Interview with Jean-Marc Lazard: the OpenDataWare project

Following previous posts in which we introduced Yakwala and D-Data Santé, today we’re taking a look at the third Dataconnexions project that chose to partner with EXALEAD and use the EXALEAD CloudView platform: OpenDataWare.

• Please tell us a little about yourself and your team.

My name is Jean-Marc Lazard, and I’m the founder of OpenDataSoft, which offers a turnkey solution for quickly creating open data portals and intelligent data access services. Our platform is designed to allow our clients, companies, or communities to dive right into the big data and cloud computing era. This is possible due to our experience with the issues of processing and exploiting data on a large scale, specifically on the web.

• Tell us about your project.

Our project is called OpenDataWare. OpenDataWare will be the social data platform that will allow organizations, journalists, individuals — basically anyone — to easily create their own space where they can display and share data.

• Where did you get the idea for OpenDataWare?

The idea for OpenDataWare was the result of three observations:
1/ Today, everything exists in the form of data; it never even occurs to us anymore whether or not some piece of content or information is available in digital form: that’s our definition of big data
2/ The Internet has given us the technical means to easily connect content and people, and has given rise to new practices, like social networks and cloud storage
3/ There is no social platform in the cloud that is dedicated to data, that allows you to create and use data in a participative way within a special-interest community; the only options are using online storage services or sharing services for files (like spreadsheets).
But OpenDataWare goes beyond these limitations and lets people create and manage their own spaces for publishing and sharing data.

• How do you plan to deliver this new service to the public and other users?

Users will be able to create their own spaces on OpenDataWare and load their own data into them, whether the data comes from files on their computers, a database, or a software product.
OpenDataWare will offer different online services:
– data enrichment (adding geographic coordinates taken from a list of addresses, adding links to Wikipedia from proper nouns, etc.)
– expanding on data (renaming column headers, adding comments, suggesting translations, etc.)
– making data access more intuitive (search engine for data, map navigation, etc.)
– and, last but not least, sharing data publicly or within closed communities (data that can be downloaded in reusable formats like CSV, XML or JSON; ability to access data dynamically via APIs, etc.).
So our online service would be attractive for:
– small groups of people who need a quick and easy way to share data online without requiring any specific technical skills (homeowners’ associations, nonprofits, professional organizations, small communities, SMEs, etc.) – or the largest of organizations that want to break free from the application silos to which their data is confined, and finally be able to get added value in return for their investments in their backend systems.
OpenDataWare is firmly founded on cloud principles, both technologically and economically speaking.

• Why Dataconnexions?

From an open data point of view, Dataconnexions was able to gather a significant number of players from very different worlds: startups, major companies in services and industry, researchers, government, education… This is an indicator of the importance of data sharing in creating new economic models: it’s no longer possible for anyone, whether a company or a public entity, not to have access to all of the data necessary for them to offer new services.
Sharing our vision and our solutions with the Dataconnexions community seemed like the obvious choice.

• Have you already integrated the EXALEAD CloudView platform into your OpenDataSoft solution?

What have been the main advantages?
Because I have five years of experience creating and running Labs projects at EXALEAD, I had a very good idea of what EXALEAD CloudView could do for us in a big data context. Along with other big data technologies (specifically MongoDB and Hadoop), the OpenDataSoft platform exploits the rapid indexing abilities and robustness of EXALEAD CloudView when it comes to large volumes of data. The typical example would be a data stream (several million pieces of data per day) acquired through a network of linked objects, that needs to be assembled in near real time in map interfaces, with a response time that is consistent with what the public expects from the web, and at an acceptable cost.

• At what stage are you in your project?

OpenDataWare is in production and is being used by a limited number of alpha testers. Within a few weeks, we are expecting to send out invitations so more users can join, and then we plan to open the platform to the public in the second quarter of 2012.
We are, of course, open to proposals from any organization that might want to work with us on the development of OpenDataWare during this phase. (contact@opendatasoft.com)

• What’s it like working with Exalead teams?

We are, I think, the first team to use the latest version of EXALEAD CloudView, V6, in production. So we are in very close contact with the EXALEAD development teams, who are interested in our feedback. Plus, that means we are among the first to benefit from improvements to the product.