Feb
17
2021
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Microsoft’s Dapr open-source project to help developers build cloud-native apps hits 1.0

Dapr, the Microsoft-incubated open-source project that aims to make it easier for developers to build event-driven, distributed cloud-native applications, hit its 1.0 milestone today, signifying the project’s readiness for production use cases. Microsoft launched the Distributed Application Runtime (that’s what “Dapr” stand for) back in October 2019. Since then, the project released 14 updates and the community launched integrations with virtually all major cloud providers, including Azure, AWS, Alibaba and Google Cloud.

The goal for Dapr, Microsoft Azure CTO Mark Russinovich told me, was to democratize cloud-native development for enterprise developers.

“When we go look at what enterprise developers are being asked to do — they’ve traditionally been doing client, server, web plus database-type applications,” he noted. “But now, we’re asking them to containerize and to create microservices that scale out and have no-downtime updates — and they’ve got to integrate with all these cloud services. And many enterprises are, on top of that, asking them to make apps that are portable across on-premises environments as well as cloud environments or even be able to move between clouds. So just tons of complexity has been thrown at them that’s not specific to or not relevant to the business problems they’re trying to solve.”

And a lot of the development involves re-inventing the wheel to make their applications reliably talk to various other services. The idea behind Dapr is to give developers a single runtime that, out of the box, provides the tools that developers need to build event-driven microservices. Among other things, Dapr provides various building blocks for things like service-to-service communications, state management, pub/sub and secrets management.

Image Credits: Dapr

“The goal with Dapr was: let’s take care of all of the mundane work of writing one of these cloud-native distributed, highly available, scalable, secure cloud services, away from the developers so they can focus on their code. And actually, we took lessons from serverless, from Functions-as-a-Service where with, for example Azure Functions, it’s event-driven, they focus on their business logic and then things like the bindings that come with Azure Functions take care of connecting with other services,” Russinovich said.

He also noted that another goal here was to do away with language-specific models and to create a programming model that can be leveraged from any language. Enterprises, after all, tend to use multiple languages in their existing code, and a lot of them are now looking at how to best modernize their existing applications — without throwing out all of their current code.

As Russinovich noted, the project now has more than 700 contributors outside of Microsoft (though the core commuters are largely from Microsoft) and a number of businesses started using it in production before the 1.0 release. One of the larger cloud providers that is already using it is Alibaba. “Alibaba Cloud has really fallen in love with Dapr and is leveraging it heavily,” he said. Other organizations that have contributed to Dapr include HashiCorp and early users like ZEISS, Ignition Group and New Relic.

And while it may seem a bit odd for a cloud provider to be happy that its competitors are using its innovations already, Russinovich noted that this was exactly the plan and that the team hopes to bring Dapr into a foundation soon.

“We’ve been on a path to open governance for several months and the goal is to get this into a foundation. […] The goal is opening this up. It’s not a Microsoft thing. It’s an industry thing,” he said — but he wasn’t quite ready to say to which foundation the team is talking.

 

Feb
09
2021
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Is overseeing cloud operations the new career path to CEO?

When Amazon announced last week that founder and CEO Jeff Bezos planned to step back from overseeing operations and shift into an executive chairman role, it also revealed that AWS CEO Andy Jassy, head of the company’s profitable cloud division, would replace him.

As Bessemer partner Byron Deeter pointed out on Twitter, Jassy’s promotion was similar to Satya Nadella’s ascent at Microsoft: in 2014, he moved from executive VP in charge of Azure to the chief exec’s office. Similarly, Arvind Krishna, who was promoted to replace Ginni Rometti as IBM CEO last year, also was formerly head of the company’s cloud business.

Could Nadella’s successful rise serve as a blueprint for Amazon as it makes a similar transition? While there are major differences in the missions of these companies, it’s inevitable that we will compare these two executives based on their former jobs. It’s true that they have an awful lot in common, but there are some stark differences, too.

Replacing a legend

For starters, Jassy is taking over for someone who founded one of the world’s biggest corporations. Nadella replaced Steve Ballmer, who had taken over for the company’s face, Bill Gates. Holger Mueller, an analyst at Constellation Research, says this notable difference could have a huge impact for Jassy with his founder boss still looking over his shoulder.

“There’s a lot of similarity in the two situations, but Satya was a little removed from the founder Gates. Bezos will always hover and be there, whereas Gates (and Ballmer) had retired for good. [ … ] It was clear [they] would not be coming back. [ … ] For Jassy, the owner could [conceivably] come back anytime,” Mueller said.

But Andrew Bartels, an analyst at Forrester Research, says it’s not a coincidence that both leaders were plucked from the cloud divisions of their respective companies, even if it was seven years apart.

“In both cases, these hyperscale business units of Microsoft and Amazon were the fastest-growing and best-performing units of the companies. [ … ] In both cases, cloud infrastructure was seen as a platform on top of which and around which other cloud offerings could be developed,” Bartels said. The companies both believe that the leaders of these two growth engines were best suited to lead the company into the future.

Feb
04
2021
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Daily Crunch: Microsoft rethinks corporate intranet

Microsoft tries to improve corporate intranet, Google will offer new smartphone health measurements and 23andMe is going public via SPAC. This is your Daily Crunch for February 4, 2021.

The big story: Microsoft rethinks corporate intranet

Microsoft launched what it’s calling a new “employee experience platform,” designed to reinvent those corporate intranet sites that large companies use to share content with their employees.

What makes this new platform, called Viva, any different? Well, it integrates with Microsoft’s other collaboration tools like SharePoint and Yammer, along with LinkedIn Learning and other training services, and it also includes team analytics.

In a pre-recorded video, CEO Satya Nadella said Microsoft is launching this because, “We have participated in the largest at-scale remote work experiment the world has seen and it has had a dramatic impact on the employee experience. As the world recovers, there is no going back. Flexibility in when, where and how we work will be key.”

The tech giants

Venmo to gain crypto, budgeting, savings and Honey integrations this year — The Venmo mobile payments app is going to look very different in 2021 as it inches closer to neobank territory.

Google to offer heart and respiratory rate measurements using just your smartphone’s camera — Google is introducing features that will allow users to take vital health measurements using just the camera they already have on their smartphone.

HubSpot acquires media startup The Hustle — HubSpot says content is an increasingly important part of its business, with customers finding its products through things like YouTube videos and HubSpot Academy.

Startups, funding and venture capital

23andMe set to go public via a Virgin Group SPAC merger — The transaction is expected to result in 23andMe having around $984 million in cash available at close.

Accel backs Mexican startup Flink’s effort to bring consumer investing to Latin America — Since launching its first brokerage product in July of 2020, Flink has surpassed 1 million users and 800,000 active brokerage accounts.

Tovala, the smart oven and meal kit service, heats up with $30M more in funding — This is the second round of funding for the startup in the space of six months.

Advice and analysis from Extra Crunch

Four strategies for deep tech founders who are fundraising — Step one: Use storytelling to highlight your big vision.

Why one Databricks investor thinks the company may be undervalued — The recent Databricks funding round, a $1 billion investment at a $28 billion valuation, was one of the year’s most notable private investments so far.

Extra Crunch is now hiring for reporter, editor and project manager positions — Extra Crunch is about to turn two years old and we now have a lot of demanding subscribers. (We love them, of course.)

(Extra Crunch is our membership program, which helps founders and startup teams get ahead. You can sign up here.)

Everything else

A growing number of startups are creating APIs to assess and offset corporate carbon emissions — It was only a matter of time before application programming interfaces came for the carbon credit offsets.

The cloud infrastructure market hit $129B in 2020 — That’s up from around $97 billion in 2019, according to data from Synergy Research Group.

China’s national blockchain network embraces global developers — Last year, an ambitious, government-backed blockchain infrastructure network launched in China.

The Daily Crunch is TechCrunch’s roundup of our biggest and most important stories. If you’d like to get this delivered to your inbox every day at around 3pm Pacific, you can subscribe here.

Feb
04
2021
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The cloud infrastructure market hit $129B in 2020

The cloud infrastructure market in 2020 reflected society itself, with the richest companies getting richer and the ones at the bottom of the market getting poorer. It grew to $129 billion for the year, according to data from Synergy Research Group. That’s up from around $97 billion in 2019.

Synergy also reported that the cloud infra market reached $37 billion in the fourth quarter, up from $33 billion in the third quarter, and 35% from a year ago.

I’ve heard from every founder under the sun for the last 9 months that the pandemic was accelerating digital transformation, and that a big part of that was an expedited shift to the cloud. These numbers would seem to bear that out.

As usual the big three were Amazon, Microsoft and Google, with Alibaba now firmly entrenched in fourth place and IBM falling back to fifth. But Microsoft grew more quickly than rival Amazon, reaching 20% market share at the end of 2020 for the first time. Keep in mind that the Redmond-based software giant has now doubled its share since 2017. That’s remarkably rapid rapid growth. Meanwhile Google and Alibaba took home 9% and 6% respectively.

Here’s what that all looks like in chart form:

Cloud infrastructure marketshare for fourth quarter 2020 from Synergy Research.

Image Credits: Synergy Research

Amazon is an interesting case in that it has plateaued at around 33% for four straight years of Synergy data, but because it’s one-third share of an increasingly growing market, that means that it has kept growing its public cloud revenues as the category itself has expanded.

Amazon closed out the year with $12.74 billion in Q4 AWS revenue, putting it on a run rate of over just over $50 billion for the first time. That was up from $11.6 billion the prior quarter. While Microsoft’s numbers are always difficult to parse from its earning’s reports, doing the math of 20% of $37 billion, it came in with $7.4 billion up from $5.9 billion last quarter.

Google brought in $3.3 billion, up from $2.98 billion in Q3 2020, and Alibaba pulled in $2.22 billion, up from $1.65 billion over the same timeframe.

John Dinsdale, principal analyst at Synergy says the leaders are pretty firmly entrenched at this point with huge absolute market numbers and also huge gaps between the cloud providers. “AWS has been a great success story for over ten years now and it remains in an extremely strong market position despite increasing competition from a broad swathe of strong IT industry companies. That is a great testament both to Amazon and to the AWS leadership team and you’d have to suspect that will not change with the new regime,’ he told me.

He sees Microsoft as a worthy rival, but one that is bound to hit a growth wall at some point. “It is certainly feasible that Microsoft will continue to narrow the gap between itself and Amazon, but the bigger Microsoft Azure becomes the tougher it is to maintain really high growth rates. That is just the law of large numbers.”

Meanwhile, market share at the bottom of the cloud infrastructure space continued to decline even while the number of dollars at stake have continued to expand dramatically. “The market share losers have been the large group of smaller cloud providers, who collectively have lost 13 percentage points of market share over the last 16 quarters,” Synergy wrote in a statement.

Dinsdale says all is not lost for these players, however. “Regarding the smaller players (or the big companies that have only a small market share), they can either focus on specific market niches (can be based around geography, service type or customer vertical) or they can try to offer a broad range of cloud services to a broad range of customers. Companies doing the former can do quite well, while companies doing the latter will find it extremely tough,” Dinsdale told me.

It’s worth noting that Canalys has slightly different numbers with a total market of around $142 billion and almost $40 billion for the quarter, but the percentages are in line with Synergy’s:

Canalys 4th quarter 2021 cloud infrastructure market share percentages

Image Credits: Canalys

At some point the numbers get so big they almost cease to have meaning, but as large as the public cloud revenue numbers become, they remain a relatively small percentage of overall worldwide IT spend. According to Gartner estimates, worldwide IT spend in 2020 was $3.6 trillion (with a T). That means that the cloud infrastructure market accounted for just 3.85% of total spend in 2020.

Think about that for a moment: less than 4% of IT spend currently is on cloud infrastructure, leaving so much room for growth and for those billions to grow ever bigger in the coming years.

It would certainly make it more interesting if someone could come in and disrupt the leaders, but for now at least they are going to be hard to push out of the way unless something unforeseen and dramatic happens to the way we think about computing.

Feb
04
2021
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Microsoft launches Viva, its new take on the old intranet

Microsoft today launched Viva, a new “employee experience platform,” or, in non-marketing terms, its new take on the intranet sites most large companies tend to offer their employees. This includes standard features like access to internal communications built on integrations with SharePoint, Yammer and other Microsoft tools. In addition, Viva also offers access to team analytics and an integration with LinkedIn Learning and other training content providers (including the likes of SAP SuccessFactors), as well as what Microsoft calls Viva Topics for knowledge sharing within a company.

If you’re like most employees, you know that your company spends a lot of money on internal communications and its accompanying intranet offerings — and you then promptly ignore that in order to get actual work done. But Microsoft argues that times are changing, as remote work is here to stay for many companies, even after the pandemic (hopefully) ends. Even if a small percentage of a company’s workforce remains remote or opts for a hybrid approach, those workers still need to have access to the right tools and feel like they are part of the company.

Image Credits: Microsoft

“We have participated in the largest at-scale remote work experiment the world has seen and it has had a dramatic impact on the employee experience,” Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said in a pre-recorded video. “As the world recovers, there is no going back. Flexibility in when, where and how we work will be key.”

He argues that every organization will require a unified employee experience platform that supports workers from their onboarding process to collaborating with their colleagues and continuing their education within the company. Yet as employees work remotely, companies are now struggling to keep their internal culture and foster community among employees. Viva aims to fix this.

Unsurprisingly, Viva is powered by Microsoft 365 and all of the tools that come with that, as well as integrations with Microsoft Teams, the company’s flagship collaboration service, and even Yammer, the employee communication tool it acquired back in 2012 and continues to support.

There are several parts to Viva: Viva Connections for accessing company news, policies, benefits and internal communities (powered by Yammer); Viva Learning for, you guessed it, accessing learning resources; and Viva Topics, the service’s take on company-wide knowledge sharing. For the most part, that’s all standard fair in any modern intranet, whether it’s from a startup provider or an established player like Jive.

Viva Insights feels like the odd one out here, especially after Microsoft’s kerfuffle around its Productivity Score. The idea here is to give managers insights into whether their team (but not individual team members) are at risk of burnout, for example, in order to encourage them to turn off notifications or set daily priorities (a good manager, I’d hope, could do this without analytics, but here we are, in 2021). It’s also meant to help company leaders “address complex challenges and respond to change by shedding light on organizational work patterns and trends.” Sure.

Because this is Microsoft in 2021, there’s also a lot of talk about employee well-being in today’s announcement. For most employees, that means fewer meetings, more focus time and turning off notifications after work. Obviously there are technical tools to help with that, but it’s really a question of company culture and management. I’m not sure you need analytics integrated with LinkedIn’s Glint for that, but you can now have those, too.

“As the world of work changes, the next horizon of innovation will come from a focus on creativity, engagement and well-being so organizations can build cultures of resilience and ingenuity,” said Jared Spataro, corporate vice president, Microsoft 365. “Our vision is to deliver a platform for the employee experience that helps organizations create a thriving culture with engaged employees and inspiring leaders.”

Jan
29
2021
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Okta SaaS report finds Office 365 wins the cloud — sort of

Each year Okta processes millions of SaaS logons via its authentication system. It kindly aggregates that data to find the most popular apps and publishes an annual report. This year it found that the most popular tool by far was Microsoft Office 365.

It’s worth noting that while app usage popularity varied by region, Office 365 was number one with a bullet across the board, whether globally or when the report broke it down by geographic area. That wasn’t true of any other product in this report, so Office 365 has extensive usage across the world (at least among companies that use Okta).

But as with everything cloud, it’s not a simple matter to say that because lots of people signed onto Office 365, Microsoft is the clear winner in a broader sense. In reality, the cloud is a complex marketplace, and just because people use one tool doesn’t preclude them from using tools that compete directly with it.

As a case in point, consider that the report found that 36% of Microsoft 365 customers were also using Google Workspace (formerly known as G Suite), which offers a similar set of office productivity tools. Further, Okta found that 42% of Office 365 customers were using Zoom and 32% were using Slack.

This is pretty remarkable when you consider that Office 365 bundles Teams with similar functionality for free. What’s more, so does Google with Google Hangouts, so people use the tool they want when they want, and sometimes it seems they use competing versions of the same tool. The report also found that of those Office 365 users, 44% are using Salesforce, 41% AWS, 15% Smartsheet and 14% Tableau (which is owned by Salesforce). Microsoft has products in all those categories.

Microsoft is clearly a big company with a lot of products, but the report blows a hole in the idea that because people like Office 365, they are going to be big fans of other Microsoft products, or that they can count on any kind of brand loyalty across the range of products or even exclusivity within the same product category.

All of this, and much of the other data in this report makes tremendously interesting reading as far as it goes. It’s not a definitive window on the state of SaaS. It’s a definitive reading on the state of Okta customers’ use of SaaS, on the Okta Integration Network (OIN), a point the company readily acknowledges in the report’s methodology section.

“As you read this report, keep in mind that this data is representative of Okta’s customers, the applications and integrations we connect to through the OIN, and the ways in which users access these tools through our service,” the report stated.

But it is a way to look at the state of SaaS taking advantage of the 9400 Okta customers using the network and the 6,500 integrations to the world’s most popular SaaS tools. That gives the company a unique view into the world of SaaS. What you can conclude is that the cloud is complicated, and it’s not a zero-sum game by any means. In fact, being a winner in one area is not a guarantee of winning across the board.

Jan
13
2021
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Stacklet raises $18M for its cloud governance platform

Stacklet, a startup that is commercializing the Cloud Custodian open-source cloud governance project, today announced that it has raised an $18 million Series A funding round. The round was led by Addition, with participation from Foundation Capital and new individual investor Liam Randall, who is joining the company as VP of business development. Addition and Foundation Capital also invested in Stacklet’s seed round, which the company announced last August. This new round brings the company’s total funding to $22 million.

Stacklet helps enterprises manage their data governance stance across different clouds, accounts, policies and regions, with a focus on security, cost optimization and regulatory compliance. The service offers its users a set of pre-defined policy packs that encode best practices for access to cloud resources, though users can obviously also specify their own rules. In addition, Stacklet offers a number of analytics functions around policy health and resource auditing, as well as a real-time inventory and change management logs for a company’s cloud assets.

The company was co-founded by Travis Stanfield (CEO) and Kapil Thangavelu (CTO). Both bring a lot of industry expertise to the table. Stanfield spent time as an engineer at Microsoft and leading DealerTrack Technologies, while Thangavelu worked at Canonical and most recently in Amazon’s AWSOpen team. Thangavelu is also one of the co-creators of the Cloud Custodian project, which was first incubated at Capital One, where the two co-founders met during their time there, and is now a sandbox project under the Cloud Native Computing Foundation’s umbrella.

“When I joined Capital One, they had made the executive decision to go all-in on cloud and close their data centers,” Thangavelu told me. “I got to join on the ground floor of that movement and Custodian was born as a side project, looking at some of the governance and security needs that large regulated enterprises have as they move into the cloud.”

As companies have sped up their move to the cloud during the pandemic, the need for products like Stacklets has also increased. The company isn’t naming most of its customers, but it has disclosed FICO a design partner. Stacklet isn’t purely focused on the enterprise, though. “Once the cloud infrastructure becomes — for a particular organization — large enough that it’s not knowable in a single person’s head, we can deliver value for you at that time and certainly, whether it’s through the open source or through Stacklet, we will have a story there.” The Cloud Custodian open-source project is already seeing serious use among large enterprises, though, and Stacklet obviously benefits from that as well.

“In just 8 months, Travis and Kapil have gone from an idea to a functioning team with 15 employees, signed early Fortune 2000 design partners and are well on their way to building the Stacklet commercial platform,” Foundation Capital’s Sid Trivedi said. “They’ve done all this while sheltered in place at home during a once-in-a-lifetime global pandemic. This is the type of velocity that investors look for from an early-stage company.”

Looking ahead, the team plans to use the new funding to continue to developed the product, which should be generally available later this year, expand both its engineering and its go-to-market teams and continue to grow the open-source community around Cloud Custodian.

Dec
16
2020
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Amazon asks judge to set aside Microsoft’s $10B DoD JEDI cloud contract win

It’s been more than two years since the Pentagon announced its $10 billion, decade long JEDI cloud contract, which was supposed to provide a pathway to technological modernization for U.S. armed forces. While Microsoft was awarded the contract in October 2019, Amazon went to court to protest that decision, and it has been in legal limbo ever since.

Yesterday marked another twist in this government procurement saga when Amazon released its latest legal volley, asking a judge to set aside the decision to select Microsoft. Its arguments are similar to ones it has made before, but this time takes aim at the Pentagon’s reevaluation process, which after reviewing the contract and selection process, still found in a decision released this past September that Microsoft had won.

Amazon believes that reevaluation was highly flawed, and subject to undue influence, bias and pressure from the president. Based on this, Amazon has asked the court to set aside the award to Microsoft .

The JEDI reevaluations and re-award decision have fallen victim to an Administration that suppresses the good-faith analysis and reasoning of career officials for political reasons — ultimately to the detriment of national security and the efficient and lawful use of taxpayer dollars. DoD has demonstrated again that it has not executed this procurement objectively and in good faith. This re-award should be set aside.

As you might imagine, Frank X. Shaw, corporate vice president for communications at Microsoft does not agree, believing his company won on merit and by providing the best price.

“As the losing bidder, Amazon was informed of our pricing and they realized they’d originally bid too high. They then amended aspects of their bid to achieve a lower price. However, when looking at all the criteria together, the career procurement officials at the DoD decided that given the superior technical advantages and overall value, we continued to offer the best solution,” Shaw said in a statement shared with TechCrunch.

As for Amazon, a spokesperson told TechCrunch, “We are simply seeking a fair and objective review by the court, regarding the technical errors, bias and political interference that blatantly impacted this contract award.”

And so it goes.

The Pentagon announced it was putting out a bid for a $10 billion, decade long contract in 2018, dubbing it JEDI, short for Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure. The procurement process has been mired in controversy from the start, and the size and scope of the deal has attracted widespread attention, much more than your typical government contract. It brought with it claims of bias, particularly by Oracle, that the bidding process was designed to favor Amazon.

We are more than two years beyond the original announcement. We are more than year beyond the original award to Microsoft, and it still remains stuck in a court battle with two major tech companies continuing to snipe at one another. With neither likely to give in, it will be up to the court to decide the final outcome, and perhaps end this saga once and for all.

Note: The DoD did not respond to our request for comment. Should that change, we will update the story.

Dec
09
2020
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Microsoft brings new process mining features to Power Automate

Power Automate is Microsoft’s platform for streamlining repetitive workflows — you may remember it under its original name: Microsoft Flow. The market for these robotic process automation (RPA) tools is hot right now, so it’s no surprise that Microsoft, too, is doubling down on its platform. Only a few months ago, the team launched Power Automate Desktop, based on its acquisition of Softomotive, which helps users automate workflows in legacy desktop-based applications, for example. After a short time in preview, Power Automate Desktop is now generally available.

The real news today, though, is that the team is also launching a new tool, the Process Advisor, which is now in preview as part of the Power Automate platform. This new process mining tool provides users with a new collaborative environment where developers and business users can work together to create new automations.

The idea here is that business users are the ones who know exactly how a certain process works. With Process Advisor, they can now submit recordings of how they process a refund, for example, and then submit that to the developers, who are typically not experts in how these processes usually work.

What’s maybe just as important is that a system like this can identify bottlenecks in existing processes where automation can help speed up existing workflows.

Image Credits: Microsoft

“This goes back to one of the things that we always talk about for Power Platform, which, it’s a corny thing, but it’s that development is a team sport,” Charles Lamanna, Microsoft’s corporate VP for its Low Code Application Platform, told me. “That’s one of our big focuses: how to bring people to collaborate and work together who normally don’t. This is great because it actually brings together the business users who live the process each and every day with a specialist who can build the robot and do the automation.”

The way this works in the backend is that Power Automate’s tools capture exactly what the users do and click on. All this information is then uploaded to the cloud and — with just five or six recordings — Power Automate’s systems can map how the process works. For more complex workflows, or those that have a lot of branches for different edge cases, you likely want more recordings to build out these processes, though.

Image Credits: Microsoft

As Lamanna noted, building out these workflows and process maps can also help businesses better understand the ROI of these automations. “This kind of map is great to go build an automation on top of it, but it’s also great because it helps you capture the ROI of each automation you do because you’ll know for each step how long it took you,” Lamanna said. “We think that this concept of Process Advisor is probably going to be one of the most important engines of adoption for all these low-code/no-code technologies that are coming out. Basically, it can help guide you to where it’s worth spending the energy, where it’s worth training people, where it’s worth building an app, or using AI, or building a robot with our RPA like Power Automate.”

Lamanna likened this to the advent of digital advertising, which for the first time helped marketers quantify the ROI of advertising.

The new process mining capabilities in Power Automate are now available in preview.

Dec
03
2020
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Microsoft launches Azure Purview, its new data governance service

As businesses gather, store and analyze an ever-increasing amount of data, tools for helping them discover, catalog, track and manage how that data is shared are also becoming increasingly important. With Azure Purview, Microsoft is launching a new data governance service into public preview today that brings together all of these capabilities in a new data catalog with discovery and data governance features.

As Rohan Kumar, Microsoft’s corporate VP for Azure Data, told me, this has become a major pain point for enterprises. While they may be very excited about getting started with data-heavy technologies like predictive analytics, those companies’ data and privacy-focused executives are very concerned to make sure that the way the data is used is compliant or that the company has received the right permissions to use its customers’ data, for example.

In addition, companies also want to make sure that they can trust their data and know who has access to it and who made changes to it.

“[Purview] is a unified data governance platform which automates the discovery of data, cataloging of data, mapping of data, lineage tracking — with the intention of giving our customers a very good understanding of the breadth of the data estate that exists to begin with, and also to ensure that all these regulations that are there for compliance, like GDPR, CCPA, etc, are managed across an entire data estate in ways which enable you to make sure that they don’t violate any regulation,” Kumar explained.

At the core of Purview is its catalog that can pull in data from the usual suspects, like Azure’s various data and storage services, but also third-party data stores, including Amazon’s S3 storage service and on-premises SQL Server. Over time, the company will add support for more data sources.

Kumar described this process as a “multi-semester investment,” so the capabilities the company is rolling out today are only a small part of what’s on the overall road map already. With this first release today, the focus is on mapping a company’s data estate.

Image Credits: Microsoft

“Next [on the road map] is more of the governance policies,” Kumar said. “Imagine if you want to set things like ‘if there’s any PII data across any of my data stores, only this group of users has access to it.’ Today, setting up something like that is extremely complex and most likely you’ll get it wrong. That’ll be as simple as setting a policy inside of Purview.”

In addition to launching Purview, the Azure team also today launched into general availability Azure Synapse, Microsoft’s next-generation data warehousing and analytics service. The idea behind Synapse is to give enterprises — and their engineers and data scientists — a single platform that brings together data integration, warehousing and big data analytics.

“With Synapse, we have this one product that gives a completely no-code experience for data engineers, as an example, to build out these [data] pipelines and collaborate very seamlessly with the data scientists who are building out machine learning models, or the business analysts who build out reports for things like Power BI.”

Among Microsoft’s marquee customers for the service, which Kumar described as one of the fastest-growing Azure services right now, are FedEx, Walgreens, Myntra and P&G.

“The insights we gain from continuous analysis help us optimize our network,” said Sriram Krishnasamy, senior vice president, strategic programs at FedEx Services. “So as FedEx moves critical high-value shipments across the globe, we can often predict whether that delivery will be disrupted by weather or traffic and remediate that disruption by routing the delivery from another location.”

Image Credits: Microsoft

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