Innovation in the energy sector is critical to our planet’s future. We interviewed Raymond De Vries, Data Engineer at Vattenfall, to understand how the energy giant uses Snowflake’s Data Cloud to transform its customer journeys at scale.
Vattenfall supplies electricity and gas to more than seven million customers across five European countries. Its main corporate goal is to be fossil-free within one generation, meaning everything from its energy production and data usage to its suppliers need to demonstrate progress in eliminating carbon emissions.
But achieving this mammoth task will require the company to lead with data driven insights. And while Vattenfall’s operation in the Netherlands is considered an industry leader, it faced significant challenges in storing and processing the mountains of data it needed to drive meaningful change.
“While our old on-premises data warehouse did what we needed it to do, we realized our workloads had to move to the cloud to improve,” explained Raymond. “After trialing several cloud provider data platform solutions, the Snowflake Data Cloud and its native features was the future-proof platform we wanted to build upon.”
Migrating nearly 10TB of data efficiently and cost-effectively
With a large amount of customer, operations, and website data to manage, Vattenfall in the Netherlands’ datasets are diverse and business critical. The company’s data team found it difficult to find a data warehousing solution that could cover every base—while also being highly scalable and cost effective.
“After an unsuccessful attempt to try to migrate our data to a certain data warehouse, one of our team suggested Snowflake Data Cloud,” said Raymond. “Right from the first test on a large dataset, Snowflake’s performance seemed too good to be true. I even manually checked the data to make sure it was correct. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.”
Following a series of successful tests, Vattenfall in the Netherlands set about migrating its data warehouse to the Snowflake Data Cloud, rebuilding and cleansing its datasets as it went. In just 24 months, all the company’s business-critical customer and website data was migrated and is now stored and processed in Snowflake, using the platform’s near-limitless processing power to conduct hundreds of queries every day—significantly faster than the company’s previous solution.
A one-stop-shop for data processing and analytics
While Vattenfall in the Netherlands has only just gone live on the Snowflake Data Cloud, the company is already looking at ways to expand its use. Most importantly, it’s started experimenting with its data—something it couldn’t do with its previous on-premises solution.
It’s Vattenfalls’ website interactions with its Dutch customers where the company sees huge opportunities to innovate and experiment. For example, its data scientists are looking at ways to pre-empt customer queries, combining the latest data with website activity to feed on-page chatbots. Supported by machine learning, the company hopes it will reduce the amount of contact center interactions—enhancing the customer experience and freeing its agents to focus only on the more complex tasks.
“Our data scientists expect up-to-date data—almost in real time. And having instant access to a complete customer view is becoming increasingly critical for our contact center staff, too,” explained Raymond. “That’s why we’re looking at how Snowflake’s Data Cloud can support near real-time data streaming and machine learning to predict customer needs. Even simple changes to how we automate customer website interactions could create huge efficiency savings.”
Raymond and his team are even planning to benchmark Snowpark’s capabilities against Databricks. The hope is it will give them the ability to save time and money while simplifying their environment. The team also hopes to standardize on the widely-used Python programming language—making it easier to find and attract the right data engineers.
Snowflake’s Data Cloud also gives Vattenfall in the Netherlands the opportunity to consolidate its data estate into as few environments as possible, emphasizing simplicity and cost-effectiveness. Raymond explained, “For our B2C NL department, our current cloud SQL database is by far our biggest expenditure. If we can consolidate it into Snowflake, we expect to cut our costs by 40%—with far greater performance than before.”
Near-limitless scalability and performance
However, the biggest benefit of using the Data Cloud for Vattenfall’s Dutch operations is the capability to process and analyze data as it’s created, offering data scientists a current and comprehensive view of their data. And with scalable compute on demand, Raymond and his team are confident the platform can handle countless users running multiple queries simultaneously.
“In my experience, data engineers want to be trying new things constantly. That means instant scalability and performance are must-haves,” said Raymond. “With Snowflake’s Data Cloud, multiple users can work on our data at once. What’s more, I no longer have to worry about tuning and indexing—it gives me the freedom to do more exciting things with our data.”
The company is well on its way to creating a completely joined-up customer experience and Snowflake can contribute in fulfilling its ambition to stream 80% of its data by 2024. According to Raymond, the breadth of the Snowflake Data Cloud is powering a new way of working at Vattenfall in the Netherlands, “From its Time Travel feature which allows us to compare any dataset within 90 days to its Dynamic Data Masking for sensitive data and Fast Clone capabilities for development environments, Snowflake’s Data Cloud handles the dull and time-consuming, but necessary, tasks, so we don’t have to. It makes my life much easier and helps remove the risk of human error. And the best part is it’s all available ‘out-of-the-box’.”
It’s an important change that enables Vattenfall in the Netherlands to offer its customers a more cohesive, joined-up experience; a key step on its journey to becoming a responsible, sustainable energy company. With its new data-driven strategy in place, the company’s goals are more achievable than ever.