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Microsoft Ignite Announcements

Many product announcements were made this week at Microsoft Ignite, and I wanted to give a quick overview of all the data platform related announcements:

  • SQL Server 2017 on Linux, Windows, and Docker, generally available on October 2nd.  SQL Server 2017 is being released simultaneously for Windows and various flavors of Linux: Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7.3, SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 12, Ubuntu and Docker. The official Docker image is based on Ubuntu 16.04.  The performance of SQL Server on Linux vs Windows is “basically the same”.  However, not everything has been ported. There are no Reporting Services or Analysis Services, nor Machine Learning Services, transactional replication, Stretch DB, or File Table (see Unsupported features and services).  Management tools remain for the most part Windows only, though command-line tools work.  The major new features are graph query support, Python in Machine Learning Services, SSIS scale-out, and Adaptive Query Processing and Automatic Tuning for better query optimization.  Learn more and see What’s new in SQL Server 2017
  • Azure Database Migration Service (DMS) and Azure SQL Database Managed Instance, public preview.  New Managed Instance offering within SQL Database offers near-complete SQL Server compatibility and network isolation for easiest lift and shift to Azure.  DMS offers a fully managed, first party Azure service that enables customers to easily migrate their on-premises SQL server databases to Azure SQL Database Managed Instance and SQL Server in Azure Virtual Machines with minimal to no downtime.  Customers can maximize existing license investments with discounted rates on Managed Instance using a new Azure Hybrid Benefit for SQL Server.  Sign up for news on availability
  • Azure Machine Learning, new capabilities in public preview.  Updates connect every element of the data science process with enhanced productivity and collaboration for AI developers and data scientists at any scale.  Enables them to start building right away with their choice of tools and frameworks.  The updated platform includes a enhanced data cleansing and prepping tool called ML Workbench to start the modeling process sooner.  It is a client application that runs on Windows and Mac and is targeted at data scientists who are not users of Visual Studio and integrates with popular open source data science toolkits such as Python Scikit Learn, Jupyter Notebooks and Matplotlib.  It integrates with the cloud by seamlessly moving the heavy lifting to the GPU-powered VMs in Azure.  Other new capabilities include The Azure Machine Learning Experimentation service allows developers and data scientists to increase their rate of experimentation; The Model Management service provides deployment, hosting, versioning, management, and monitoring for models in Azure, on-premises, and to IOT Edge devices.  These new features will help data scientists develop, deploy, and manage machine learning and AI models at any scale wherever data lives: in the cloud, on-premises, and edge.  Learn more on the Azure Machine Learning page and Diving deep into what’s new with Azure Machine Learning
  • Microsoft Cognitive Services updates.  Includes general availability of Text Analytics API, a cloud-based service for language processing such as sentiment analysis, key phrase extraction and language detection.  In October, we will also make generally available Bing Custom Search to create customized search experience for a section of the web, and Bing Search APIs v7 for searching the entire web for more relevant results using Bing Web, News, Video & Image search.  Read the announcement blog post
  • Announcing the preview of Machine Learning Services with R support in Azure SQL Database.  You can evaluate this preview functionality in any server/database created in the West Central US Region.  More info
  • Azure Data Factory (ADF) – announcing new capabilities in public preview.  These new capabilities in ADF will enable you to build hybrid data integration at scale.  Now you can create, schedule, and orchestrate your ETL/ELT workflows, wherever your data lives, in the cloud or on any self-hosted network.  Meet security and compliance needs while taking advantage of extensive capabilities and paying only for what you use.  Accelerate your data integration with multiple data source connectors natively available in-service.  SQL Server Integration Services (SSIS) customers will benefit from easily lifting their SSIS packages into the cloud using new managed SSIS hosting capabilities in Data Factory.  We have taken the first steps to separate Control Flow and Data Flow within ADF to provide greater control over complex orchestrations that now facilitate looping, branching, and conditional structures within Control Flow.  We have added new flexibility to scheduling by enabling triggering with wall-clock timers or on-demand via event generation.  Parameters can now be defined and passed while invoking pipelines to enable incremental data loads.  If you want to move your SSIS workloads, you can create a data factory version 2, and provision an Azure-SSIS Integration Runtime (IR).  The Azure-SSIS IR is a fully managed cluster of Azure VMs (nodes) dedicated to run your SSIS packages in the cloud.  For step-by-step instructions, see the tutorial: deploy SSIS packages to Azure.  Full details of the release and features can be found on the Azure Data Factory service page. We encourage you to try these new capabilities, available at public preview pricing
  • Announcing the preview for the Azure Data Box.  A hardware appliance that companies can use to load their data for shipping to the closest Microsoft Azure data center.  The 45-lb box, which is tamper proof, holds up to 100 terabytes (TB) of data.  It plugs into a corporate network for downloads, and then into Azure’s own high-speed networks to upload its contents.  Companies will be able to rent it, fill it, and ship it while tracking its progress.  Data on the device will be encrypted throughout the journey.  More info
  • Introducing Azure Availability Zones for resiliency and high availability.  Availability Zones are fault-isolated locations within an Azure region, providing redundant power, cooling, and networking.  Availability Zones allow customers to run mission-critical applications with higher availability and fault tolerance to datacenter failures.  More info
  • Public preview: Virtual network service endpoints for Azure Storage and SQL Database.  You can now secure Azure Storage and Azure SQL Database to only your virtual networks, by using virtual network service endpoints.  Endpoints provide a direct connection from your virtual network to the Azure services, extending your virtual network’s private address space and identity to the services.  Traffic from your virtual network to the services will always remain on the Microsoft Azure network backbone.  More info
  • Intelligent insights for Azure SQL Database.  Azure SQL Database built-in intelligence continuously monitors database usage through artificial intelligence and detects disruptive events that cause poor performance.  Once detected, a detailed analysis is performed generating a diagnostic log with intelligent assessment of the issue.  This assessment consists of a root cause analysis of the database performance issue and where possible recommendations for performance improvements.  More info
  • Read replicas for Azure Database for MySQL.  Read replicas will allow customers using MySQL on-premises or on other cloud service providers to create replicas of their instance in Azure.  They can then choose to upgrade the replica to master in Azure Database for MySQL, and connect their apps directly to the new database instance.  If you are interested in understanding the functionality of this private preview visit the Azure blog or more information
  • Renamed R Server to Machine Learning Server.  Announced was the renaming of Microsoft R Server to Microsoft Machine Learning Server and SQL Server R Services to SQL Server Machine Learning Services.  The additional language support aligns the Advanced Analytics workload to Machine Learning capabilities and focus on AI.  With Python support in addition to R and Microsoft ML libraries we enhance Machine Learning capabilities and offer the ability to develop new intelligent applications combining the best of open source and enterprise capabilities of SQL Server 2017.  More info
  • Azure SQL Database: Vulnerability Assessment.  SQL Vulnerability Assessment (currently in preview) is an easy to configure tool that can discover, track, and remediate potential database vulnerabilities.  Use it to proactively improve your database security.  More info
  • The Power BI team announced a much-awaited feature; automatic updates to the Power BI Desktop.   Through the Windows Store, you can now install the Power BI Desktop once and get updates automatically every month.  Read this blog post on http://aka.ms/biatmicrosoft to learn more
  • Faster compute optimized performance tier for Azure SQL Data Warehouse.  The compute optimized performance tier brings several benefits to your analytics workloads.  The first benefit can be seen through dramatically improved query performance.  Individual query execution times have improved by as much as 10x.  We’ve also seen some fantastic results with customer workloads and benchmarks where queries are completing twice as fast on average.  The compute and storage scalability has also been dramatically increased with this performance tier.  You can now provision 5x the computing power and store an unlimited amount of columnar data, empowering you to run your largest and most complex analytics workloads.  More info
  • Azure free account, now available.  A best-in-industry offer, the Azure free account helps customers try Azure.  It comes with 12-months free access to compute, storage, database, and networking services, along with 25+ always-free services, including Azure App Service and Functions.  It also includes a $200 credit allowing customers to try any Azure product for the first 30 days. More information at azure.com/free and Azure Free Account FAQ
  • Azure Stack, now shipping through Dell EMC, HPE, and Lenovo.  Azure Stack is an extension of Azure, allowing customers to uniquely meet hybrid requirements like compliance, latency, and true consistency as a part of their hybrid cloud strategy.  Cisco and Wortmann will start taking orders soon.  Customers can also buy Azure Stack as a managed service from Avanade, Rackspace, and several MSP partners.  Azure Stack certification for IT Professionals materials are available now, and certifications exams will start Q1 2018.  More information on azure.com/azurestack
  • Azure Reserved Virtual Machine Instances.  When available later in 2017, customers will be able to reserve virtual machines on Azure for a one- or three-year term with significant cost savings of up to 82% over pay-as-you-go prices when combined with Azure Hybrid Benefit and up to 72% on all VMs.  Customers select the VM type, term, and datacenter region, so the compute resources are available when and where needed.  Improve budgeting with a single up-front payment while maintaining the flexibility to exchange or cancel at any time.  Details on Azure.com
  • Native integration between Azure Cosmos DB and Azure Functions. We’re bringing the power of Azure Cosmos DB to our serverless offering, Azure Functions.  With this integration, developers can write serverless apps backed by Cosmos DB, with just a few lines of code.  They can innovate faster by reacting in real-time to changes happening in the database to drive more engaging and personalized customer experiences.  Using Azure Functions and Azure Cosmos DB, customers can create and deploy event-driven, planet-scale serverless apps with extremely low-latency access against very rich data.  Read the blog
  • GA of HDInsight Interactive Query (Hive LLAP).  This is an Azure HDInsight cluster type.  It supports in-memory caching, which makes Hive queries faster and much more interactive.  More info
  • Microsoft is now offering Blob storage accounts with up to 5PB (petabytes) of maximum capacity, a 10x increase.  Both incoming and outgoing data can now move at up to 50Gbps (gigabits per second) and users can expect 50,000 TPS/IOPS (transactions per second/input output operations per second) performance, a 2.5x jump.  More info
  • Announcing new Azure VM sizes for more cost-effective database workloads.  We are excited to announce the latest versions of our most popular VM sizes (DS, ES, GS, and MS), which constrain the vCPU count to one half or one quarter of the original VM size, while maintaining the same memory, storage and I/O bandwidth. We have marked these new VM sizes with a suffix that specifies the number of active vCPUs to make them easier for you to identify.  For example, the current VM size Standard_GS5 comes with 32 vCPUs, 448GB mem, 64 disks (up to 256 TB), and 80,000 IOPs or 2 GB/s of I/O bandwidth. The new VM sizes Standard_GS5-16 and Standard_GS5-8 comes with 16 and 8 active vCPUs respectively, while maintaining the rest of the specs of the Standard_GS5 in regards to memory, storage, and I/O bandwidth.  More info
  • New in Stream Analytics: Output to Azure Functions, built-in anomaly detection, etc.  Announced the preview of several new and compelling capabilities in Azure Stream Analytics.  These include built-in inline machine learning based anomaly detection, egress to Azure functions, support for compressed data formats, JavaScript User defined aggregates, and support for CI/CD in Visual Studio tooling.  These new features will start rolling out over the course of the next several weeks.  More info
  • Announcing Azure Migrate.  A new service that provides the guidance, insights, and mechanisms needed to assist you in migrating on-premises virtual machines and servers to Azure.  More info

James Serra's Blog

James is a big data and data warehousing technology specialist at Microsoft. He is a thought leader in the use and application of Big Data technologies, including MPP solutions involving hybrid technologies of relational data, Hadoop, and private and public cloud. Previously he was an independent consultant working as a Data Warehouse/Business Intelligence architect and developer. He is a prior SQL Server MVP with over 30 years of IT experience. James is a popular blogger (JamesSerra.com) and speaker, having presented at dozens of PASS events including the PASS Business Analytics conference and the PASS Summit. He is the author of the book “Reporting with Microsoft SQL Server 2012”. He received a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Engineering from the University of Nevada-Las Vegas.

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