Data streaming platforms have grown in popularity in recent years thanks to their ability to perform real-time data analysis, enabling more informed decision making. This technology has become essential due to the increase in the volume and speed of data generated by companies and connected devices. In this field, Open Source developments such as Kafka have spent years demonstrating their ability to analyze data at the moment it is produced, giving rise to use cases in all kinds of sectors, from finance to industry.
Among the different Apache Kafka integrations, Confluent stands out, a company that specializes in the development of this type of solution. It is no coincidence since, in fact, Confluent was founded in 2014 by the same engineers who had developed Kafka a few years earlier, that is to say: Jay Kreps, Neha Narkhede and Jun Rao.
In addition to capabilities that we already found in the original development, Confluent stands out for its extensive connectivity capabilities (it integrates with a wide range of tools), it is designed to support microservices architectures, and it offers additional security features. About all this we have had the opportunity to chat with Francisco Molero, country leader of Confluent for Iberia.
[MCPRO] A little over two years ago, Confluent arrived in Spain. Introduce us to the company.
[Francisco Molero] We are a company that was founded in 2014 and what it does is create a new category of data architecture (Data in Motion).
Our founder, Jay Kreps, is also the person who created the Apache Kafka project, which is one of the most famous and widespread Open Source projects in the world. And what he basically does is, using as core Apache Kafka, replatform it to be fully cloud native and complete it with everything related to connectivity, governance, security… making it available to any type of cloud provider, in any type of hybrid environment, on-premisesmulticloud, etc.
What we observed from our origins is that the world has changed radically: digital transformation is a “must” and the need to have the right and correct information in real time for any business and any use case is essential.
And what Jay Kreps observes is that the systems that exist at that time are mostly based on stored information and therefore do not adapt 100% to current needs. They are data that can only be processed once they have been stored and not in real time.
They identify that they have to be able to create something that the data generators make available as they are generated, so that consumers can consume them when they need them, even in real time, in the manner and with the format and with the processing that they have needed to do. Make the information quickly digestible. This is how Confluent gets started.
In Spain, the company lands with physical operation in 2020. Since then, growth in the country has been aligned with the growth of the company.
[MCPRO] You are in the data streaming market and also the main public cloud providers. How do you think this sector has grown in recent years and what impact is it having today?
[Francisco Molero] It is curious to see how real-time analysis began as a luxury and is now a requirement for everything. And this occurs in any field, from the bank’s application to television consumption.
There is an increasing volume of information and at the same time, storing it in “batch” mode is becoming more complicated, but above all, processing it to have information available. So you need solutions that provide access to the data you need, the way you need it, in real time. The growth of Apache Kafka, which is the platform that many of these vendors or even integrators offer proof of this on their platform…in fact, their different integrations are already present in 70-80% of the Fortune 1000 companies.
In Spain, the use of Apache Kafka is massive. The company (large company) that does not use it for something is rare. Cloud vendors have their own solution, correct, but they tend to be platforms that are highly integrated into their ecosystem, with very particular use cases. Instead Confluent continues to participate, roughly influencing the 70-80% of the novelties and evolutions that are made on Apache Kafka.
If we analyze the market, we will see that this is here to stay, that it will continue to grow. Even more so if we take into account the technologies that are being developed at the moment, such as AI or the different metaverses.
[MCPRO] What’s the difference between Confluent and a supported or supported version of Apache Kafka that a company might buy?
[Francisco Molero] First of all, there is the fact that Apache Kafka is not designed to be cloud native and this, in these times, is essential and here we have done a great job of re-engineering the platform.
Then there is the part that we have completed. As manufacturers, we provide the connectors for the vast majority of platforms, technologies, and managed services on the market. We also provide the governance component of the platform and its securitization, “out of the box”.
Confluent is ready to be deployed anywhere, any way, and to suit the needs of any cloud and in any industry. In this sense, we are the only option that allows you to combine different clouds, and even on-premises environments. And of course, there is the knowledge that we have in the company about Apache Kafka, which is superior to that of any other company since we are the ones who largely decide where this open-source development is going to go.
[MCPRO] In Spain, what are the sectors in which you have the most presence? What kind of companies are the ones that most demand a solution like yours?
[Francisco Molero] Conceptually speaking, we are in all industries. What happen? That the speed of digitization depending on which vertical is higher in one than in another. Although in countries like Germany we have a large presence in the industrial field, in the case of Spain I would say that our presence in financial services companies is essential.
We also have a significant presence in retail and utilities. And we are starting to get into some services that the public sector offers. If we look at the photo that comes to us from the United States, we find that the explosion of use cases in all verticals is important.
As use cases in Spain, we can highlight the detection of fraud in the onboarding of processes, such as registering a credit card; or the customer experience in the retail sector, which, for example, acquires the ability to suggest the best offer to the customer in real time. At the same time, there is all the logistics, warehouse management, etc. There are actually dozens of possible use cases.
[MCPRO] You mentioned that you are cloud native… what about those companies or use cases that cannot use the cloud but need to process data in real time?
[Francisco Molero] We are cloud native, but we are also «everywhere«. We make the platform available so that any company can deploy and manage it with the same tools that we use in our managed services, even in their CPD, if they do not have a private cloud.
There are companies, especially in the financial sector, that depending on the component of their business, cannot move it to the cloud, so effectively, we also offer that approach if necessary.
[MCPRO] You recently announced some financial results that spoke of a fairly good last quarter, with growth of 41%. When do you think that long-awaited “break event” will arrive? Is good news expected for 2023?
[Francisco Molero] Although I can’t confirm anything officially, I think you’re not pointing anything wrong. As you know, these types of companies are very much based on growth, but for a few years the market has also begun to value profitability, operating cost, and effectively reaching the break event as soon as possible.
I think we will soon have news in that regard. However, we must bear in mind that Confluent is a very young company (8 years old) and that we are very close to reaching a goal that many other more established companies have taken much longer. It would undoubtedly be great news.
[MCPRO] What plans do you have for the Iberia region in 2023?
[Francisco Molero] For the company, Spain is a focus of growth, even with business areas that are not for Iberia, which are located in Barcelona. There is a strong commitment to the positioning of Confluent in the region.
Our goal is to follow the growth guideline set by the company. Continue to grow and work to achieve profitability in the short term. Confluent’s overall growth last year was 51% and our SaaS business was over 120%. So yes, we are very ambitious and we must continue to do our bit from Iberia to further improve the company’s results.