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Mercedes Westcott on Cloudera’s Hadoop Focus, How to Advance Big Data in Gov’t

Mercedes Westcott on Cloudera's Hadoop Focus, How to Advance Big Data in Gov't - top government contractors - best government contracting event


Mercedes Westcott leads the public sector business at software development company Cloudera in her vice president role there.

Her GovCon career includes stops at Delphix as that company’s public sector VP and VP of security software at HP Enterprise Services, which she joined upon that company’s buy of ArcSight.

In this conversation with ExecutiveBiz, Westcott discusses the adoption of Hadoop and other big data tools by many federal agencies and industry’s role in that effort, as well as her advisory role at Threatstream.


ExecutiveBiz: When did you join Cloudera and what have you primarily focused on since?

Mercedes Westcott: I joined Cloudera in September 2013, when our CEO Tom Reilly asked me to help build and expand our government team to catch up with the growth we were seeing in our commercial markets and the demand we were seeing in our government market. Cloudera Government, which then consisted of a dozen highly skilled, capable yet overloaded individuals, focused primarily on the well-established intelligence community vertical.

Cloudera Government has grown very quickly and has expanded across four verticals: the intelligence community, referred to as National Security Programs, the Department of Defense, the civilian community and the federal system integrator community. Our account executive team is the sharpest and most seasoned sales team I’ve ever had the privilege to work with.

The same holds true for our engineers, who are exceptional individuals with rare and highly sought-after Hadoop and data science skills. The Cloudera Government management team is an energized, experienced and agile group of leaders that is able to handle the pressure that comes with a hyper-growth company.


ExecutiveBiz: How do you apply your advisory role at ThreatStream to your work at Cloudera?

Mercedes Westcott: I’ve been fortunate to have worked with and learned from some of the most talented and successful leaders in Silicon Valley, including ThreatStream’s CEO Hugh Njemanze, CTO and founder Greg Martin, Chief Strategy Officer Colby DeRodeff and Tom Reilly, who sits on the Board of Directors. We have been on the same team in the past and experienced the hard, yet fulfilling work needed to bring a small 100-person startup to IPO in a handful of years. So when the ThreatStream management team asked me to join in a federal adviser capacity, it was a very easy decision.

ThreatStream’s OPTIC, a data-driven cyber-defense platform, helps organizations defend from cyber attacks and integrates with Open Source Hadoop, the core of a Cloudera enterprise data hub (EDH). This allows me to keep my toe in the cybersecurity market, of which I was part of at ArcSight and Hewlett Packard Enterprise Security Software after its acquisition.

Since my responsibilities at Cloudera require me full-time, the advisory assistance I provide to ThreatStream is done in my off-hours and is typically in the form of identifying and screening candidates for ThreatStream’s government sales and engineering teams as well as providing advice on programs and agencies for the ThreatStream platform.


ExecutiveBiz: What are some examples of untapped potential for agencies with Hadoop?

Mercedes Westcott: Hadoop emerged in 2005 and Cloudera was founded in 2008, but it wasn’t until 2010 that it really started to burst onto the government scene. Even though some agencies in the intelligence community were early adopters, Hadoop and big data in general is still a new phenomenon for many agencies, which means there is a lot of untapped potential. As agencies work within new and tighter budgets, one use for Hadoop is as an excellent solution for short- and long-term storage because it provides for inexpensive storage, using industry standard servers.

With Hadoop, the stored data is also immediately accessible to a wide range of workloads for the business and the mission, such as data exploration and enterprise data warehouse optimization. It is a great tool for maximizing infrastructure skills and data return-on-investment across the board because it breaks down the barriers posed by traditional approaches to storage and analytics such as loads of data locking up value and insight into a particular application or view. This is timely because agencies need to visualize across more types and volumes of data in more cost-effective ways.

Since Hadoop is open source at the core, agencies can own their data and are not be locked in to proprietary data repositories or a single application stack from a vendor down the road. Hadoop is also an open framework, so agencies will have the option to take advantage of innovation on Hadoop regardless of origin. Additional capabilities in a Cloudera EDH that make Hadoop work better within the enterprise include data lineage, which enables one to know the source of the data and see the chain of custody, including the people and ETL processes that transformed the data.

Cloudera is the only Hadoop player that offers native, full, end-to-end encryption, that is compliance-ready. We are a leader in role-based access and cell-level security and we continue to innovate.


ExecutiveBiz: What barriers exist within government on the use of big data and how can industry help overcome that?

Mercedes Westcott: Historically, one barrier is doing nothing rather than taking on a new disruptive approach i.e. distributed file system. Agencies have struggled with the fast movement of the big data market. Ninety percent of the world’s data was created in the last two years and agencies need to implement Hadoop, the only solution that can handle the data in the midst of all the governance built over decades. Agencies and industry continue to adapt processing and implement ways of getting value from unconventional data stores. Agencies have to be ready for the change that will accelerate with the emergence of the “Internet of Things.”

Additionally Hadoop is a platform that spans most departments for agencies so learning to share information using this new technology, across data silos is a cultural change. Industry can help by sharing best practices since we’ve walked the path from pilot to production in the toughest of agency climates with some of the most arduous ATO (authority to operate) paperwork with the strictest of security requirements.

Cloudera has trained over a hundred thousand Hadoop professionals globally and with a curriculum taught in over 30 universities, we can help people get up to speed. Our partners and the federal system integrator community are poised to support all of these agencies and programs.


ExecutiveBiz: What is your definition of data fusion and how does Cloudera work with agencies in that area?

Mercedes Westcott: Data fusion is the integration of all structured or unstructured data combined with social media data like Twitter feeds and satellite imagery data. Hadoop brings the data into one repository, an enterprise data hub, and makes it accessible in an accurate and consistent manner. It is a 360-degree view of data and analytics. With Hadoop, we can take large amounts of data from multiple sources and turn it into something meaningful.

An example is assistance to our warfighters by infusing vast amounts of data about weather conditions, enemy troop movements, terrain and social media feeds to quickly determine how to direct our troops using this critical information. We have over 1,200 partners in our Cloudera Connect program, who are doing and exploring everything that data and analytics can be leveraged for, so much so that data analytics has become pervasive within the workflow.

It is everywhere, all the time, regardless of type, volume and flow. This change starts with fusing data together to enable this foundation.

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Written by Ross Wilkers

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