Microsoft Azure wants to make it easier to work with data on its platform
At its Ignite conference today, Microsoft announced a number of new features for its Azure data platform. These range from a first look at the 2022 edition of its venerable SQL Server lineup to updates to the Azure Synapse Analytics platform and new tools that make it easier to move Cassandra workloads to the cloud. But at the heart of many of these updates is deeper integration between the platform’s various services – and that’s no coincidence.
As Rohan Kumar, Microsoft’s corporate vice president for Azure Data, told me, the plethora of data services available in the cloud has become a problem for customers. “There is a service specifically designed for everything. Pick your favorite things you want to do for data and there is a service for that,” he said. “What we’ve heard loud and clear from our customers is that it’s getting very difficult. First of all, there’s this plethora of options, things change almost daily. A bunch of these things together.”
From a users’ perspective, they have to manage their operational databases that power their various applications, but there are also analytics, business intelligence and predictive services based on machine learning, usually backed by data warehouses. and data lakes. And then all of that data, which often includes sensitive information, also needs to be governed to ensure compliance with various regulations – all of that data can also be spread across multiple clouds and on-premises data centers.
With Synapse Analytics, Cosmos DB, Azure Data Lake, Purview, and its other tools, Microsoft has a solution for all of these use cases, but it’s now explicitly focusing on tying them all together into more manageable systems.
As Kumar noted, the team believes they are able to deliver best-in-class services across their data portfolio. “But if you really look at how we differentiate ourselves – which is unique about Microsoft’s data [products] and about Microsoft itself is the fact that we have all these pillars […]. For us, this integration is as important as being the best in class in each pillar, ”he said.
It’s easier said than done, of course, but some of today’s updates on Ignite show where Microsoft is going. SQL Server 2022, for example, which is now in preview, offers integrations with Synapse Link, Microsoft’s tools for using their databases for analytical and transactional workloads, and Azure Purview for easier data governance. It will also support Azure SQL Managed Instance for deeper cloud integrations and disaster recovery.
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Synapse Link is going to be a key part of the Azure Data integration story, Kumar noted. “You can imagine the amount of technical innovation that has to be brought in. We had to optimize both the source and the target. So Synapse [Analytics] is optimized for this, Cosmos DB is optimized for it – and over time Azure SQL and others [data] stores will also be optimized for this, ”he said.
In addition to these new features – and the focus on Azure Purview to help businesses with their data governance – the Azure Data team is also introducing a number of other new features. Migration of Apache Cassandra data to Cosmos DB is supported. Azure Advisor benefits from new cost control features. There are other updates to Azure SQL Managed Instance. It’s Microsoft Ignite, so as usual, there are more new features than you can sum up. But what matters more than these individual characteristics is the renewed emphasis on integrations between different products.