Leave it to Box CEO and chief Microsoft critic Aaron Levie to spread the word, check out his tweet yesterday:
Someone at Microsoft officially pressed the "we're not screwing around anymore" button. Quite impressive to watch.— Aaron Levie (@levie) April 15, 2014
Obviously Levie was tuned into the same Microsoft Customer data event as we were, and we agree with his conclusion -- Microsoft has an impressive (data) play.
Big Data That Speaks Our Language
But we’ve been saying that for quite a while now, in fact, ever since Quentin Clark, Microsoft’s corporate VP, Data Platform Group and his first lieutenant Eron Kelly, showed us a demo of Microsoft HDInsight and Microsoft Power BI late last year. What we liked about it then is what we like about it now: The power of data (whether it lives on premises in Microsoft SQL Server 2014 or the Azure Cloud) is literally at our fingertips, not only in familiar Excel spreadsheets but also in great looking power maps, bar charts and so on. No special training required.
“We are delivering a platform that allows companies of any size to create a data culture and ensure insights reach every individual in every organization," said Satya Nadella, CEO at Microsoft, during the presentation.
To make his vision a reality, finding intelligence and discovering insights has to be easy. And it is.
At the demo, I could ask questions in plain English versus needing the help of a query language. If I wanted to dig deeper into data or combine data sets for discovery, all I had to do was tap or drag on the Surface. Not only was it cool, it was fun.
In fact, it was the most “delightful” experience I have had with technology in ages, so much so that I wanted to take Redmond’s Surface and log-in info home. But what was I going to do with it, become the Vanna White of big data queries?
Here’s the point -- you don’t have to be a power user, you don’t need to know what Hadoop or Azure is, you don’t need to know anything about SQL Server 2014 and you don’t need to buy a visualization tool to discover actionable insights from your data.
This is big data democratized and there’s a great deal of “data value” there.
Data Value Defined
Microsoft has a formula for Data Value: Data + Analytics + People @Speed
The “People” part is left out of too many equations we see, but then again, perhaps no single vendor can go from data to the server, to the analytics, to the user interface, to the actionable insight the way Microsoft can.
After all, Microsoft SQL Server 2014 is now in-memory and super fast (Note: SQL Server is now a $5 billion business), Azure doubles in size every 6 months and over one billion people use Excel.
There’s no reason to believe that Clark’s vision of bringing Business Intelligence to a billion screens won’t be fulfilled.
Consider that Microsoft Office is the default for most workers and that’s unlikely to change anytime soon, and that it’s also what students are using in schools. Add to that, that Office 365 is now (or soon will be) available on most mobile devices … suffice it to say that Word, Excel and PowerPoint will continue to rule.
Though it’s a bit of an aside, Microsoft emphasized, both yesterday and at Build 2014, that it’s going to make it easier for developers to build applications for the mobile first, cloud first world.
Ditto for SQL Server 2014: “You (whether you’re a developer or end user) can use your existing skills on our data platform,” said Clark.
Microsoft’s Hadoop capabilities are based on Hortonworks HDP which are considered by many to be second to none.
Add all of that up and (providing it delivers on its promises) it’s safe to bet that Microsoft’s future is bright -- not only is it a formidable contender but it’s also the path of least resistance.
Microsoft may just disrupt the world of technology without imposing the pains of disruption on you.
The details on yesterday’s announcements can be found here.