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AiThority Interview with Haoyuan Li, Founder, CTO, and Chairman at Alluxio

AiThority Interview with Haoyuan Li, Founder, CTO, and Chairman at Alluxio

Know My Company

What drove you to found Alluxio?

I believe Data Orchestration technology has the potential to disrupt the IT industry. To realize this vision, it’s about building a team and community around this belief. And that was my goal when I founded Alluxio – to create and grow a team and community of users who are ready to turn the traditional compute stack upside down. And I believe we’ve just begun to see the significant impact it can have (and is having) not only in industries but in people’s lives.

What is Data Orchestration?

Data Orchestration enables applications to leverage any data from anywhere in any environment without knowing the difference. It enables separation of storage and computes, and more effective cloud adoption. It fundamentally enables organizations to power their people to seamlessly leverage their data as effectively as possible. You can think of it like this – Data Orchestration is to data like container orchestration is to containers.

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What inspired you to work specifically in Data Orchestration after spending a substantial amount of time studying computer science?

I had an intrinsic interest in building a common infrastructure to help various industries more quickly advance their innovation. With the world entering the era of the data revolution, which is still at its early stage, I believed the data revolution would help the world innovate faster, and Data Orchestration would be a critical piece of it.

To realize the value of data, organizations need a platform to enable each team in the organization to easily utilize the data. Two big challenges are data silos and the data-driven application explosion. Status quo is that people have been trying to solve the problem in the storage layer or application layer, which only amplify the challenges. At the same time, history has shown us both approaches failed to do so, and there are some fundamental reasons behind it. So, I took a radically different approach to create a new layer: a Data Orchestration layer that would address the challenges.

Today, I’m super excited to have the opportunity to create and work on this layer and system, to enable faster and stronger innovation across the board.

Why are businesses laying a huge impetus on building business models based on data insights?

If you look back in history, each human revolution releases people’s labor power. This started with the 1st and 2nd Industrial Revolutions. We’re now in the 3rd Industrial Revolution – the data era, where data is business-critical. And we’ll soon enter the 4th Industrial Revolution, where data is life-critical (some may even argue we’re there today).

Data insights are critical to today’s businesses, period. There’s not one business that can claim success if they haven’t unlocked their data to provide insight – our world runs on data.

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What would be your opinion on the current business trend of integrating Artificial Intelligence in everything?

Artificial Intelligence is a natural way to evolve. Most companies are trying to employ Machine Learning applications to improve their business, but I think we’re in the infancy stage of true AI embedded in our everyday lives. I’m really excited to see how much progress we can make in the next few years – I know Alluxio will continue to help with the data challenges around supporting AI workloads.

How does Alluxio focus on product delivery considering the rise in technology prices and rapid changes in business trends?

We have two core beliefs:

  • Continue to innovate with a balance of attempting to predict the future based on trends and logic.
  • Keep communication lines open with our community and industry as a whole. This is everyone from our open source users to our employees to our customers to our partners – their feedback is crucial as we continue to innovate while being cognizant of market changes.
How difficult is it to procure and sustain a workforce that specializes in advanced computing?

When a company is working on the edge, and innovating in technology, it can be challenging to find the right mix of talent. I am proud that we have many Ph. Ds and top-notch graduates from UC Berkeley, CMU, and Stanford, in addition to top-level engineers that worked at various leading tech giants in the industry. They chose to join us on our journey towards building this new future. While the hiring environment is competitive, I’ve found that once we find a believer, they’re in it for the long haul.

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How does Alluxio infuse AI to strengthen its platform?

Our platform powers many AI applications with data-driven applications. For example, financial services companies are running Machine Learning algorithms to do risk management, autonomous driving companies are running their AI workloads on our platform, and e-commerce companies are running AI-based recommendation applications based with our platform.

We also use various algorithms in our platform to produce better results and decisions in our own system.

Does your role mandate you in keeping in touch with the Sales, Marketing and Branding initiatives of your company?

Yes, I spend a lot of time talking with customers to understand their pain points, figure out ways to help, and more importantly, to march towards the vision together. We can’t do this without supporting customers. I also care deeply about our marketing and branding here. It’s critical that we share our belief and vision with the community in a way that is positive, constructive, and helpful to those who are using our technology.

Which events and webinars would you suggest to our readers as being the best in grasping information on emerging technologies?

Compute-oriented conferences – Presto Summit, Spark Summit – are good places to understand compute trends and where this layer in the stack is headed. Data engineering-focused events like DataCouncil summits have proven to be very insightful when it comes to data engineering trends.

I also listen to Ben Lorica’s O’Reilly Data Show podcast, which is all about the big data/data science industry. He tends to have many thought leaders and visionaries on the show who share what they’re working on and where they believe the industry is headed.

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Where do you see AI/Machine Learning and other smart technologies heading beyond 2025?

AI/Machine Learning & Analytics are all data-driven applications. We have seen that every 3-5 years, there is another wave of new data-driven applications. While I can’t say for certain where this wave will be beyond 2025 and I would like to be surprised by the future innovations. In the meantime, I am super confident the pioneers in the industry will have new waves of data-driven applications.

What start-ups are you keenly following?

I’m very interested in continuously learning about new ways companies & products leveraging data to serve the community and improve the social efficiency. For example, how mobile payments change people’s lives in various countries, how applications employ machine learning & AI to help people easily find and browse the content they are interested in.

What would have been your ideal alternative career choice?

I honestly can’t think of anything. What I’m doing is my ideal career!

Tag the one person in the industry whose answers to these questions you would love to read.

Ben Lorica, Kai-Fu Lee, Ion Stoica

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Thank you, Haoyuan! That was fun and hope to see you back on AiThority soon.

Haoyuan (H.Y.) Li is the founder, chairman, and CTO of Alluxio. He received his Ph.D. from UC Berkeley AMPLab, in Computer Science. At the AMPLab, he created Alluxio (formerly Tachyon) Open Source Data Orchestration System, co-created Apache Spark Streaming, and became an Apache Spark founding committer. Before UC Berkeley, he got an M.S. from Cornell University and a B.S. from Peking University, all in Computer Science.

Alluxio is the developer of open-source data orchestration software for the cloud. Alluxio moves data closer to big data and machine learning compute frameworks in any cloud across clusters, regions, clouds, and countries, providing memory-speed data access to files and objects.  Intelligent data tiering and data management deliver consistently high performance to customers in financial services, high tech, retail, and telecommunications. Alluxio is in production use today at seven out of the top ten internet companies. Venture-backed by Andreessen Horowitz and Seven Seas Partners, Alluxio was founded at UC Berkeley’s AMPLab by the creators of the Tachyon open source project.

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