What a wonderful couple of days at Ignite! It’s fascinating to hear all these exciting announcements and top tips from experts globally. One of the best things about being a Microsoft Partner is the access to the technologies, products and tech community, and all these together, empower us to drive impact so we can accelerate our customers’ data journey.
As we come to the end of this year’s Ignite, of all the sessions around data and AI, here are the ones our team liked most.
Etienne’s Best Picks
One of our focus areas over the past year has been Synapse, and more recently Purview. Exposé has in fact recently concluded a major program of work, where Synapse performed a central analytical function unifying multiple data across sources, contending with billions of records, and making visual insights available to users within seconds.
It is therefore fantastic to see the various improvements and announcements regarding Synapse, and a closer integration with Purview. Here are some highlights:
Azure Synapse Link
Link provides near real-time integration from Dataverse, Cosmos DB and SQL. With Link, operational data can be integrated into Synapse Analytics without needing to build ETL pipelines. Link for Dataverse is now GA, Link for Cosmos DB is in Private preview, and Link for SQL Server 2022 is expected soon through the upcoming CPT. The business benefit here is an immediate data analytics layer over your operational data. This again changes the whole paradigm around what a modern data warehouse is as it brings operational data in real time through such a modern data warehouse.
Azure Synapse Database templates
Database templates is now in preview. These templates are designed around common industry data warehouse models and will accelerate the build of your modern data warehouse. It contains a set of database templates that includes base entities that can be used as a blueprint (or a starter) for your data warehouse. It also includes a code free Designer that will allow users to map, transform and load the data into these models without code. The business benefit here is a massively accelerated path towards a data warehouse design (a starter model, that can of course be changed to suit your specific needs) that applies to your industry, plus a code free way to load your data into the resulting models.
Azure Synapse Data Explorer
Now forming a part of Synapse, Data Explorer allows you to analyse text heavy log or event data in near real time and contextualise that data with your other business data to assess impact and gain insights. Structured and unstructured data is easily mashed together, and it does this in near real time and at scale. The business benefit lies in the ability to contextualise your event or log data with business data quickly and at scale which adds another vantage point within your modern data warehouse.
Azure Purview Catalogue Search now in Synapse
Purview, only recently released, already has over 57bn data catalogued. It is going to become an invaluable piece of technology for data discovery and governance. The business benefit means the data workers, such as a data engineer, working in Synapse building authoritative data transformations, but do not yet know what is available has the ability to search and discover the datasets across his data ecosystem, right there within his workspace, and this is a huge productivity gain. Please feel free to see our recent video discussion on Purview & modern data governance here.
Jake’s Best Picks
Azure OpenAI Service
Azure OpenAI Service is now bringing OpenAI's powerful GPT-3 natural language model to the Azure platform. Already used in some of Microsoft’s existing services and GitHub’s Copilot tool that helps developers write code for them, developers can now leverage this functionality in their own models. The business benefit here is OpenAI service now brings this powerful natural language model to customers within Azure’s enterprise capabilities, scale and security.
Azure Percept - seamlessly builds and manages intelligence to the edge with Azure AI and Machine Learning with a complete platform including software and hardware components to accelerate IoT development and prototyping. The business benefit here is a complete package solution providing the pre-configured hardware IoT devices, pre-trained models and software for configuring and managing these devices that allows customers to fast-track AI development at the edge.
Willem’s Best Picks
Attending this year’s MS Ignite left me with two primary takeaways. I am firstly excited to see the continuing investment by Microsoft into the Azure Synapse product. It is proving to be a powerhouse on the platform and has been the cornerstone of each of my Azure deliveries to clients within the past year or two. Secondly, often when we consult with business users (not just IT departments) and we see an increasing desire to get closer to data. It is becoming more common to see ‘citizen developers’ within businesses now. Thus, the Power Platform plays a significant role as it helps move things along with low-code projects while still working within some framework that satisfies the IT security requirements.
This platform has again become more powerful (pun intended) with its low- and no-code approach to common data workloads. Some additions include: the Process Advisor to Power Automate; the pay-as-you-go pricing model for Power Apps; and the Power BI app for MS Teams. Process Advisor gives an easy low-code starting point for clients to engage with a commonly asked question about analysing a specific process to look for bottlenecks. The business benefit here is that Power Apps is now more approachable for ‘proof of value’ type projects with lower cost instead of per-user licensing models. Users now have access to their Power BI environment within MS Teams and are able to collaborate right there (where they are already working) without having to swap to the browser.
The Microsoft and Qlik collaboration for data integration shows a great example of how one can combine the forces of these two providers two solve business problems. The Qlik Replicate and Azure Synapse demo will be especially valuable to those clients working with SAP environments and who are looking at moving towards data lake or data warehousing in Azure Synapse.