Exclusive - Hitachi Data Systems VP of Analytics and Big Data Aloke Guha Talks Analytics and Startups

Exclusive - Hitachi Data Systems VP of Analytics and Big Data Aloke Guha Talks Analytics and Startups

Aloke Guha is the Vice President, Analytics and Big Data at Hitachi Data Systems and a passionate IT executive and serial entrepreneur with over two decades of experience working in public companies and startups. He has 26 issued patents and over 30 pending, is an avid traveler speaking at over 60 conferences and sings in Boulder’s cool choir.

icrunchdata speaks with technology leaders in the analytics space to learn about what they are currently focused on, explore their career path and dig into what their interests are outside of technology. We caught up with Aloke recently to ask him about his role at Hitachi Data Systems, his experience founding startups and what his interests are outside of the office.
Aloke, thanks for talking to us today. Let’s get started…

You are the Vice President, Analytics and Big Data at Hitachi Data Systems where you are responsible for R&D for analytics and big data products and solutions, and you have been with the company since February 2014. What have been a few big changes within the organization since you started?

Since 2014 Hitachi has been making investments in analytics and big data related businesses. This is part of its larger business strategy of using IT to provide solutions to social infrastructure that includes communications, healthcare, energy, and transportation. One significant investment was Pentaho, a data integration, visualization and analytics company.

As the VP, Analytics and Big Data, what are your top 3 responsibilities that you focus on every day?

My responsibilities include the incubation and productization of big data infrastructure and analytics software, integrating with other technology partners, and collaborating with other Hitachi businesses.

You have been working in the analytics technology, from neural networks in the early 90s to text analytics in the pre-Hadoop days and big data today. How have the big data and analytics technologies and markets evolved in the past decade?

One huge change is that the proliferation of cloud services has made the effort to launching and deploying big data applications very easy and cheap. A single person can start an analytics company with a laptop and a credit card! The second change is that with the proliferation of real-time and streaming data sources, from sensor data, social media, GPS and mobile data, there is a much richer variety of data to capture and analyze and extract insights, much of it in near real-time. However, the one thing that has not fundamentally changed is the core machine learning and analysis technology that is in use.

You have founded, built and been involved in a number of technology startups that were acquired. What is your advice for startups that are at the crossroads of being acquired or seeking additional venture capital?

I would say the most important criterion is building a business that has immediate business benefit and sales traction. If you think you can organically grow the sales side of the business, which is not always easy when you are selling to large enterprise customers, then you should seek venture capital. Otherwise, get an OEM partnership with an established big player that has the sales and marketing engine to help you grow your revenue.

You currently have 30 pending patents and have been issued 26 starting from back in 1992 with ‘Genetic Algorithm Synthesis of Neural Networks’. How has the value or purpose of owning a patent changed in the last 20+ years since technology seems to be constantly changing and rapidly evolving?

This is a very relevant topical issue for entrepreneurs today. With the proliferation of open source software and its incorporation into more products and services, owning a patent is becoming a less critical need than having a working solution that you can deliver to the marketplace. Also, after 2014 case of Alice vs CLS Bank, it will be harder to obtain and enforce software methods patents. I still believe you need novelty in your solution, especially on the technical side, in that you may find creative ways of solving a complex problem. Your solution might be patentable but don't rely on that as a differentiator or a fundamental barrier.

You’ve spent your entire career in technology but if tomorrow someone asked you to start a business that is completely unrelated to tech, what would you start?

That’s an interesting question. I think given my creative bent and interests in many areas including history, culture, and arts, I might consider writing. Perhaps science or historical fiction?

You currently live in Boulder, CO and I’ve heard great things about it. Let’s say that I have a 12 hour layover at the Denver International Airport and I want to go check out Boulder for the day. Where do I go, where do I eat and what should I definitely not miss?

I am probably not a good foodie guide as I don't eat out a lot when I am home. However, I do live in a charming small Boulder county city called Louisville that has some very nice and unique restaurants. Some of my local favorites in the downtown area include LuLu’s Barbeque and 12 Degrees brewpub.

One of your interests outside of the office is singing in Boulder’s cool choir. When did you get started singing in the choir and what do you like most about it?

Elementary school choir in an all-boys Jesuit school where singing was a class all had to take until 5th grade! Singing is my release and it takes my mind off all the daily grind and pressure. I believe in the song we often sing which goes, “What would I do without my music? “

Your first tweet @satguru was on January 8, 2009 and read, ‘Finally, I’m on twitter :) plan to track trends of different kinds’. How do you use Twitter today and are you glad that you jumped on board?

I am afraid I have not been very active on Twitter recently. I do occasionally interesting trends and news that I find significant from the tech world.

If you could have lunch with two inspirational leaders that you have not me yet, who would you choose?

Two Bills from different worlds who share interest in making a positive influence in the world after they move away from their formal leadership positions: Gates and Clinton.

Aloke, those are all of the questions that I have for you today and thank you for taking the time to speak with us.

Article published by icrunchdata
Image credit by Hitachi Data Systems
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