Microsoft Azure had its day on Dec. 3 just as I was digesting the news from rival Amazon Web Services (AWS). The theme was “all about data and analytics.” The focus was on applications Microsoft has added to its Azure services. Anyone who ever thought that these services stopped at being convenient hosts for your cloud missed the entire business model.

Industrial software developers have been busily aligning with Microsoft Azure. Maybe that is why there was no direct assault on their businesses like there was with the AWS announcements. But… Microsoft’s themes of breaking silos of information and combining advanced analytics have the possibility of rendering moot some of the developers’ own tools—unless they just repackage those from Microsoft.

The heart of the meaning of the virtual event yesterday was summed up by Julia White, Corporate Vice President, Microsoft Azure, on a blog post.

Over the years, we have had a front-row seat to digital transformation occurring across all industries and regions around the world. And in 2020, we’ve seen that digitally transformed organizations have successfully adapted to sudden disruptions. What lies at the heart of digital transformation is also the underpinning of organizations who’ve proven most resilient during turbulent times—and that is data. Data is what enables both analytical power—analyzing the past and gaining new insights, and predictive power—predicting the future and planning ahead.

To harness the power of data, first we need to break down data silos. While not a new concept, achieving this has been a constant challenge in the history of data and analytics as its ecosystem continues to be complex and heterogeneous. We must expand beyond the traditional view that data silos are the core of the problem. The truth is, too many businesses also have silos of skills and silos of technologies, not just silos of data. And, this must be addressed holistically.

For decades, specialized technologies like data warehouses and data lakes have helped us collect and analyze data of all sizes and formats. But in doing so, they often created niches of expertise and specialized technology in the process. This is the paradox of analytics: the more we apply new technology to integrate and analyze data, the more silos we can create.

To break this cycle, a new approach is needed. Organizations must break down all silos to achieve analytical power and predictive power, in a unified, secure, and compliant manner. Your organizational success over the next decade will increasingly depend on your ability to accomplish this goal.

This is why we stepped back and took a new approach to analytics in Azure. We rearchitected our operational and analytics data stores to take full advantage of a new, cloud-native architecture. This fundamental shift, while maintaining consistent tools and languages, is what enables the long-held silos to be eliminated across skills, technology, and data. At the core of this is Azure Synapse Analytics—a limitless analytics service that brings together data integration, enterprise data warehousing, and Big Data analytics into a single service offering unmatched time to insights. With Azure Synapse, organizations can run the full gamut of analytics projects and put data to work much more quickly, productively, and securely, generating insights from all data sources. And, importantly, Azure Synapse combines capabilities spanning the needs of data engineering, machine learning, and BI without creating silos in processes and tools. Customers such as Walgreens, Myntra, and P&G have achieved tremendous success with Azure Synapse, and today we move to the global generally availability, so every customer can now get access.

But, just breaking down silos is not sufficient. A comprehensive data governance solution is needed to know where all data resides across an organization. An organization that does not know where its data is, does not know what its future will be. To empower this solution, we are proud to deliver Azure Purview—a unified data governance service that helps organizations achieve a complete understanding of their data. 

Azure Purview helps discover all data across your organization, track lineage of data, and create a business glossary wherever it is stored: on-premises, across clouds, in SaaS applications, and in Microsoft Power BI. It also helps you understand your data exposures by using over 100 AI classifiers that automatically look for personally identifiable information (PII), sensitive data, and pinpoint out-of-compliance data. Azure Purview is integrated with Microsoft Information Protection which means you can apply the same sensitivity labels defined in Microsoft 365 Compliance Center. With Azure Purview, you can view your data estate pivoting on classifications and labeling and drill into assets containing sensitive data across on-premises, multi-cloud, and multi-edge locations.

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Yesterday, Microsoft announced that the latest version of Azure Synapse is generally available, and the company also unveiled a new data governance solution, Azure Purview.

In the year since Azure Synapse was announced, Microsoft says the number of Azure customers running petabyte-scale workloads – or the equivalent of 500 billion pages of standard printed text – has increased fivefold.

Azure Purview, now available in public preview, will initially enable customers to understand exactly what data they have, manage the data’s compliance with privacy regulations and derive valuable insights more quickly.

Just as Azure Synapse represented the evolution of the traditional data warehouse, Azure Purview is the next generation of the data catalog, Microsoft says. It builds on the existing data search capabilities, adding enhancements to help customers comply with data handling laws and incorporate security controls.

The service includes three main components:

  • Data discovery, classification and mapping: Azure Purview will automatically find all of an organization’s data on premises or in the cloud and evaluate the characteristics and sensitivity of the data. Beginning in February, the capability will also be available for data managed by other storage providers.
  • Data catalog: Azure Purview enables all users to search for trusted data using a simple web-based experience. Visual graphs let users quickly see if data of interest is from a trusted source.
  • Data governance: Azure Purview provides a bird’s-eye view of a company’s data landscape, enabling data officers to efficiently govern data use. This enables key insights such as the distribution of data across environments, how data is moving and where sensitive data is stored.

Microsoft says these improvements will help break down the internal barriers that have traditionally complicated and slowed data governance.

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