Microsoft Invites You to Spark IT Up

SparkWho builds the world’s most popular tool for analyzing data? Did you say Microsoft? Good. For most anyone in business, Microsoft Excel is where we get started around business intelligence, though we may not typically call it that. From this humble beginning, many graduate on to much more sophisticated solutions. What not everyone realizes is that Microsoft is capable of supporting you even as you go to much greater depth. At the recent Ignite event in Chicago, Microsoft made the case that day will improve worker productivity, especially around data insights and collaboration, with an extremely deep portfolio of complementary technologies.

Many of Microsoft's announcements were not net new products, but instead new ways to combine technologies for better results. Want to look at your data? Well, pull out your phone, tablet, or your laptop. Not enough real estate to see and manipulate everything? Slide it on over to the next bigger device. Want to share it with a coworker? Collaborate in real time on the same document with live edits, sharing with your remote team. Does Excel not go far enough? Pop open PowerBI and connect to your data source, which just might be SQL Server. Need better performance for transaction and analytics? Activate in-memory processing for your tables and see how much faster it is. Not enough space for that database table? Stretch it into the Azure cloud, and only pay for the compute power when you need to process a job. Want to have a data warehouse without buying a million dollars worth of heavy racks for your data center? Try out their DW-as-a-service, again in Azure. Need to handle big data or find a pattern too subtle for a simple chart? Switch on Azure Machine Learning and build a data lake in Hadoop with Hortonworks. 

Despite the conference theme of "Spark IT Up," about the only thing missing was a discussion on how Apache Spark will be added to the mix. Perhaps the motto was more about how to get new ideas for innovation, now legal in Washington state.

See how all this naturally flows together? It’s rather impressive when you see how well they have connected the dots. From a competitive point of view, few others have this range of toys just waiting to be assembled in any fashion your creativity takes you. Microsoft has assembled a marvelously diverse portfolio spanning user engagement, business intelligence, analytics, and of course cloud. This should go some long ways toward making analytics insights accessible to everyone. Well played, Redmond.

Video Transcript

John McKnight: So I'm here at Microsoft Ignite with about 23,000 of my closest friends and I've really come away with two main impressions from this show. The first is I thought Microsoft had a very consistent and, in our view, appropriate message of security and trust woven throughout all of the presentations and keynotes at this event and really that is very relevant and very timely for both IT and business decision-makers in all industries today as a priority. 

Second, if you're an IT professional, you have to feel very good and very energized about the way that Microsoft is placing you at the center of all of this transformation and innovation that's happening in IT. At ESG, we track six, what we call IT Metatrends including security, mobility, data center modernization, cloud, big data, application modernization. Just in the keynote alone yesterday Microsoft checked the box and even demoed solutions in all of those areas. Advanced threat analytics for security, enterprise mobility suite for mobility, SQL Server 2016 with stretch databases for big data, Azure Stack for cloud and data center modernization, Windows 10 for application modernization. So really tying those assets together and giving the IT pro a road-map to help be the agent of change within their organization was a big part of the messaging this week at Microsoft Ignite and that is something that will certainly ignite their user base and get them energized. 

Mark Bowker: I'm here this year at Microsoft Ignite and it feels very different. I've attended Microsoft Tech Ed, Microsoft Management Summit, and other events that they've put on and they've really taken advantage of being able to take that IT pro that typically shows up at these events to get educated about the different Microsoft products, whether they be Core Windows Server, System Center, mobility things that they are doing, Azure cloud. But what they've done this year is they've really taken a unified message, a unified communication across everything that they've done and really turned it up to a business focus. So everything they're talking about now is really about how to turn on a more personalized experience in the business, how to take more intelligence and squeeze it out of the cloud that they're doing, and also how to take a more mobile perspective into the business as well. They've been able to take the IT professional be able to take more of that business view into that environment and really be able to bring it into a show like this where people can come here. They're learning different things. They're understanding what Microsoft is doing from an overall competitive perspective and understand how they pull that all together. 

Microsoft, this week, really upped the relevance inside the data center by bringing cloud in there. So there's two things that really stood out from an overall awareness perspective from a lot of the attendees that we spoke to. Those two things are Azure packs. So bringing that software, that experience, those tools, those services on-prem inside the data center. And, also, they announced something that may have come by a surprise to some people. The announced OMS, Operations Management Suite. And what that's really doing is taking a collective of a people that are using Google or Amazon and obviously, Microsoft, even VMware cloud services and bringing it underneath that umbrella of management. So those two things, Azure Pack and OMS, were two of the bigger things that stood out from an overall highlights this show. They really show how Microsoft's taking the notion of a hybrid cloud, bringing it together, and really bringing that value to all the attendees here. 

Nik Rouda: So I had the opportunity last year to hear Sachin Odelo [SP] lay out his vision for a Microsoft data platform. At the time, you could tell it was very much an idea but today we're really seeing the realization of that vision. It's very interesting to watch Microsoft take the very front end. People come into analytics just as Excel users and try and tease them into using Power BI and all its capabilities. Going beyond that, obviously SQL Server, one of the biggest databases in the world continues to get better. They've added more in memory capabilities now overlain analytics on top of transaction processing. They've adapted SQL Server with T-SQL and PolyBase to be able to do queries together on Hadoop and the traditional relational database recognizing there's more than one data format. And they've moved it all into the cloud. 

We now have Azure running the SQL services of the database, of Azure machine learning, of Hadoop in the cloud and bringing these all together really bringing you a powerful, flexible platform. I particularly like the idea of the stretch database, being able to take older data, put it in the cloud just store it there and keep it available when you decide you do want to do analytics. It looks naturally part of the same database, but you can access it and pay for just the compute power when you need it. Otherwise, you're only paying storage. This is massive flexibility. It goes into the ability to burst in manager environment in the cloud. Should be an easy capability for any company to add and naturally extends into doing data warehouse as a service. And this I really think is the future as people are moving from entirely on-premise or entirely in-cloud to having a combined solution. It's been a very exciting show from a data management point of view as you can tell. 


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Topics: Data Platforms, Analytics, & AI Cloud Services & Orchestration