Microsoft has outlined a big data strategy and launched new products and services to drive this, including an Azure service for the Internet of Things, a line of "big data in a box" hardware appliances and the release of SQL Server 2014.
The software giant described its vision for big data at a customer event in San Francisco, where recently appointed chief executive Satya Nadella outlined the company's path to deliver a platform for what it calls "ambient intelligence".
Nadella said that as computing becomes ubiquitous, the data from digital sensors and the interactions between computers and human users represents the raw material for making better decisions.
"When these devices around us gain the capacity to listen to us, respond to us, understand us and act on our behalf, we enter into an entirely new era. The era of ambient intelligence," he said.
Building out a comprehensive platform that can enable this kind of ambient intelligence is a whole company initiative that Microsoft is uniquely qualified to undertake, Nadella claimed.
"SQL Server, BI, Machine Learning, Bing, Azure each have a vital role to play on the road to creating a world in which our devices, services and environments truly anticipate and understand our needs. It won't happen overnight, but the good news is that along the way, there will be dividends that our customers and partners will benefit from today," he wrote on the Official Microsoft Blog.
To drive this vision, Microsoft announced the availability of SQL Server 2014, a limited public preview of the Microsoft Azure Intelligent Systems Service starting today, and availability of the Analytics Platform System.
The Azure Intelligent Systems Service is designed to help customers embrace the Internet of Things by securely connecting, managing and capturing machine-generated data from a variety of sensors and devices, Microsoft said.
The service provides customers with ready to go capabilities to capture vital data, analyse it with familiar tools such as Microsoft's HD Insight Hadoop distribution and Power BI for Office 365, and then quickly take the appropriate action.
Meanwhile, the Analytics Platform System (APS) combines Microsoft's SQL Server Parallel Data Warehouse packaged together with HDInsight and delivered as an integrated rack of hardware pre-built and configured by Dell, HP, or Quanta.
SQL Server 2014 has been eagerly awaited for some time, thanks to its support for in-memory transaction processing to boost performance. The database platform was announced at Microsoft's TechEd conference last year, and was previously slated for general availability at the start of April.
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