Snowflake eyes growth in Canada, expands Toronto engineering hub
Much of the new technology unveiled by American data cloud company Snowflake at its annual convention this year, billed as the “world’s largest data, apps and AI event,” is powered by its Toronto engineering hub.
At this year’s Snowflake Summit that is taking place June 26-29 in Las Vegas, Snowflake announced innovations that would enable developers to build apps and work with generative AI in the data cloud, with the Snowflake Native App Framework.
“Engineers working in Toronto have built the Snowflake Native Apps, which is now powering the whole Large Language Model and generative AI revolution,” said Qaiser Habib, director of engineering at Snowflake Canada. “So anything required to build an application, publish it to the marketplace for others to install it, use it and even to make money out of it, that’s all built right here in Toronto.”
Traditionally, someone building an AI-based application would need to build it outside the data cloud where their customer’s data resided. With Snowflake Native Apps, Habib said, all the work can be done within Snowflake, enhancing data security.
“Let’s say one of our customers, Maxa for example, is building an AI-based application that gives businesses critical insights into what they do. In the old world, you needed to build it somewhere completely outside Snowflake. You had to hire an army of engineers, you had to spend millions of dollars in infrastructure cost, and you had to make the data go to the application. With this game changing innovation, we give the infrastructure, we take care of the hosting. You can put this model as an app on our marketplace and other companies can download and run it against their data. There is no engineering needed on their side.”
Snowflake counts nearly 600 of the Fortune Global 2000 companies among its 8,000-plus customers. Its Canadian customers include Canadian Tire, Bond Brand Loyalty and WestJet. Bond Brand Loyalty is among those clients that have developed a Snowflake Native App, launched at this year’s Summit. Bond’s app called SynapzeXi, helps its own clients target their customers more efficiently by scaling up personalization of their data.
“They power a lot of loyalty programs like Nike’s or Scene+. Now they’re bringing this intellectual property, this machine learning model, to Snowflake in the form of a native app. Their customers can download this native app, point their data at it, and that’s it, their insights are right there within seconds or minutes,” Habib explained.
At this year’s Summit, Snowflake also launched its Snowpark Container Services, to provide developers with hardware options like graphics processing units or GPUs and run more workloads including a wider range of AI and Machine Learning models on their platform.
“Nvidia is building very powerful models on software today, so now we offer something called Snowpark containers,” Habib said. “We give you the hardware within seconds. Just write a simple query, and you get any hardware that you need, any type of GPUs. All of this within your app and once you build the app, once you put your model in it, you can go and distribute it to thousands of customers on day one.”
Snowflake, based in Bozeman, Montana, was set up in 2012 as a cloud-based data warehouse. It opened its Canadian headquarters in Toronto last year, and currently has 130 employees in the country. Its engineering strength has doubled since it opened the Toronto hub, and Shannon Katschilo, Snowflake’s country manager for Canada, said the company is still going “full steam ahead” with hiring, planning to grow its engineering team three-fold this year alone.
“We’re in one of Canada’s fastest growing industries. Today’s data and AI landscape brings massive potential for organizations coast to coast for improving decision making services and processes across private and public sectors,” she said. “Since our inception, Snowflake has remained hyper laser focused on purposeful hiring, and in Canada we embrace that same philosophy. So we’re hiring for a number of roles.”
Apart from leaning on Canada as an engineering hub, Snowflake also sees strong potential to expand its market here.
“We’re seeing Canada really lead the pack all the way from financial institutions to technology companies really embracing the power of the data cloud, so the Canadian market opportunity is massive,” said Katschilo. “In today’s environment, every single company is a data company and every organization needs that single source of truth of data.”
Snowflake last month reported quarterly revenue of US$623 million, up 48 per cent year-over-year, and forecast product revenue of US$2.6 billion for its current fiscal year.