Microsoft this week released its SQL Server 2012 to manufacturing, but since our focus is analysis, not news, I decided to sit a few days and let it all shake out.
Integration is sort of innate to Microsoft's philosophy - assuming, of course, that what you want to integrate is another Microsoft product. In many ways, SQL Server and its approach to Big Data reflect that tendency in a good way, providing more integration across its BI tools.
That Microsoft likes its own products to integrate isn't news, of course, but lately, Microsoft has pursued a more integration-friendly path, particularly when it comes to Big Data.
In fact, Microsoft has been partnering with Hortonworks on its Big Data strategy, with plans to release a Windows-compatible distribution of Hadoop and submitting the code back into Apache's Hadoop community, where it awaits approval. The software giant has already released connectors to Hadoop and SQL Server, according to Information Week.
Klout currently uses these SQL server tools with Hadoop, which RedmondMag.com briefly discusses in its SQL Server coverage, if you'd like to learn more about that.
This type of integration is where the payoff comes in for Microsoft customers, and why it's a Big Data play worth watching, as ZDNet's Andrew Brust explained:
As it turns out, SQL Server is important in the Big Data world, but not because of the core relational database engine. Microsoft's data platform strategy involves selling SQL Server with a number of companion products in the same license. Reporting, ETL (Extract, Transform & Load), OLAP (OnLine Analytical Processing), Data Mining, MDM (Master Data Management), Data Quality, Data Visualization and CEP (Complex Event Processing) components are included "in the box" with SQL Server. So SQL Server is more than just an RDBMS (Relational Database Management System).
Brust adds the collaboration between Microsoft and Hortonworks is paying off across the board for SQL Server because they've designed a "number of integration points between Hadoop and SQL Server's reporting, analysis and data visualization components."
All of which means that when Hadoop on Windows is released - possibly by July 1st - users will have a tightly integrated BI tool for accessing Hadoop data stores, he says.
There's another piece of Microsoft's Big Data puzzle, however, and that's the cloud-based solution Hadoop on Azure. Microsoft watchers were a bit disappointed when Redmond announced a second Community Technology Preview test to its Hadoop on Azure offering - and that meant missing its March release deadline, according to ZDNet's Microsoft reporter Mary-Jo Foley. So we'll have to watch for that release later this year.
While Big Data stole the spotlight in this release, SQL Server 2012 does, of course, include a data management tool called SQL Server Integration Services, which includes ETL capabilities. Allan Mitchell - a Microsoft Most Valued Professional - wrote an assessment of changes to that tool in early February. He was particularly pleased with the new user interface and the SSIS Server and catalog.