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Microsoft Azure Aims To Bring Big Data Mainstream
Posted February 18, 2015
Microsoft Azure Aims To Bring Big Data Mainstream
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By Shirley Siluk. Updated February 18, 2015 1:36PM

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As part of its ongoing focus on technologies that can tease meaning from massive amounts of data, Microsoft announced Wednesday that it is bringing machine learning to its cloud-based Azure platform. Redmond also rolled out Storm, an open source platform for real-time, big data analytics on its Azure HDInsight Hadoop-based cloud service.

Microsoft unveiled several new data services as part of its participation in the Strata + Hadoop World conference being held in San Jose this week. In addition to Azure Machine Learning and Storm, those new services also include the addition of Informatica technology on Azure and a preview look at a Linux version of Azure HDInsight.

"These new services are part of our continued investment in a broad portfolio of solutions to unlock insights from data," according to T.K. "Ranga" Rengarajan, Corporate Vice President for Microsoft's Data Platform, and Joseph Sirosh, Corporate Vice President for Machine Learning. "Simply put, we want to bring big data to the mainstream."

Real-Time Analytics and IoT

The addition of machine learning to its Azure platform will make it "dramatically simpler for businesses to predict future trends with data," Rengarajan and Sirosh noted. Carnegie Mellon University, for example, has deployed machine learning to identify potential failures in its building heating and cooling systems and model the impact of solar radiation on building temperatures over time. This has helped the school implement energy-saving measures that are expected to cut heating and cooling costs by 20 percent.

Azure Machine Learning can help developers and data scientists "build and deploy apps to improve customer experiences, predict and prevent system failures, enhance operational efficiencies, uncover new technical insights, or a universe of other benefits," according to Rengarajan and Sirosh. Such advanced analytics typically take weeks or months and require extensive investment in people, hardware and software to manage big data, they added.

With the new Storm platform, users will also be able to "deploy and manage applications for real-time analytics and Internet-of-Things scenarios in a few minutes with just a few clicks," Rengarajan and Sirosh said. For instance, Linkury -- a company that offers monetization technologies for mobile devices and the Web -- is using Storm to analyze its customers' Web sites in real time so it can better understand usage patterns.

Enabling 'Data Pipelines'

Microsoft's preview of its new version of Azure HDInsight represents the first Azure-hosted service to run on Linux, according to Corey Sanders, Director of Program Management for Azure. "(W)ith today's announcement, we will be deploying, hosting, and managing an Azure-hosted service that runs on Ubuntu Linux virtual machines," Sanders wrote in a blog post.

Bringing HDInsight to Linux meets the needs of customers running on Ubuntu that want to turn their "immense data streams into valuable and actionable intelligence," said John Zannos, Vice President of Cloud Alliances at Canonical, which leads the development of Ubuntu. Together, Microsoft's cloud-based Azure and Canonical's Ubuntu environment form the basis of a robust, integrated cloud solution, Zannos said.

By adding Informatica as an Azure Marketplace partner, Microsoft is also making Informatica's Cloud Integration Secure Agent available to Azure users on both Linux and Windows virtual machines. The new Azure service will let enterprise users "create data pipelines from both on-premises systems and the cloud to Azure data services such as Azure HDInsight, Azure Machine Learning, Azure Data Factory and others, for management and analysis," according to Rengarajan and Sirosh.

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