The Microsoft Intelligent Data Platform: Bringing together databases, analytics and governance

There's yet another new Microsoft platform in town: The Microsoft Intelligent Data Platform. Here's what this is and why app developers, chief data officers and IT pros should take note.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

Microsoft execs have been extolling the benefits of integrating databases and analytics for the past several years, starting in earnest with Azure Synapse Analytics. Today during Day 1 of its virtual Build 2022 developers conference, Microsoft added another element to its data-integration strategy: Governance.

Microsoft is calling the unified suite of its databases, analytics and governance products the Microsoft Intelligent Data Platform. This new platform encompasses everything already in the Azure Data space (Azure Data Factory, Azure Data Explorer, SQL Server 2022, Azure SQL, Cosmos DB, etc.) to the Synapse Analytics products, to Power BI, to the newly rebranded Purview compliance/governance product family.

But more interesting than what's in this grouping (basically, everything but the kitchen sink) is why Microsoft is creating YAP (yet another platform) in the first place.

Going forward, the same way that Microsoft officials talk about Azure, Microsoft 365 and Dynamics 365 as "the Microsoft Cloud," they'll also be talking about the three aspects of a data estate - databases, analytics, and governance -- as "the Microsoft Intelligent Data Platform," said Rohan Kumar, Corporate Vice President of the Azure Data team. Microsoft's grand plan is to bring "the world's data to the Microsoft Cloud" and "empower everyone on the planet to make better decisions with data."

Even with the work Microsoft and partners already have done to integrate databases and analytics, "it still can take several hours, if not days, for actions to be turned into insights," Kumar told me ahead of Build. Because analytics is more than just a back-end thing for future decision-making these days, and data has become part of every decision made today, he said that analytics has to be a core part of the platform and apps and services.

At Build this week, Microsoft announced a few newly integrated products that fit under the new Intelligent Data Platform umbrella.

SQL Server 2022: its avowedly most Azure-connected database release to date is now in public preview. SQL Server 2022 integrates with Azure Synapse Link and Purview in the name of helping customers get deeper insights about their data. SSQL Server 2022 is integrated with the new link feature in Azure SQL Managed Instance, which helps with disaster recovery.

Azure Synapse Link for SQL: now in preview, is meant to help with "near real-time insights" between operational data stored in Azure SQL and Azure Synapse Analytics. Azure Synapse Link for SQL is now in public preview.

Purview Data Estate Insights: aimed at the Chief Data Officer and other governance stakeholders, is an app that will provide information about where data is distributed, where top data risks that need fixing are, and whether investments are paying off. The Purview Data Estate Insights app is in preview.

Datamart in Power BI: This new self-service capability is in Power BI Premium and is meant to help users to discover insights in their own data sets. Microsoft is describing Datamart in Power BI as bringing "turnkey data warehousing to millions of Power BI users" in a way they won't have to rely on IT. This is in preview as of today.

During the kick-off Build keynote, CEO Satya Nadella told developers attending virtually that data is their "most important app consideration." He added that "analytics will become a critical part of the app experience" and cited e-commerce as the best example of why this new level of integration is needed. 

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