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April 16, 2014

How Microsoft is tackling big data

CEO Satya Nadella unveils SQL Server 2014 and more in outline of future strategy.

By Joe Curtis

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella announced a raft of new releases yesterday as he revealed that big data lies at the heart of the tech giant’s future strategy.

Speaking at a customer event in San Francisco, Nadella unveiled a cloud server to speed up in-memory data analysis, its new analytics platform and a preview of its new Azure cloud system to integrate Internet of Things (IoT) data as Microsoft focuses on an "era of ambient intelligence".

"This is the most paramount thing inside Microsoft," the new chief exec said. "It’s not going to happen without a data culture, with every engineer looking at usage data, learning from that data, and questioning what new things to test with our products, and move on the improvement cycle that is the lifeblood of Microsoft."

He revealed SQL Server 2014, a cloud application he claimed companies can use to analyse data much faster and more accurately than before, handling all in-memory data to crunch data up to 30 times as fast.

Lance Smith, president of flash memory provider Fusion-io, which is partnering Microsoft’s SQL Server 2014 launch, explained: "Developments with in-memory technology is transforming the way businesses run, enabling them to reduce latency and meet the modern expectations of immediacy both they and their customers have."

Microsoft’s new Analytics Platform Service (APS) is now available for general release and is billed as "big data in a box".

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APS is actually a combination of some of the technology behind Microsoft’s SQL Server database, which allows customers to pull data from relational warehouses, and Hadoop technology.

It allows businesses to collect, store, analyse and display data (through Office applications), all via one platform, the firm claimed.

Lastly, Nadella announced a limited beta release of the Azure Intelligent Systems Service, a data analysis tool specifically designed for the IoT.

The preview will highlight some of the product’s potential for collecting and managing machine-generated data from sensors and devices, according to Microsoft.

Nadella spoke shortly after a London press briefing in which chief envisioning officer Dave Coplin said Microsoft’s priority for the future was machine learning.

Nadella said in a blog post: "We are all experiencing the explosion of data driven by ubiquitous computing. We all crave easier and faster ways to turn that data into fuel for insight, and to realize the potential of ambient intelligence for every individual and every organization. Today marks a big step toward, and we’re going to keep moving quickly."

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