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4/16/2014
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Microsoft Reveals Big Data Strategy

Microsoft's new tools aim to serve all users -- not just data scientists -- extracting insight from big data sets and the Internet of Things.

16 Top Big Data Analytics Platforms
16 Top Big Data Analytics Platforms
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Microsoft on Tuesday announced a trio of products to help customers derive insights from their exploding stores of data. Pointing out that data is the business currency of the future, company execs claimed that the new products could help customers capture more than $1 trillion in new revenue and improved efficiency over the next four years.

Unveiled at a media and partner event in San Francisco, the new products include SQL Server 2014, which was released to manufacturing last month and promises faster performance thanks to in-memory processing for all workloads. Microsoft also announced its Analytics Platform System (APS), which it described as a "big data in a box" appliance that unifies SQL Server and Hadoop. The company rounded out the announcements with Azure Intelligent Systems Service, a cloud-based service to collect and manage data from the Internet of Things (IoT).

The new products help clarify Microsoft's data strategy. In his first few appearances as CEO, Satya Nadella tied his "cloud-first, mobile-first" strategy to a burgeoning era of "ubiquitous computing" and "ambient intelligence." Until this week, however, he hadn't explained specifically what this means for the company's products and customers.

[Is Windows 8 finally on the right track? Read Windows 8.1 Update: 5 Essential Facts.]

SQL Server 2014's in-memory capabilities help it crunch through workloads up to 30 times faster than in previous versions, Microsoft execs said. COO Kevin Turner said Nasdaq, a pre-release adopter of the new product, used SQL Server 2014 to reduce some query times from days to minutes. Nasdaq's massive database includes more than a quintillion rows of information, according to Turner.

In a demonstration, Microsoft also illustrated how in-memory technologies can improve web performance. Retail sites increasingly rely on personalized user recommendations and other dynamic attributes. The customer experience takes a hit, however, if these processes take too long. Microsoft claims SQL Server 2014's superior speed can solve this problem.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella

APS will combine hardware built by Microsoft partners such as Dell and HP with SQL Server and Hadoop. The pairing allows customers to run real-time queries that were previously difficult to achieve, such as correlations between a product's sales and social media reputation within a given timeframe or geography.

Microsoft announced Azure Intelligent Systems Service as a limited public preview. Nadella described an emerging world in which sensors can be embedded in everything, enabling an explosion of new interactions between, not only machines and humans, but also machines and other machines. Because all these interactions can be digitized, Nadella said, companies can accrue data, discern insights, and adjust strategies faster than ever.

Microsoft execs emphasized that Azure Intelligent Systems Service is built to manage IoT devices of all stripes, not just those that will run embedded Windows platforms,

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Michael Endler joined InformationWeek as an associate editor in 2012. He previously worked in talent representation in the entertainment industry, as a freelance copywriter and photojournalist, and as a teacher. Michael earned a BA in English from Stanford University in 2005 ... View Full Bio

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Stratustician
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Stratustician,
User Rank: Ninja
4/18/2014 | 11:40:42 AM
Focus
I'm personally happy to see Microsoft making a clear statement in that they want to focus on driving business analytics from data, and really push cloud and mobility.  They have the pedigree, as with SQL and excel, they had the foundation for a strong analytics engine, I'm excited to see how they plan to push the boundaries of BI and make it easy for mass adoption by enterprises who wish to gain better insight into the data they collect. Especially now as we start down the IoT path, where the analytics will be the key driver for adoption.
Charlie Babcock
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Charlie Babcock,
User Rank: Author
4/16/2014 | 8:19:12 PM
If SQL Server can do it, MySQL wants to do it too
If Microsoft can move data back and forth between SQL Server and Hadoop in its Analytics Platform System, that's a pretty useful function. Many MySQL users would like to make use of Hadoop, but it's still not easy to get the data out of MySQL and into Hadoop or move results back into MySQL.
Laurianne
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Laurianne,
User Rank: Author
4/16/2014 | 5:05:37 PM
Excel
Nadella calls Excel the most ubiquitous data analytics product in the world -- also likely the top contributor to the multiple versions of spreadsheets problem -- leading to the multiple versions of the truth problem. BI/data analytics as a service competition is lively; Microsoft will be up against both giants and nimble upstarts.
danielcawrey
IW Pick
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danielcawrey,
User Rank: Ninja
4/16/2014 | 2:36:48 PM
IoT
Azure Intelligent Systems Service is intriguing to me. It would seem as if Microsoft has been managing adminstration of PC endpoints for years - and so being able to extend that out to embedded systems is a logical step.

I think its an interesting value proposition for companies that know they need to get involved in IoT but don't really know how to deploy it. 

A lot of companies find experimentation and research on projects like this really time and money intensive. Microsoft gives organizations a fully formed platform to build off of.That's why companies like using their products. 
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