Home Data A Clean Room That Works With And Across Clouds? Call It Snowflake’s Chance In Hell

A Clean Room That Works With And Across Clouds? Call It Snowflake’s Chance In Hell

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The data clean room category can be split into walled garden giants – Google, Amazon and Meta – and independent operators, such as Habu, InfoSum and Optable.

The indies have ambitious goals but little revenue to speak of yet.

AdExchanger recently profiled the clean room startups and what the big guys have to offer. But that simple distinction misses an important player in the clean room market: Snowflake.

On the horizon

One of the main issues that divides walled garden clean rooms from the independent ones is the question of interoperability.

Whereas indie clean rooms want interoperability across clouds, walled gardens don’t prioritize it, because they also own media empires and vast consumer data stores that marketers can’t seem to do without.

But Snowflake is a $50 billion embodiment of the need for interoperability. It spans AWS, Google Cloud and Azure, and its value prop is as a layer that works across those services.

“Part of the misunderstanding in the marketplace when companies talk about clean rooms, is Snowflake is already interoperable across clouds,” Bill Stratton, head of Snowflake’s media, entertainment and advertising vertical, told AdExchanger.

The interoperability ability

Snowflake began a concerted effort to push into media and advertising in late 2021. But its longstanding roots in cloud services are an advantage now that clean room tech is a buzzy marketing trend.

For instance, Amazon and Google both recently released clean room products that compete directly with Snowflake by allowing open clean room integrations without also having to use Google or Amazon’s first-party data and advertising products.

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But those products are not an existential threat to Snowflake, Stratton said. Snowflake is a longtime customer of all three major cloud platforms because its clients use those solutions. Their release of more open clean room products means that Snowflake can bring even more business their way, he said.

Cloud customers can build native apps and integrations on their cloud of choice or use tools to collaborate across clouds. But as a provider of cloud-based data warehousing solutions since 2012, Snowflake already has the development across cloud suites.

Although Snowflake has a decade head start in developing cloud apps, interoperability isn’t a technical lift so much as a competition issue.

Snowflake aims to avoid competitive tensions by offering neutral infrastructure – and not owning media or ad tech.

“We’re not a cloud company who owns its own ad business and is launching things like clean rooms to support its own ad business,” Stratton said.

Snowflake is a facilitator, he said, and, unlike Google, for example, makes no claim to IP or data developed on its platform.

Say a brand uses the Google Cloud Platform (GCP), is a heavy Google Search and YouTube advertiser and uses Google’s ad tech. It makes sense for that company to lean into Google’s first-party data and use Google’s Ads Data Hub clean room product to augment its customer data in GCP.

But if that brand decides to switch cloud providers, it could be a problem. Any customer profiles juiced using Google’s media or identity graph cannot be exported. Google will only provide the basic raw data that was originally put into the system.

By comparison, Stratton said Snowflake retains no data assets of its own and brands have the flexibility to use or export data from its platform.

From Snowflake to avalanche

While interoperability is key for Snowflake to win new business, scale is an equally important part of winning the clean room business. Snowflake uses its size and cash flow to cement its status as the go-to clean room tech.

For instance, clean room startup Samooha, which launched about six months ago, took a strategic investment this month from Snowflake. This investment makes Snowflake its exclusive infrastructure provider and sets the two companies on a joint product roadmap.

Samooha’s goal is to make data clean room tech more accessible to marketers without data science or engineering chops, said Kamakshi Sivaramakrishnan, the startup’s CEO and co-founder and the former CEO of cross-device identity company Drawbridge.

“There is a prevalent understanding of clean rooms and their actual mechanics,” she said, but they have to get easier to use. The clean room category needs a Slack-like tech solution, she said, so that the convoluted technology is accessible to everyone in the business.

“There is no clear winner that has brought that ease of use and experience to this tangle,” Sivaramakrishnan said.

Samooha fills an important role for Snowflake, Stratton said. Snowflake may be the base layer tech, but it doesn’t want to build every native app and integration itself.

“The non-technical user – the marketer, let’s say – may not know SQL or our technology,” Stratton said. But if they use a solution like Samooha, he said, “then all of a sudden they’re leveraging our technology in a way that’s easy to adopt.”

Snowflake has also invested in data clean room software startup Habu and in OpenAP, a data clean room and identity resolution company for TV advertising that is co-owned by NBCUniversal, Fox, Paramount and Warner Bros. Discovery.

Sivaramakrishnan elaborated on why clean room tech, which has strong applications for travel, credit card and finance, healthcare, retail and other industries, is taking place within the Snowflake Media and Advertising vertical.

“Given the proximity and liquidity with which this industry operates with each other,” she said, “I think it would be fair to say that media and marketing as an industry brings along with it a set of use cases that are very much around data sharing and collaboration.”

These investments lock promising partners into the Snowflake ecosystem and afford Snowflake a way to profit off of companies that build around its platform.

Snowflake has commercial partnerships with thousands of companies, Stratton said, including with OpenAP, Samooha and Habu before placing the investments. “But not every partnership would have necessarily that level of access to our product, technology and roadmaps.”

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