Microsoft Azure: more partnerships, more databases

For many companies in the Big Data and analytics arena, Strata + Hadoop World was the climax of their Fall news cycles. For Microsoft, the pace and sustained duration of the news is a little different. Yes, Microsoft was at Strata + Hadoop World; in fact, along with MapR, it was an Elite Sponsor of the event. But Microsoft is also hosting its TechEd Europe conference this week, and is/has been using that event, and the two weeks in between Strata and Tech Ed, to make more announcements.

Just like (very) old times: Microsoft and IBM
At the end of last week’s update, I told you about Microsoft’s partnership with Cloudera, and the advent of Cloudera on Azure. That was significant on its own. But no sooner did my update post online, than Microsoft and IBM announced their own partnership. The gist of that tie-up involves IBM Enterprise software running on Azure and Microsoft Enterprise software running on IBM Softlayer’s cloud.

Put Hadoop aside for the moment, because the IBM partnership means Azure’s relational database offerings are now second to none. Azure customers can run Azure SQL Database (a Platform as a Service flavor of SQL Server); SQL Server on Azure VM’s (Redmond’s Infrastructure as a Service tier); Oracle’s flagship database (through a partnership announced in June of last year) and now, with the IBM partnership, Azure customers will be able to run DB2. If your RDBMS tastes run more to the open source side of things, then you’d still be sitting pretty on Azure, as flavors of both MySQL and Postgres are offered there (through third parties ClearDb and Dynamic Deploy, respectively) as well.

BitYota treks to Azure from AWS and Rackspace
There’s more on the Azure relational database front, but this time in the MPP data warehouse (DW) department. Cloud DW vendor BitYota announced last week the availability of its Data Warehouse Services (DWS) on Microsoft Azure. That gives the Redmond cloud its first competitive story against the Amazon Web Services (AWS) Redshift MPP cloud data warehouse offering. I spoke with BitYota about its Azure offering this past Wednesday, when it was announced. The company told me that while DWS has been available on both AWS and Rackspace for some time, that the company is getting an increasing amount of Enterprise customer requests for DWS, which in turn motivated BitYota to jump on the Azure bandwagon.

It sure looks like the cloud DW space is heating up. In last week’s update I covered Snowflake Computing‘s entry into the space. Now add BitYota on Azure, and consider that Redshift is one of AWS’ hottest and fastest growing services, and you start to get the picture. This does beg one question though: when will Microsoft get a cloud MPP story of its own going?  Its Analytics Platform System, which includes the Parallel Data Warehouse version of SQL Server is a very good product. Offering some flavor of it in the cloud may help get product adoption to a level befitting of the product’s quality.

MPP offerings aside, I’m guessing we haven’t heard the end of Azure and data. TechEd Europe announcements will continue through Thursday and I’d be very surprised if we didn’t get even more announcements around data services on Azure, likely based on Microsoft’s own technology this time. Stay tuned.

Kafka’s metamorphosis
Despite the post-Strata calm, Microsoft and its partners are not the only organizations making announcements around updates. For example, the Apache Kafka project announced a new release of its own Monday. Version 0.8.2-beta offers things like a new Java producer, delete topic support and per-topic configuration of preference for consistency over availability. If you’re a pub-sub message queue geek, that’s hot stuff. I’ll admit that if you’re not in that sub-culture, you might find it a bit dry. But try working on your empathy, because Apache Kafka is gaining great momentum in the Hadoop world.

SAS cozies to Pivotal HD and Impala
And in the commercial software world, data science powerhouse SAS last week announced a new version of its Visual Analytics product. Enhancements in the new version include high-speed loading from SAP HANA, support for Pivotal’s HD Hadoop distribution and Cloudera’s Impala SQL-on-Hadoop engine. SAS’ press release also lists mobile BI apps, goal seeking, path analysis and deeper sentiment analysis in the manifest of new features. Not too shabby.

Another thing that’s not too shabby? The length of this week’s post. After doing “core dump”-style posts the last two weeks, I’m calling this one at 750.