The 2024 data conference season is well underway, with Data and AI Summit, Gartner D&A, and Snowflake behind us and other exciting and industry-leading events coming up in the next few months. 

At this inflection point, we’re taking stock of some the major themes we’ve seen at conferences this year, as well as some predictions for the second half of this year. Here’s what industry leaders discussed on panels and in showcases. 

1. Snowflake’s expansion into AI and ML

Snowflake is making significant strides in the AI and ML space, transforming from a leading data platform to a powerhouse in AI. One of the most notable announcements was the launch of the Optical LLM Cortex platform. This platform is designed to support generative AI and offers end-to-end machine learning capabilities. 

By providing managed models that do not require running in containers, Snowflake makes it easier for users  to leverage AI for their specific needs. Both task-specific and foundation models can be fine-tuned, which exemplifies the industry’s commitment to finding better, more versatile AI solutions.

2. Commitment to open source

At several of the conferences we’ve attended, we’ve seen a strong commitment to open source. From Databricks to Snowflake’s support Apache Iceberg and Polaris catalog, the industry is dedicated to interoperability and community-driven technology, around data catalogs and beyond. We all win when we can utilize a wide range of tools and frameworks in pursuit of a more flexible and innovative ecosystem.

3. Empowering developers with native applications

The industry’s powerhouses are enabling the development of native applications directly on their platforms. Applications can be built on top of data, rather than moving data to the applications. 

The paradigm change will streamline workflows and increase efficiency for developers, making it easier to integrate and leverage data within their applications. Let’s hear it for the dedication to an integrated and seamless data application environment.

4. The AI Context Engine

We were excited to debut our AI Context Engine™ at Snowflake Summit. Our engine helps seamlessly integrate AI capabilities into data management. The direction the data industry is going shows that AI can be leveraged to enhance data accuracy and overall efficiency. There’s a growing need for intelligent, context-aware data solutions - and we’re thrilled to be part of the action. 

Speaking of making AI tools accessible for all, Snowflake’s Cortex Studio is a no-code tool that allows users to build AI-driven experiences effortlessly. In an impressive keynote demonstration, an audience member with no prior experience using Snowflake successfully created a chatbot using Cortex Studio. This highlights the drive to make advanced AI tools accessible to a broader audience.

5. Semantics and knowledge management

Semantics and knowledge management is the foundation upon which all AI is built. With the rise of generative AI and large language models (LLMs), the need for contextual knowledge within organizations has become paramount. Investing in semantics, ontologies, and metadata is essential for enhancing the functionality and relevance of AI applications. AI systems will become better aligned with organizational goals and data context. A robust knowledge infrastructure will support future AI initiatives.

Final thoughts

For more insights into Snowflake Summit, the conference season so far, and what the rest of the year in data looks like, check out our on-demand Snowflake encore presentation with Juan Sequeda, head of our AI Labs. We’re excited about the rest of this year, as innovations in AI and data continue to gain momentum!