At this year’s Microsoft Ignite, a variety of executives -- from CEO Satya Nadella to EVP of Cloud & Enterprise Scott Guthrie -- made a host of announcements that are important and relevant to data professionals. It is worth noting that there were actually four areas of focused innovation discussed at the keynote level: enabling IT and developer productivity, providing a consistent hybrid cloud, unlocking intelligent solutions (read: AI), and ensuring trust through security, privacy, and cost controls.
Follow-up on the details by reading Scott’s blog post (http://bit.ly/2hQweAf) and watch his keynote covering Azure, Windows, and SQL Server (https://myignite.microsoft.com/sessions/56716). If you have a couple more hours in your schedule, be sure to watch the most relevant sessions of Ignite at https://myignite.microsoft.com/videos and Envision, Microsoft’s business leader conference, at https://myenvision.microsoft.com/videos.
Microsoft Azure Stack is Now Shipping
The first thing to know is that Microsoft partners are now shipping the Azure Stack like Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), Lenovo, Dell EMC, and Cisco. Azure Stack is a feature set which gives you all of the features and capabilities of Azure, but in a self-contained and private service. This offering is especially important for secure IT environments who have a legal requirement for keeping their data highly secure, but want to utilize the multitude of features available only through Azure. You can also buy Azure Stack as a managed service from several Microsoft Supplier Program partners including Avanade and Rackspace, among others.
Microsoft SQL Server 2017 Generally Available
This should come as no surprise to you, dear reader, as I have been writing about the avalanche of new features for SQL Server bubbling up through pre-release cycles earlier this year. Nevertheless, just to be explicit, Microsoft SQL Server 2017 is now generally available as of October 2, 2017. Here are some other news bulletins:
- SQL Server 2017 is now native on Linux and within Docker containers for production workloads -- https://www.microsoft.com/en-US/sql-server/sql-server-2017-linux.
- Now through June 30, 2018, Microsoft is offering SQL Server 2017 on Linux at significant savings through an annual subscription -- https://info.microsoft.com/sql-server-2017-on-linux-offer-registration.html. Note, to get the special offer, customers must have an active Enterprise Agreement (EA), Enterprise Agreement Subscription (EAS), or Server & Cloud Enrollment (SCE) for SQL in place.
- Adaptive Query Processing, which I told you about a couple months ago while it was still in public preview, is now GA.
- Graph database, another feature that I mentioned in the past, is now in GA on Azure SQL Database.
- The new PREDICT table-valued Transact-SQL function allows you to perform scoring of predictive machine learning models in real-time without resorting to R or Python code -- https://blogs.msdn.microsoft.com/sqlserverstorageengine/2017/09/25/announcing-general-availability-of-native-scoring-using-predict-function-in-azure-sql-database/.
- New features are in public preview for Azure SQL Database, including Intelligent Insights and online Vulnerability Assessment The former is a feature to continuously monitor your Azure SQL Database for performance degradations, log the root cause, and offer ways to remediate the problem. The latter is a scanning service that identifies security issues and suggestions fixes to those issues. I’ll share more about these features in upcoming articles.
Microsoft Power BI Embedded
Microsoft has made it very easy to use and embed Power BI capabilities within their own applications providing beautiful and informative visuals, reports, and dashboards. Partners and developers can choose between using built-in, native visuals or creating their own customized data visualizations. Power BI Embedded can connect most popular data sources, while also controlling consumption through hourly or monthly pricing tiers. Learn more at https://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/services/power-bi-embedded/. There’s also a free trial!
Azure Cosmos DB Sees Many New Announcements
Cosmos DB is Microsoft’s “planet-scale” NoSQL database featuring big data features using JSON data types. To my mind at least, Cosmos DB is a MongoDB replacement. Here are some relevant news bulletins about Cosmos DB:
Of course, announcements detailing expanded options for greater Azure SQL Database storage and performance levels, as well as more flexibility within elastic pools are a perennial feature of the big Microsoft conferences -- https://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/blog/new-performance-levels-and-storage-add-ons-in-azure-sql-database/.