Microsoft Azure wants to make working with data on its platform easier

Microsoft introduced a number of new capabilities for its Azure data platform today at its Ignite conference. These include a first look at the 2022 version of its venerable SQL Server line, as well as enhancements to the Azure Synapse Analytics platform and new tools to make moving Cassandra workloads to the cloud easier. However, a tighter connection between the platform’s many services is at the heart of many of these upgrades, and this is no coincidence.

The abundance of data services offered in the cloud has become a pain issue for clients, according to Rohan Kumar, Microsoft’s corporate VP for Azure Data. “Everything has its own dedicated service.” 

“Pick your favorite data-related jobs, and there’s a solution for it,” he explained. “We heard loud and clear from our clients that it gets quite difficult. Primarily, there are so many alternatives, and things change on a daily basis. Then there’s the issue of sewing a number of these things together, which causes a lot of consumer suffering.”

Users must maintain their operational databases that run their numerous apps, but there are also analytics, business intelligence, and predictive services based on machine learning, all of which are often supported by data warehouses and data lakes. 

Microsoft Azure wants to make working with data on its platform easier

Then there is the issue of governing all of this data, which frequently contains sensitive information, to guarantee compliance with various standards — data that may be dispersed over several clouds and on-premises data centers.

Microsoft has a solution for all of these use cases with Synapse Analytics, Cosmos DB, Azure Data Lake, Purview, and other technologies, but it is now working on bringing them all together into more readily controllable solutions.

Kumar stated that the team believes it can give best-in-class services across its whole data portfolio. “However, if you look at how we genuinely distinguish — what makes Microsoft’s data [products] and Microsoft itself special — it’s the fact that we have all of these pillars.” 

This integration is just as essential to us as being the best in class in each of the pillars,” he added. Of course, it has been easier said than done, but some of today’s announcements at Ignite demonstrate Microsoft’s approach. 

Integrations with Synapse Link, Microsoft’s tools for leveraging their databases for both analytical and transactional workloads, and Azure Purview for better data governance are included in SQL Server 2022, which is available in preview. For deeper cloud connections and disaster recovery, it will now support Azure SQL Managed Instance.

Kumar stated that Synapse Link would be an important part of the Azure Data integration story. “You can imagine the enormous amount of technical innovation required. Both the source and the destination have to optimize. So Synapse [Analytics] is designed for it, Cosmos DB is tuned for it, and Azure SQL and other [data] stores will be optimized for it in the future,” he added.

In addition to these new features, the Azure Data team is launching a number of additional new features, including a continued focus on Azure Purview to assist companies with data governance. 

Migrating Apache Cassandra data to Cosmos DB is possible. New cost-control tools are coming to Azure Advisor. Other changes have been made to Azure SQL Managed Instance. Because it is Microsoft Ignite, there are more new features than you can count. Nevertheless, it is the renewed focus on integrations across the many products that matters more than these particular capabilities.