Microsoft Build brings announcements about cloud data, analytics services, and crossover of the two


Every spring, Microsoft’s Build Conference has served as a vehicle for several Microsoft data platform messages, most of them related Azure Cloud. Although this year’s event is virtual, Microsoft’s data platform announcements are still in abundance. But this year they like less about raw capabilities and more about fit, finish and integration. The timing seems good: In the era of the COVID-19 pandemic, customers need lower-friction routes to implement solutions more than they need shiny new free-standing capabilities.

Also: Microsoft is building an OpenAI supercomputer for training massive AI models

Synapses connect neurons; Azure Synapse connects services

Azure Synapse Analytics is by far the largest integration example in the Azure Analytics stack. Advertised at Microsoft Ignite conference in November, Synapse is the next iteration of what was Azure SQL Data Warehouse. However, Synapse integrates far beyond a re-brand, but also integrates data lake and data science sciences.

Also: Azure Synapse Analytics combines data warehouses, lakes and pipelines

These additional features are made possible by integrating Apache sparkles and SQL on-demand, an independent query engine that allows queries in the company Transact-SQL (T-SQL) language to be executed directly against files in Azure Data Lake Storage (ADLS). Synapse also provides an outer layer of integration as it brings in Synapse Studio’s browser-based development environment Azure Data Factory and Power BI under the Synapse umbrella. And all this can be accessed via delivered infrastructure or on-demand / serverless way.

When these important new features were announced on Ignite, it was in the context of a private preview release. But today, at Build 2020, Microsoft announces its advance to public preview.

Microsoft drops HTAP

However, the Synapse messages are not just about a broader availability of previously announced features. The company announces, also in public preview, new “Azure Synapse Link” functionality, a cloud-native hybrid transaction analytics (HTAP) implementation. HTAP moniker describes platforms that can provide analytics on existing operating data without having to transform or move that data.

Also: Hybrid transaction analytics processing

In the case of Synapse Analytics, this is achieved by extending the standalone T-SQL query capabilities beyond ADLS to work over data stored in Azure operational data services, beginning with Cosmos DBthat makes data available to Synapse Link in a column structure. The result is that the T-SQL query engine can query data in the lake and in operational stores, making the hybrid features a reality. Microsoft has also committed to making Synapse Link available Azure SQL database. Azure database for PostgreSQL, and Azure database for MySQL.

Cosmos DB: NoSQL for developers

Speaking of Cosmos DB, Microsoft also has a number of messages there. Eg. New auto scale (originally named autopilot) and serverless modes of operation are announced, allowing for better customization of billing for active use. Autoscale works by managing disposable request units from between 10% and 100% of a customer declared maximum, based on demand. Serverless, meanwhile, implements calculation per operation.

These settings should make Cosmos DB more cost-effective and generally appealing to the wide range of developers, many of whom have less workload than Cosmos DB’s geographically distributed features were previously located to accommodate. Cosmos DB is now positioned as “Microsoft’s fast NoSQL database of open APIs on any scale.”

In other words, Microsoft uses Cosmos DB as its developer-friendly NoSQL database (perhaps to compete with MongoDB, and certainly with the Amazon DynamoDB) that can accommodate massive global web-scale applications, but which can also be cost-effective for much less. And along these developer-friendly lines, Microsoft is also announcing a new release of Java SDK for Cosmos DB (version 4) that should make programming against Cosmos much more streamlined and easy for the huge stall of developers in the Java ecosystem. New Cosmos DB Change Feed Features, like delete functionality, should also sweeten the deal; so too should a new point-in-time backup / restore feature.

All new Cosmos DB features will generally be available (GA) this summer.

Open source databases, too

In addition to Microsoft’s proprietary NoSQL database, the company is adding new capabilities to two of its three open source relational database services: Azure Database for MySQL and Azure Database for PostgreSQL.

Both platforms win Azure Active Directory Approval, Private link, and three-year reserved cases, all of which are GA. In addition, data encryption at rest with customer-managed keys (“BYOK”) will be released in preview next month. On top of these features, Database for PostgreSQL gets two more: logical decoding with wal2json (released in preview) and online migration to Azure Database for PostgreSQL Hyperscale using Azure Database Migration Service (GO).

Edge and beyond

At Build, Microsoft also announces that its SQL Edge product is now available in public preview. Announced at last year’s Build conference called “Azure SQL Database Edge”, the product is a version of the Azure SQL database capable of running on small edge devices, including those based on ARM processors. SQL Edge also integrates a specially implemented version of Azure Stream Analytics.

Also: Microsoft “Builds” its data history, in the cloud and on the edge

With SQL Edge’s public preview, it is important to note that Microsoft’s T-SQL language now works on the edge, locally and in the cloud, relational and NoSQL operational data, data warehouse, data lake, and HTAP implementations. All of this (ahem) builds on the integration theme of this year’s ads and the ethos of scaling both up and down.



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