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Microsoft Takes on Big Data With New Functionality

Although Windows Azure already provides a comprehensive range of data services, their latest software updates were initiated as a means of increasing their share of the big data niche. These updates, which specifically target the Windows Azure Analytics Platform System (APS), identity management, access control, media services and Azure SQL Database, are meant to bolster the accessibility and overall management of big data and related analytics. Additionally, brand new migration tools, meant for use with Java and PHP, as well as a new Java SDK, have also been introduced.

The primary purpose of the latest updates, however, mainly revolves around strengthening the Azure SQL Database. According to the initial press release, the updates to the Azure SQL Database are meant to "support for larger databases with online indexing and parallel queries, improved T-SQL support with common language runtime and XML index, and monitoring and troubleshooting with extended events." Users are already seeing drastic improvements in database performance, with some reporting staggering increases of 100 times.

Vibhor Kapoor, an executive with the Windows Azure project, spoke about the latest SQL database updates, saying: It brings industry-leading in-memory technologies to the cloud, unlocks new functionality that streamlines the movement of SQL Server database applications to Azure, and dramatically improves the ability for customers to work with heavier database workloads."

Coined as "big data in a box," the Azure APS will benefit from a brand new data management portal. The new gateway will be able to take advantage of increased network security regarding both localized and cloud-based data. Moreover, secure connections can also be established with various analytical services, including Azure Machine Learning.

Tiffany Wissner, a director of product marketing with Microsoft, was upfront about the need for these latest updates. She was quoted as saying: "These updates are part of our approach to make it easier for our customers to work with data of any type and size -- using the tools, languages and frameworks they want -- in a trusted environment, on-premises and in the cloud."

Apart from the recent updates as described, Microsoft has recently acquired Revolution Analytics, Inc., a statistical software enterprise that focuses on open source and open core software. Originally established in 2007 as a private company out of Mountain View, CA, the new partnership between Microsoft and Revolution Analytics is expected to increase Microsoft's presence in the area of big data and data analytics.

Joseph Sirosh, corporate vice president of machine learning with Microsoft, spoke about the acquisition on the official Microsoft blog, where he was quoted as saying: "As their volumes of data continually grow, organizations of all kinds around the world – financial, manufacturing, health care, retail, research – need powerful analytical models to make data-driven decisions. This requires high performance computation that is “close” to the data, and scales with the business’ needs over time. At the same time, companies need to reduce the data science and analytics skills gap inside their organizations, so more employees can use and benefit from R. This acquisition is part of our effort to address these customer needs."

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