innovation and entrepreneurship for us to invest in.