Data culture is all about democratising business intelligence: Microsoft

In a discussion, Srikanth Karnakota, Director – Server and Cloud Business, Microsoft India, explains how SQL 2014 promises to help enterprises dissolve data silos and promote a data culture. Excerpts:

Microsoft has now begun talking of developing a data culture for enterprises. How does SQL 2014 help in that direction?
Data culture is all about democratising the business intelligence. It basically means that users—whether they are at operations, frontline or backend support—should all be able to analyse the data that is flowing across the system. Now in the digital world, there is a massive data flow happening, so enterprises need tools that are intuitive and simple to use so much so that a sales person should be able to analyse the sales data. Typically, the whole world of data is generally outsourced to data scientists or business analyst experts, whereas we at Microsoft believe that it need not be the domain of the specialists. It should be something that every user in the enterprise would be able to make sense of. When that happen, the data culture sets in.

We enable that with our SQL 2014 database platform. It is not just a database; it is a platform completely connected with the cloud and, at the same time, with Excel, which is our way of democratising BI because everyone knows Excel. The data is now not typical tables or rows, it now complex structured and unstructured data that comes from cloud as well as on-premise relational databases like SQL. So this is precisely what we mean by the data culture and how SQL connected to Windows Azure, a cloud platform, and Excel as a client on the front end, makes the data culture happen.

If we look at Indian enterprises, the data still resides in silos. How can we talk of democratisation in such a scenario?
If you take a typical enterprise, depending on the applications that it is running, the data platform decisions have been in isolation. However, the good news with SQL 2014 is that it can talk to multiple databases—be it IBM’s DB2, Oracle or SAP HANA system—and users can query on that as there is an analytics engine that is built into the solution. Also, there is a data cleansing engine built in.

The story becomes even more interesting when you start bringing in data outside your enterprise firewall. For example, one of India’s largest retailers discussed with us that it had good overview of their customers, but had no idea about their behaviour outside the shops. This is where big data comes into the picture. We did an exercise with the retailer and used data from the Consumer Survey of India, which is not structured.
We have Hadoop, which is a big data platform, that has connectivity to on-premise Azure, and both of them connect seamlessly to SQL database, so we were able to query on all the big data and share some powerful insights with the retailer.

What new can the enterprises expect from SQL 2014?
Broadly, there are three things that enterprises need to remember around SQL2014 launch. First, super high performance and the in-memory capability of the solution gives almost 30-40% performance boost with zero hardware change. On the price to performance ratio, we are the leading platform in the county. Our data warehousing solution is the lowest cost across the industry at about roughly $4000 per terabyte. You can’t find a cheaper deal than this that includes hardware and software. Secondly, the new version offers breakthrough insights. Now that we have connected SQL with Azure so deeply, it has enhanced structured and unstructured data querying, bringing them back into Excel, which is an amazing visualisation tool now with tools like Geoflow.

SQL 2014 database as a platform was born in the cloud. SQL2014 was conceived with cloud design in its principles, designed to work in a hybrid environment. For example, till recently large enterprises would spend lots of money on the data platform and then worry about disaster recovery (DR) separately, but with SQL 2014, enterprises have back-end DR taken care of by Azure. Again, backup is a huge cost to customers, but backup to cloud is pre-built in SQL 2014 and not to forget, integration with Hadoop. No other database platform can talk all of this very clearly.

Also, we are best suited to run the hybrid cloud as we have the Windows Server, which forms the heart of the private cloud and then there is Windows Azure, which is central to public cloud. Windows Server and Azure are so seamless now that moving virtual machines between a server to cloud and back is like moving files between drives. We have made it that simple. It is not just about the apps and virtual machines, it is about data platforms as well. So SQL supported on Windows Server and Azure is also sort of moving in that seamless direction.

In fact, the only public cloud platform that SAP and Oracle are supporting is Microsoft Azure. That is a clear indication that even our competitors are betting us on cloud.

big dataHANAMicrosoftOracleSAPSQL 14
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