Microsoft discovers data ambience

Three weeks ago Microsoft's new CEO Satya Nadella was back in SFO for another announcement - after cloud for mobile and Office for iOS, then appearance at the build conference, now it was the database's turn. The event felt a little bit over...

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Three weeks ago Microsoft's new CEO Satya Nadella was back in SFO for another announcement - after cloud for mobile and Office for iOS, then appearance at the build conference, now it was the database's turn.

The event felt a little bit over scripted, and I could never figure out why Microsoft's COO Kevin Turner was on stage for over 30 minutes between CEO Satya Nadella and then product over Quentin Clark. It also felt a little bit too academic.

While we are getting used to Nadella's conceptual approach - ok ambient intelligence and ubiquitous computing are new buzzwords we better get used to fast - I was not sure if we needed a scripted formula for the data dividend that Turner presented.

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And overall I was surprised by the little coverage the event had - after all Microsoft SQL server is one of the (if not the) most used database on the planet. So Microsoft adding in memory capability should be (and is in my view) a big deal. At the end of the day it looks like an underrepresented tech milestone to me - similar like Infor's recent announcement to deploy their products in production on AWS (my takeaways here).

Here are my 3 Top takeaways from the event

  • Microsoft goes organic - And with organic I mean - non disruptive. We heard it at least a dozen times - SQL Server 2014 will not require new hardware, new programs etc. (the positioning goes against SAP HANA here) but administrators will be able to move selected tables to in memory.

    With that Microsoft follows SAP (HANA) but is ahead of other RDBMD vendors (e.g. Oracle, IBM) to make it easy to exploit in memory capabilities, both for transactional and analytical use cases. And no surprise here - as Microsoft needs to (and its customers certainly appreciate) the investment protection in hardware and software.

    The real question is - how much will Microsoft customers be able to move the needle of their business applications with in memory technology on their existing hardware and existing software architectures. Or with some incremental investments. Only customers will know at the end of the day.

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  • Excel is the higher ground - Day in and day out more intelligence work is done in Microsoft Excel than any other intelligence tool. For Microsoft to leverage Excel as the higher ground makes tremendous sense. It's a tool millions of business users have on their desktop and use every day.

    Today this audience mostly and largely works on a 'XLS datamart' - in the sense that these users take the data and then work on it locally on their spreadsheet. Changing the nature of Excel from the personal productivity tool that runs locally to the tool that runs on (shared) in memory data and (shared) Bigdata clusters will be a new position the user base will have to learn.

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  • Co-existence with BigData - In line with previous announcements, most recently at the build conference, Microsoft wants Bigdata to co-exist with its relational data. And that makes sense as existing investment and market share are protected.

    The event was a little light on how the new PolyBase technology will work and bridge the gaps between classic OLTP and Hadoop - so we will need to learn more. But an easy programmatic combination of the SQL and NoSQL worlds is something very powerful and valuable for enterprises.


MyPOV
Microsoft joins the in memory market after a long wait. It's not too late as SQL Server customers are loyal and competitors not much ahead. The organic approach will make it easy for customers to evaluate the new SQL Server 2014 ad hoc and opportunistically. Using familiar Excel is a huge asset for Microsoft and customers. Couple it with Polybase - and if this combo may enable a business end user to query in memory Bigdata and get insight - a very powerful combination.

On the flipside I missed the mention of the Microsoft Universal App - a key new construct from the build conference. And yes - not all Universal Apps will be RDBMS style apps - but most of them will be RDBMS and NoSQL apps.

So an opportunity missed in my view. And Microsoft also shied away from the largest RDBMS use case it has in house- moving the Dynamics products to SQL Server. The answer to that - only some people in Redmond will know. So let's see what the news is coming from #msteched this week.

Posted by Holger Mueller