In January, I proposed a simple model for the next iteration of PaaS, called Intelligent Platforms, which is centered around data. As we move into a world dominated by Big Data with mobile and various sensors churning out data several orders of magnitude more than even the petabyte scale, data is the new oil for the enterprises. As enterprises gain insights by mining the data, they will also build intelligent applications that takes advantage of the insights gained from the data. These next generation apps are going to completely revolutionize the enterprise segment, pushing them to operate at a much higher levels of efficiency compared to what we see today. To build these next gen applications, we need next gen platforms centered around data and some of the well known players in the market are already preparing themselves to meet the challenge. I have spoken about Amazon taking baby steps towards this evolution and, in today’s post, I will point out to how Microsoft is preparing for this data centric era.
Let us first highlight some of the challenges these organizations will face as they build next gen data centric applications:
- Organizations will be producing large volumes of data from which they have to extract actionable insights which are then fed back into next generation intelligent applications
- Organizations will also want to take advantage of public data sets available from many different sources
- Organization will need platforms to develop and deploy next generation applications that are centered around these public and private data services
The data gravity problem will demand that various services needed to develop and deploy next generation applications (similar to the current version of PaaS) are closer to the data service(s). This makes it imperative for the vendors offering hosted platform services to bring both public datasets and private datasets into their platform along with other data tools needed to process, clean, analyze the data. I am not getting into the details of how this is done as it is beyond the scope of this post. However, in this post, I am going to highlight the fact that Microsoft understands where the market is headed and are taking the necessary steps to make Azure the next gen intelligent platform.
Microsoft game plan and what they have to do more
Microsoft has clearly understood where the market is heading in the data centric future. Even though they were late to join the cloud computing game, they have their sights set for the future dominated by big data. They realize that to be competitive in the data centric platform market, they need to look beyond .NET. They realize that they have to support languages and frameworks used by the Youtube generation (a term I use for the generation coming out of college now and who will be the critical part of tomorrow’s data driven enterprises). This is exactly the reason why they are supporting open source languages like PHP, Ruby, Node.JS, etc.. Like many other companies from the traditional software world, it is going to be very difficult for Microsoft to persuade the Youtube generation to trust them. Open is in the DNA of this generation of developers and Microsoft is seen by them as a company that could go to any extent to kill openness. Microsoft is making some half hearted efforts to embrace openness but it is still not enough to gain traction among this generation of developers. I would expect Microsoft to go beyond lip service to openness and, also, focus on community outreach which is equally critical to reach out to this Youtube generation. For example, Microsoft should be present in conferences and meetups where these developers hang out usually. So far, I am not seeing Microsoft doing enough in this regard but I am hoping that they will focus more on community outreach so that they are seen as a “cool company” by this generation of developers. The core platform services is just one part of the next gen intelligent platform and, in spite of all the potential difficulties I have highlighted above, I think that Microsoft has built up a competitive solution in the name of Azure.
The other core part of the next gen platform is the data services, both public and private. Microsoft has already taken the first step to get public datasets into Azure platform when they announced Azure Data Market sometime back. This is a marketplace for buying and selling premium datasets including demographic, environment, financial, retail and sports. Any application running on top of Azure platform can easily take advantage of these datasets without worrying about how it can be brought inside the platform. However, public datasets are just one part of the data service puzzle and the other part is about the large volume of private data accumulated by the organizations. I recently had a chat with GM of Azure platform and he told me that Microsoft has the necessary pieces to build the next generation intelligent platform including the necessary data service components A recent post in the Microsoft SQLServer Team blog shows what Microsoft is planning to do in terms of managing the organization’s private data, the tools needed to navigate the new world of data as they call it.
I will share some of the innovative work weâve been doing both at Microsoft and with members of the Hadoop community to help customers unleash the value of their data by allowing more users to derive insights by combining and refining data regardless of the scale and complexity of data they are working with. We are working hard to broaden the adoption of Hadoop in the enterprise by bringing the simplicity and manageability of Windows to Hadoop based solutions, and we are expanding the reach with a Hadoop based service on Windows Azure. Hadoop is a great tool but, to fully realize the vision of a modern data platform, we also need a marketplace to search, share and use 1st and 3rd party data and services. And, to bring the power to everyone in the business, we need to connect the new big data ecosystem to business intelligence tools like PowerPivot and Power View.
He then goes on to highlight how this data service will work with both Microsoft and non-Microsoft tools
There is an amazing amount of innovation going on throughout the ecosystem in areas like stream processing, machine learning, advanced algorithms and analytic languages and tools. We are working closely with the community and ecosystem to deliver an Open and Flexible platform that is compatible with Hadoop and works well with leading 3rd party tools and technologies enabling users of non-Microsoft technologies to also benefit from running their Hadoop based solutions on Windows and Azure.
This by no means indicates that Windows Azure is an intelligent platform ready for building the next gen apps that can take advantage of big data. But we could see that Microsoft has a solid game plan that could position Azure to be one of the platforms that can meet the needs of modern enterprises in the data centric world. In short, Microsoft has got their vision right for the future of platform services and now they really have to execute which includes building a powerful data service component and getting the next generation developers to use their platform.
I will be closely watching how they progress in the coming years and I sincerely hope that they execute right to stay competitive in the era of big data.
- Remember Next Gen PaaS and AWS? Here Is The Second Piece To The Puzzle (cloudave.com)
- Big data in the cloud (radar.oreilly.com)
- Every platform will evolve into a Platform-as-a-Service (and the resulting subcategory explosion) (theenterprisearchitect.eu)
- Microsoft Azure Hosts Hadoop, Other Open-source Apps (pcworld.com)
- How Infochimps wants to become Heroku for Hadoop (gigaom.com)
- Microsoft, Hortonworks to link Excel and Hadoop (infoworld.com)