Microsoft Data Offerings in the Cloud

This week I spent some time learning more about the Microsoft Cloud offerings.  Azure has quite the number of tools for getting a fully functioning Data Warehouse running in a short time.

First, you can provision an Iaas (Infrastructure as a Service) SQL Database in Azure Cloud in about 4 seconds, that is, to provision it, not counting the time to create the Azure account, log in, etc.

You have a number of database options to choose from, what I liked was the SQL Server 2012 SP2 Data Warehouse version, designed for speed.  And they have 2014 version as well with many cool new features.

They also have the Paas (Platform as a Service) which allows you to create a VM in Azure, which you are free to load your own software.  You can provision a pre-configured Data Warehouse version of SQL Server using a Power Shell script, or you can load your own Database.

However, you must purchase or supply your own licenses as in Windows and SQL Server.  You may be able to port your On-Premise licenses, but they must remain in the cloud for at least 90 days I believe.

By loading SQL Server, you have at your disposal MOST of the OnPremise data tools such as SQL Server Data Tools to build SSIS, SSAS and SSRS solutions.  You have the SSISDB Catalog to store your SSIS packages, you have your SQL Agent, along with a fully functioning SQL Server Reporting Server SSRS web, with Data Subscriptions available.  And it pre-loads Analysis Multi Dimensional with the option of activating the Tabular Model.

It does not however have Performance Point.

And you can set up an FTP site to push your data files to the Cloud if you choose.  And you can activate Active Directory Federation Services to integrate your On Premise AD.

You can set up a Virtual Network to establish a seamless link to your On Premise users.

You can set up a Static IP Address.

What I like is the option of pointing your On Premise Excel to the Cloud for Power Pivot, Power View and  Power Map using 2013 or 2010 with the Add Ins.  It seems like a cost savings to get clients to the Cloud sooner than later with the option of adding on later.

And by adding on, that opens up the arsenal of Office365.  For a subscription price, you get SharePoint, full office online or available for download, Lync, integrate with Active Directory Federation Services and a ton of other stuff including 24/7 support, all depending on which version you select.

And to top that off, you can also purchase PowerBI subscription, which opens up Self Service offerings.  You can point to On Premise to pull data, without having to store the data in the cloud.  You can host Excel files in PowerBI, manually refresh or set up Automatic Refreshes.  And with the Data Management Gateway, you can securely link data to PowerBI.

And PowerBI will  point to your Azure OLTP data, and I believe they recently announced the option of pointing to Analysis Services, which is a real selling point to clients.

So I touched on a few of the basic offerings from Microsoft Cloud offering around Data and SQL Server and Office365 and PowerBI.  With the Cloud, you no longer have to host this stuff On Premise, which means faster time to production, faster insights, secured, with Active Directory integration, push and pulling of data and it all runs in the Cloud, which means Disaster Recovery, which is a major selling point as well.

I hope to get a client or two up into the Cloud to find out where the gotchas are and to better understand the pricing models as they have changed a few times and there are so many factors and options available.  Suffice to say, depending on your clients budget, you can really pick and choose custom architecture to satisfy almost any configuration.

And then throw in HDInsight, Blob Storage, Machine Learning, Microsoft is to say the least, got their stuff together with their Data offerings in the Cloud.