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Microsoft brings big data to Windows

Thor Olavsrud | Oct. 25, 2012
Microsoft, with the help of partner Hortonworks, brings Hadoop to Windows and stakes its claim as a vendor of big data technologies with new cloud-based and on-premises offerings.

Microsoft this week is focused on the launch of its converged Windows 8 operating system, which a number of pundits and industry watchers have declared a make-or-break release for the company, but in the meantime Microsoft is setting its sights on the nascent but much-hyped big data market by giving organizations the capability to deploy and manage Hadoop in a familiar Windows context.

Two days ahead of the Windows 8 launch, Microsoft used the platform provided by the O'Reilly Strata Conference + Hadoop World here in New York to announce an expanded partnership with Hortonworks-provider of a Hadoop distribution and one of the companies that has taken a leading role in the open source Apache Hadoop project- and to unveil new previews of a cloud-based solution and an on-premise solution for deploying and managing Hadoop. The previews also give customers the capability to use Excel, PowerPivot for Excel and Power View for business intelligence (BI) and data visualization on the data in Hadoop.

Microsoft has dubbed the cloud-based version Windows Azure HDInsight Service, while the on-premise offering is Microsoft HDInsight Server for Windows.

"Microsoft's entry expands the potential market dramatically and connects Hadoop directly to the largest population of business analysts: users of Microsoft's BI tools," says Merv Adrian, research vice president, Information Management, at Gartner. "If used effectively, Microsoft HDInsight will enable a significant expansion of the scope of data available to analysts without introducing substantial new complexity to them."

Microsoft Promises to Reduce Big Data Complexity

"This provides a unique set of offerings in the marketplace," says Doug Leland, general manager of SQL Server Marketing at Microsoft. "For the first time, customers will have the enterprise characteristics of a Windows offering-the simplicity and manageability of Hadoop on Windows-wrapped up with the security of the Windows infrastructure in an offering that is available both on-premise and in the cloud. This will ultimately take out some of the complexity that customers have experienced with some of their earlier investigations of big data technologies."

"Big data should provide answers for business, not complexity for IT," says David Campbell, technical fellow, Microsoft. "Providing Hadoop compatibility on Windows Server and Azure dramatically lowers the barriers to setup and deployment and enables customers to pull insights from any data, any size, on-premises or in the cloud."

One of the pain points experienced by just about any organization that seeks to deploy Hadoop is the shortage of Hadoop skills among the IT staff. Engineers and developers with Hadoop chops are difficult to come by. Gartner's Adrian is quick to note that HDInsight in either flavor won't eliminate that issue, but it will allow more people in the organization to benefit from big data faster.


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