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Digital leaders who want to build a long-term data strategy must ensure they create a secure and trusted approach to information consolidation.
That’s the conclusion from IT leaders at two travel companies, who told VentureBeat how they’ve put Snowflake at the heart of their business’ data stack strategically. Information security plays a key role in both organizations, as does a recognition that the cloud-based technology platform can be used to create a trusted view of data for decision-making processes.
TripActions: Building a single source of truth
Prabhath Karanth, director of security compliance and assurance at travel management company TripActions, said his company wants to provide real-time data visibility into booking and expenses for companies that use its services. He recognizes the long-term success of this strategy is inexorably linked to information security.
“We generate a lot of data,” he said. “Our customers trust our platform with their data. It’s critical for us to have the right security controls to protect this data in our infrastructure, applications, and environment.”
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TripActions runs a modern data stack, based on software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications, the AWS cloud platform and Snowflake Data Cloud. Karanth explained that the company’s services rely on a range of application programming interfaces (APIs) to third-party organizations, such as travel inventory providers. Snowflake helps bring these disparate data sources together.
“Each of these different layers produce a lot of data,” he said. “And as we are expanding as a company and onboarding more customers, the volume of data we’re producing continues to increase. We need to have a single source of truth for this data so that we can satisfy our use cases around control and to demonstrate security and compliance.”
According to Karanth any company with a modern data stack will focus on providing cloud security tools, including those that cover network and workload protection, endpoint security, and tools that help measure and ensure compliance with a host of data regulations, like GDPR and CCPA. He expressed that Snowflake plays a crucial facilitating role.
“We aggregate all the data that is generated from these different security tools into a Snowflake data lake, and we use that lake as the central source of truth for building multiple use cases on top of that,” Karanth said.” We then integrate with Snowflake partners, such as Hunters and Anecdotes AI , for different use cases.”
TripActions uses Hunters‘ security operation center technology to identify situations when data assets deviate from a desired security state and to identify remediation. The company uses Anecdotes AI to help with continuous compliance and to demonstrate to auditors and customers how it is building a mature security program.
Karanth anticipates further technological developments in data protection. He says there’s a lot of chatter in the security industry about the increased use of automation. That’s a movement that’s only going to gather pace, says Karanth – and he advises other IT leaders that want to exploit automation to view security as a data problem.
“If you set your environment up in a way where you are building your security practices and programs on top of the data layer, it becomes much easier to scale and it becomes much simpler to provide deep, data-driven insights to your executive management to get further investments to your security program.”
TUI: Creating a competitive edge through data
Marc Jennings, CIO of analytics and artificial intelligence (AI) at TUI, is another IT leader in the travel industry who says security is a crucial component of an integrated data stack. His company, which is a travel and transport giant, uses Snowflake’s technology to consolidate information and develop timely insights for its employees who work in a highly competitive marketplace.
“Within the business environment that we operate at the moment, there are a lot of issues that we need to be aware of,” Jennings said. “Inflation costs are changing, fuel prices are going up and down, and we need to be able to update and recalculate our costs a lot more effectively.”
TUI began its digital transformation program in late 2017, with the aim of consolidating separate systems across the group to create a single source of truth for data. Jennings and his colleagues established a set of architectural principles for the creation of a modern data stack that would help the company consolidate its information effectively.
Known as ABCDS, the architectural principles cover five areas:
- APIs, including integration and real-time processing
- Big Data, which covers data consolidation across the estate
- Cloud, which defines a cloud-first approach for the business
- Devops, with a concentration on automation and continuous delivery
- Security, which embraces DevSecOps and ensures security, is an inherent element of the product development life cycle
“We have called out security as a separate acronym,” says Jennings. “We need to develop the right security culture throughout the business, so it’s not just technology, but it’s everything that we do. We must think about security in everything we build.”
TUI’s digital transformation encompasses a big shift. Instead of individual regional markets using spot solutions for business reporting via on-premises kit, Jennings and his colleagues have created a global approach to data that focuses on three core technologies. As well as Snowflake, TUI’s data stack includes AWS for cloud and Tableau for business reporting.
Jennings gave the example of the impact of the Snowflake Data Cloud on business performance. Before the implementation of TUI’s digital transformation strategy, it used to take two hours to update prices on the website after a customer had made a booking. Now, thanks to Snowflake and the cloud, those updates can be completed in under 20 minutes.
“It’s all about our ability to deliver capabilities and move fast,” he said. “That increase in application performance and scalability is built on top of Snowflake. It’s given us an edge in terms of reacting to what’s happening, and then reflecting that price change to customers.”
Jennings continues to look for ways to improve the company’s data stack. TUI is also exploring Unistore, which is a new workload approach in Snowflake that allows organizations to work with transactional and analytical data. While the data stack is currently focused on Snowflake, AWS and Tableau, Jennings said other technologies could play a crucial role in the future.
“We will grow that platform, but we have made a deliberate policy to maximize the tools and the strategies that we’ve chosen today,” he said. “We want to make sure that we’re exploiting them to their full potential. And then, when new services or products become available, we want to make sure that they fit into our stack.”