Microsoft Ignite 2018: 7 New Azure And IoT Products, Features

In The Cloud And At The Edge

Artificial intelligence and machine learning are helping users get more value out of their data, and Microsoft wants to lend a helping hand. At Microsoft Ignite 2018 Monday, the IT giant revealed a slew of new features and products ready for public preview that are aimed at helping developers build and train AI models faster, store and make sense of vast quantities of data, and secure edge devices.

Here are seven of the most important Azure and IoT announcements from Microsoft Ignite 2018.

New Features For Azure Machine Learning

Microsoft is rolling out new machine-learning capabilities to help developers build and train AI models faster, said Frank Shaw, corporate vice president of communications for Microsoft, Redmond, Wash. The latest features include automated machine learning to identify efficient algorithms and optimize model performance to help developers or data scientists be more productive and focus on higher-level issues associated with the problems they are trying to solve, Shaw said.

The updates also include additional hardware-accelerated models for Field Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGAs) and a Python SDK that makes Azure machine-learning services more accessible on popular Integrated Development Environments and notebooks so developers can use their preferred tools.

SQL Server 2019 Preview

The latest release of SQL Server is now launching in preview mode with a set of new big data capabilities built in. Users will be able to collect, store and analyze large volumes of data using Spark and Hadoop distributed file systems. There also will be several new connectors that let users query databases, such as Oracle, Teradata and MongoDB directly from SQL Server. Packaged together, this platform will serve up faster insight for users, Shaw said.

Azure SQL DB Hyper Scale

Azure SQL DB Hyperscale will now feature two new ways to migrate to the cloud while saving money. The scalable SQL DB Hyperscale for single workloads can adapt to changing workloads on demand and can expand up to 100 TB per database so it won't limit application growth due to storage size, Shaw said. Azure SQL DB Managed Instance, on the other hand, offers near-full compatibility with SQL Server, according to Microsoft. The offering will let users migrate premises-based workloads to the cloud with minimal changes.

The Azure SQL DB Hyperscale and Managed Instance offerings will be available in preview Oct. 1, Microsoft said.

Azure Data Explorer Preview

Microsoft also said that its brand-new indexing and querying service, Azure Data Explorer, is now available in public preview.

The offering helps users interact with and gain insight from large volumes of data originating from applications, servers and edge devices, and has been optimized for ad-hoc data exploration, Microsoft said. This will prove helpful for users when it comes to quickly analyzing performance information or diagnosing issues, Shaw said.

Azure Digital Twins

Microsoft is unveiling Azure Digital Twins, a new IoT platform that lets users build digital models of any physical environment. The platform gives user a way to represent the physical world—such as a building or a factory floor— virtually in order to create custom IoT solutions that can work in a predicable fashion the real world, Shaw explained.

Azure Digital Twins will be available in public preview Oct. 15.

Azure Data Box Edge

Also being revealed is Azure Data Box Edge, an offering for moving data in and out of Azure. Azure Data Box Edge is now available in public preview.

The hardware-based network appliance sits where data is generated and comes with baked-in AI-enabled edge computing and features that let users analyze, process and change premises-based data before uploading it to the cloud, Microsoft said.

Azure Sphere Public Preview

Microsoft is making Azure Sphere available in public preview, an offering that provides security via hardware microcontrollers and extends to a "turnkey" cloud service that can guard every Azure Sphere device. Azure Sphere was designed to help address the security issues that the estimated 9 billion edge devices coming online every year are presenting, Shaw said.

Development kits for Azure Sphere are now universally available, Microsoft said.