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Chris Gladwin: Unlocking the Value of Data

VCapital Team, September 28, 2023

Envisioning a world where data is not just a resource but a source of profound value, a catalyst for innovation, and a force for positive change.

Meet Chris Gladwin, serial tech entrepreneur, avid outdoor adventurer, and the visionary shaping the future of data analysis at hyperscale. As the founder and driving force behind Ocient, Gladwin’s journey is a testament to unwavering commitment, unshakable determination, and the pursuit of excellence in the world of hyperscale data analysis.

One unicorn startup wasn't enough.

The story of Ocient starts back at a Chicago-based company called Cleversafe, founded and sold by Chris Gladwin who, at the time, pioneered what is now widely referred to as remote object storage. As the founder of Cleversafe, Chris oversaw the development of a disruptive approach to scaling data storage on commodity hardware that would soon become the leading, industry-standard approach to exabyte-scale data storage. Gladwin and the Cleversafe team enabled customers from Shutterfly to the DoD to grow exabyte data stores with ease.

Throughout the journey to becoming the market leader in hyperscale data storage, Gladwin often heard customers ask, “But what’s in all this data?” That was the spark that bore Ocient.

The hardware revolution that paved the way for Ocient

In 2015, Cleversafe was acquired by IBM, becoming Chicago’s first core software unicorn. Despite his success in hyperscale data storage, Gladwin kept remembering the customers who wanted a way to unlock more value from their data. He saw a gap in the market: an increasing number of customers needed hyperscale data analysis, but the technology to deliver it efficiently and cost-effectively didn’t exist. The way Gladwin saw it, this gap held the potential to create even more value and impact than his previous venture.

In looking at the hardware innovations coming to market in 2015, Gladwin understood he was at the tip of a hardware revolution that would lead to unprecedented changes in software capabilities, particularly for data analysis at scale. When stitched together with the right code, innovations including NVMe solid state drives, high core count processors, and ultra-fast networking could unlock unrivaled parallelism and throughput, powering a new age of high-performance data processing and analytics capabilities. And so, Ocient was born.

From vision to reality: Ocient’s journey from concept to the leading hyperscale data and analytics platform

In 2016, Gladwin and the Ocient founding team embarked on a new journey with a singular mission — to create a world in which people and enterprises realize significant value by analyzing the data around them without limits on performance, scale, or cost efficiency.

Building upon his track record at Cleversafe, Chris set out to leverage the latest developments in modern hardware to develop a disruptive approach to processing and analyzing data at hyperscale. He tapped into his network to assemble a team of the world’s leading experts in hyperscale analytics, and together they set out to engineer a new approach to data analysis from the ground up. 

Fast forward six years, and the Ocient Hyperscale Data Warehouse was ready for launch. In May 2022, Ocient emerged from stealth mode, launching version 19 of its flagship hyperscale data warehouse product. Touting its Compute Adjacent Storage Architecture™ (CASA), Ocient’s novel approach is akin to real-time analytics databases focused on sub-second query response, always on data integration, and high concurrency workloads.

This architecture enables Ocient to reach unparalleled levels of performance on commodity hardware. And while cloud data warehouses have placed all their bets on the cloud, Gladwin’s knowledge of large enterprise and intelligence agencies led Ocient to develop flexible deployment modalities for on-premises, cloud, and hybrid cloud deployments.

Driving the future of hyperscale data analytics – a $38B market

With a market forecast to reach $38B in the next five years, Ocient is the only data warehouse provider uniquely focused on solving complex customer challenges at petabyte scale. Within a year of emerging from stealth mode, Ocient was developing relationships with many strategic customers, including business analytics firm Dun & Bradstreet.

After successfully migrating Dun & Bradstreet’s mainframe solution to the cloud after years of failed attempts, Ocient's commitment to excellence and hyperscale expertise drove 171% growth and enabled it to take out mainstream data warehouses like Snowflake, which aren’t capable of the performance at scale delivered by Ocient.

Out of the gate, Ocient appealed to advertising technology (adtech) companies because of its ability to deliver hyperscale computing performance across always-on streams of data at a fraction of the price of competitive solutions. By partnering closely with customers in adtech, Ocient quickly grew beyond “just a data warehouse” to provide an opportunity for customers to streamline and consolidate multiple disparate data analysis environments across real-time analytics, SQL data warehousing, extract transform and load (ETL), geospatial analytics, machine learning, and more, into a single point solution.

With deals closing across telecommunications and the intelligence community this fall, Ocient has captured market share with customers notorious for taking years to adopt new technology. Each win further demonstrates the company’s potential to single-handedly serve the entire category of hyperscale data analytics.

Insights into the future: the data-driven horizon and the age of hyperscale

Ocient’s journey has been nothing short of remarkable. The company’s cutting-edge technology is a testament to Gladwin’s commitment to innovation and talent for fine-tuning a startup’s go-to-market approach to displace even the biggest tech giants. Gladwin’s ability to navigate the challenges of a tumultuous market and the growing pains of a startup have driven Ocient to grow, even in tough times, and achieve the unthinkable in a crowded data warehouse landscape.

As the macro funding market for databases and data warehouses begins to open back up, Ocient is poised to go well beyond unicorn status. Its early successes in adtech, government, and telecommunications use cases have built enough pipeline to close out the company’s FY25, and the company is exploring early customer interest across the climate intelligence, vehicle telematics, and financial services industries.

In a world where data is the new gold, Chris Gladwin and the team of experts at Ocient remain at the forefront of the hyperscale data revolution. They envision a world where data is not just a resource but a source of profound value, a catalyst for innovation, and a force for positive change.

And yet, the journey is far from over. The data landscape continues to evolve, and the Ocient team is prepared to adapt, innovate, and lead the way. Chris Gladwin’s story is a reminder that greatness can emerge from anywhere, including the heartland of America. It’s a testament to the power of relentless determination, unyielding curiosity, and the belief that technology can shape the future in ways we can only imagine.

With Gladwin at the helm, Ocient is poised to continue leading the world in hyperscale data analysis, and the future of data has never looked brighter.