today’s data block Announce it has acquired Okera, an AI-focused data governance platform. Neither company disclosed the purchase price. Okera had previously raised nearly $30 million, according to Crunchbase data. Investors include Felicis, Bessemer Venture Partners, Cyber Mentor Fund, ClearSky and Emergent Ventures.
Databricks noted in today’s announcement that data governance is already a hot topic, but the recent focus on AI has highlighted some of the shortcomings of previous approaches to it. “Historically, data governance techniques, regardless of their sophistication, have relied on enforcing controls at some narrow waist layer and requiring workloads to fit within a ‘walled garden’ at this layer,” the company explained in a blog post road. This approach is no longer applicable in the era of large language models (LLMs), because the number of assets grows too fast (in part because most of them are machine-generated) and because the overall AI landscape changes so quickly that standard access controls cannot be implemented quickly enough. Capture these changes.
Okera then uses an AI-powered system that can automatically discover and classify personally identifiable information, label it, and apply rules to it (with an emphasis on metadata) using a no-code interface.
As the Databricks team highlighted, this was one of the reasons the company was interested in acquiring Okera, but another reason was the service’s isolation technology, which enables governance control over arbitrary workloads without any significant overhead. The technology is still in private preview, but could be one of the main reasons Databricks bought the company.
Databricks, which launched its own LLM a few weeks ago, plans to integrate Okera’s technology into its unified directory, its existing data and AI asset governance solutions. The company also noted that the acquisition will allow Databricks to expose additional APIs that its own data governance partners will be able to use to provide solutions to their customers.
With this acquisition, Databricks also brings in the co-founder and CEO of Okera Nong Li on board.Lee created Apache Parquet Data storage format, before working at Cloudera and starting Okera, he was actually an engineer at Databricks, where he was the founding CTO of Okera and became CEO in February 2022.
“As the volume, velocity, and variety of data across disparate applications continues to grow, CIOs, CDOs, and CEOs must fully balance these two often conflicting initiatives—not to mention the historically difficult task of managing access across multiple clouds. The strategy has been painful and time-consuming,” Lee wrote in today’s announcement. “Many organizations do not have enough technical talent to manage access policies at scale, especially with the proliferation of LLMs. What they need is a modern, AI-centric governance solution. We are very excited to be joining the Databricks team, And bring our expertise in building secure, scalable and simple governance solutions to some of the world’s most forward-thinking enterprises.”
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