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Why Starburst is offering free software to COVID-19 Researchers


We’re all in this together. Whether you’re concerned about yourself, your loved ones, or our economy - everyone is watching the news as they try to work from home. If you’re like me, you’re working in a closet with kids screaming in the background while you try to take phone calls. It’s not ideal, but we all have to operate differently to see ourselves through this as quickly as possible.

The crux of this crisis is an information gap. I spent most of the weekend reading everything I could find on the topic of coronavirus in order to assess the likely impact. My conclusion: Nobody really knows where the COVID-19 outbreak is going from here.

There are two things that have particularly bothered me in trying to assess the risk:

Amateurs are pretending to be infectious disease experts. I have read doomsday articles on Medium written by marketing and finance professionals. There are too many MBAs, and not enough MDs and PhDs shaping the narrative. We need to find a way to arm doctors and researchers with the information they need to slow the spread of Coronavirus.

Even the real experts are operating with incomplete data. Much of the fear and panic is based on some worst-case scenarios modeled by a team of scientists working with the CDC (people who are actually trained in this). These models were leaked and reported on by a number of news outlets. In their "worst-case" model, 1.7M people die in the US. That would obviously be terrible, but how accurate is it? Could it be higher or lower? Most critical to this entire story is accurately predicting the total number of infections-that-require-hospitalization at any one given point in time, because what we've learned from Italy is that overwhelming our hospital systems is the biggest risk here.

So, long story short, it feels we are all flying blind here. That got us to thinking, could Starburst help in some way? Certainly, we don't have infectious disease expertise, but we do help organizations provide visibility and insight into their data all the time. We offer strong support for geospatial functions and are particularly strong at analyzing disparate data sources, both of which seem highly relevant here. So it feels like a smart research team could take advantage of Presto's power to understand their universe more holistically.

With that goal in mind, we are offering a free license to Starburst Enterprise Presto for universities, hospitals, and healthcare research organizations, including Government and Non-Government Organizations (NGOs) who have teams dedicated to analyzing COVID-19 data. 

The offer is best suited for organizations that have in-house data architects and engineers with big data analytics experience, and research teams that run SQL-based queries. Our offer includes:

  • Starburst Enterprise Presto - a fully supported, production-tested and enterprise-grade distribution of the open source Presto SQL query engine. It includes additional connectors for commercial database systems, query optimization, as well as management tools. 
  • Security features which include role-based access control, data masking & encryption, column and row-level security, and integration with Apache Ranger.
  • 24x7 support from the Presto experts.

Will it make a difference? I don't know, but it feels like the right thing to do and if even one research team is able to uncover some critical insights then it is totally worth it.

If you think you may qualify or know a team that may benefit from this, contact us at stopcovid19@starburstdata.com. I’m on that distribution and will make sure we respond asap.

Justin Borgman

Justin is the co-founder, Chairman and CEO of Starburst. Prior to founding Starburst, Justin was Vice President and General Manager at Teradata (NYSE: TDC), where he was responsible for the company’s portfolio of Hadoop products. Prior to joining Teradata, Justin was co-founder and CEO of Hadapt, the pioneering “SQL-on-Hadoop” company that transformed Hadoop from file system to analytic database accessible to anyone with a BI tool. Hadapt was acquired by Teradata in 2014.

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