Microsoft readies 'Austin,' an Azure-hosted event-processing service

Microsoft is continuing to move some of its SQL Server capabilities to the cloud and turn them into services. The latest: Complex event processing, a capability that's codenamed "Austin."
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

Microsoft is continuing to move some of its SQL Server capabilities to the cloud and turn them into services.

The latest to join the coming SQL Azure services line-up -- alongside the already announced (but still undelivered) SQL Azure Reporting Services -- is complex-event processing. The cloud version of this capability is known as codename "Austin," according to a couple of new Microsoft blog posts this week.

(For those codename buffs keeping track at home, this isn't the first time Microsoft has used "Austin" as a codename. Version 2.0 of Microsoft's now-defunct ResponsePoint VOIP/telephony software for small businesses, also was codenamed "Austin.")

But back to the new Austin. Austin will be the service version of the StreamInsight complex-event-processing capabilities that are in SQL Server today. Complex event processing "enables real time insight into vast volumes of streaming data," according to Microsoft's explanation, which is distinct from, but related to, business intelligence, which "enables analytics and insight into a set of existing data to inform future decision making."

Austin is being released in private Community Technology Preview (CTP) form now, but will be available as a public CTP, available from the SQL Azure Labs Site, in the second half of the year, the Softies told attendees of the TechEd 2011 conference this week. Microsoft isn't sharing publicly a release target for the final version of Austin.

By hosting StreamInsight on the Windows Azure platform, Microsoft will allow customers and partners "to build event-driven applications where the analysis of the events is performed in the cloud," explained Zane Adam, a Microsoft General Manager of  Azure and Middleware, in a May 15 blog post.

Among some of the potential scenarios where Austin could be used, as envisioned by Microsoft:

  • Collecting data from manufacturing applications (e.g. real-time events from plant-floor devices and sensors)
  • Financial trading applications (e.g. monitoring and capitalizing on current market conditions with very short windows of opportunity)
  • Web analytics (e.g. immediate click-stream pattern detection and response with targeted advertising.)
  • “Smart grid” management (e.g. infrastructure for managing electric grids and other utilities, such as immediate response to variations in energy to minimize or avoid outages or other disruptions of service).

Microsoft is pitching Austin as helping customers from having to implement complex event processing on-premises themselves, "but more importantly, be able to collect and process events from anywhere on the planet and derive trends from a vastly increased series of events since that data is sent to the cloud."

In other SQL Azure-related news this week, Microsoft officials said the company has released its May 2011 service update for SQL Azure, which includes four new updates:

  • SQL Azure Management REST API – a web API for managing SQL Azure servers
  • Multiple servers per subscription – create multiple SQL Azure servers per subscription
  • JDBC Driver – updated database driver for Java applications to access SQL Server and SQL Azure
  • DAC Framework 1.1 – making it easier to deploy databases and in-place upgrades on SQL Azure

Officials also told TechEd attendees this week that they are planning to add in some unspecified future SQL Azure release  the integration of import and export features in the management portal; and enhancements to the Web-based database manager (a k a, “Project Houston”) for additional schema management, and a new service for managing SQL Azure databases through an Open Data Protocol endpoint.

Microsoft made a CTP for a database import/export capability available this week, as well. This capability is designed to allow SQL Azure database users to more simply archive SQL Azure and SQL Server databases, or to migrate on-premises SQL Server databases to SQL Azure, according to company officials.

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