Microsoft Debuts Azure Big Data Services, Brings Visual Studio To Mac For First Time

Microsoft, at its Build conference Wednesday, unveiled new Azure services and features that let developers create apps infused with big data analytics technologies.

In a keynote, Scott Guthrie, executive vice president of Microsoft's Cloud and Enterprise unit, said the software giant sees data management tools as the key to enabling developers to build great SaaS apps.

Azure already supports a wide variety of data management and storage options, including both relational and NoSQL databases, and Guthrie said Microsoft is now adding more sophisticated tools to the mix.

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Microsoft's Azure SQL Database-as-a-Service is getting new features like Transparent Data Encryption, a technology for securing database files. Guthrie said TDE is good for scenarios in which multiple developers use a shared database in order to reduce operational costs.

Microsoft unveiled Azure SQL Data Warehouse, which it's billing as an easy, secure way to set up a data warehouse for aggregation purposes.

Also new is Azure Data Lake, which can store and manage an "infinite amount of data" for use with Hadoop and other big data workloads, Guthrie said. Azure Data Lake lets customers "keep data in its original form" and also features strong security, he said.

Alex Brown, CEO of 10th Magnitude, a Chicago-based Azure partner, told CRN he thinks the new tools and services will put more power into the hands of developers.

"I view the significant expansion of the analytic components of Azure as part of Microsoft’s overall push to make Azure the most expansive and capable platform on which to build and house data-intensive applications and scenarios such as the Internet of Things," Brown told CRN.

Guthrie also drew some comparisons between Azure SQL Data Warehouse and AWS' similar Redshift cloud service. Microsoft is the clear No. 2 player in public cloud after Amazon Web Services, but has the advantage of a huge army of developers, and is now giving that base tools to develop more sophisticated apps.

While Azure isn't poised to overtake AWS anytime soon, Guthrie did note that some 40 percent of Azure usage is now coming from startups and ISVs, a traditional stronghold for AWS. Overall, Microsoft has more than 1.4 million SQL databases running and more than 50 trillion objects stored in Azure, he said.

Meanwhile, Microsoft also unveiled Visual Studio Code, a free cross-platform code editor for Mac OS X, Linux and Windows. It supports dozens of languages out of the box and is now available for download.

Although Visual Studio Code isn't a full version of Visual Studio, this marks the first time Microsoft is bringing its popular development environment to Mac OS X and Linux.

"This makes the point that Visual Studio is now a family of tools for every developer, and that Azure is the back end for everyone," Scott Hanselman, principal program manager lead in Microsoft's Developer Division, said in the keynote.