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.

such as the upcoming IoT-flavored version recently teased at Build. The company has already begun using the technology to more efficiently manage its home campus in Redmond, Wash.

Microsoft officials also showed off Office 365's Power BI data analytics tools and their new place in the company's data strategy. Following the announcements, SQL Server and Azure constitute the back end of Microsoft's data platform while Office constitutes the front end -- or the "UI for data," as Nadella called it.

In a series of demonstrations, Microsoft execs used Excel and Power BI to quickly visualize data, turning abstract rows of numbers into interactive graphs, charts, and maps. A spreadsheet summarizing power consumption across a corporate campus could be translated into a map in which energy spikes are color-coded or otherwise made easier to detect, for example. The gist is that users needn't be data scientists to derive insights; Microsoft believes its tools, which include natural language queries, will allow everyone to live within a data-driven culture.

That culture will be big business, according to a Microsoft-backed IDC study. The research firm said organizations that embrace a holistic approach to data could enjoy approximately $1.6 trillion in new revenue, lower costs, and improved productivity over the next four years. Nadella pointed out that Microsoft already generates substantial cash from its data businesses. He said SQL Server generates more than $5 billion in annual revenue and characterized Excel as the most ubiquitous data analytics product in the world.

Emerging standards for hybrid clouds and converged datacenters promise to break vendors' proprietary hold. Also in the Lose The Lock-In issue of InformationWeek: The future datacenter will come in a neat package (free registration required).

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