BUSINESS IMPACT

Nov 07, 2019

Realizing your Cloud Vision at Scale with Azure Synapse Analytics

Erik Roll Posted by Erik Roll

At the beginning of 2019, I wrote about how Cloud Scale Analytics would change the game in the data-sphere, and specifically that actual capability would catch up with hype and deliver impact. With Azure Synapse Analytics recently unveiled at Ignite, Microsoft has unified the vision, and set a course for the future with a seamless set of technical capabilities and unmatched potential!

Azure Synapse Analytics – what exactly is it, other than a cool sounding reference to the connectivity between nerve cells in our brain? The simple answer is that it’s phase next of Azure SQL DW. As such, if you head into your Azure portal to provision an Azure Synapse Analytics deployment, it will look and feel pretty much exactly like Azure SQL DW did last week, but with the new name. That being said, it also signals the evolution of the platform into a much bigger, more powerful, and more seamless experience across all data and analytics needs in the cloud… To be cute, "this is gonna be big".

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Azure Synapse Analytics combines data acquisition, preparation/transformation, querying, visualization, and AI enablement across structured, streaming, and unstructured data; it effectively unifies the foundation of SQL Server with Spark-enabled big data and streaming data processing together with data flows, Power BI, and Azure Machine Learning… all while bringing unprecedented flexibility to tailor and scale the capacities to exactly what you need, when you need it.

That may sound great, and if the technical intro sounds intriguing, stay tuned for a deeper dive into the platform from additional BlueGranite team members! But if you are asking yourself… why do I want Azure Synapse Analytics, then consider that the ultimate goal of Cloud Scale Analytics is to enable digital transformation through data, and this new platform offers a single technical solution to a nearly limitless set of business opportunities.

BlueGranite works in many industries where Azure Synapse Analytics will drive advances in digital transformation. In our experience with Retail, organizations are implementing Customer 360 initiatives which require a flexible data layer to capture data from internal, external, and personal sources with varying volumes and structures, quickly and accurately piece together the consolidated view of that data, light up Artificial Intelligence to further enrich data and predict outcomes, and then deliver insights to the people who can implement action and drive new outcomes. Prior to Azure Synapse Analytics, that might have required multiple practitioners integrating dozens of technologies, services, and solutions in order to realize the value, which could lead to failed or stalled initiatives.

With Azure Synapse Analytics, retailers can spend less time architecting technology, and more time improving marketing efficiency and increasing pricing & promotional effectiveness!

Now let’s take a closer look at how Azure Synapse Analytics delivers on the vision of Cloud Scale Analytics.

Cloud Scale Analytics – a quick refresh: what does it mean? – or – “defining the vision”
First, the break-down:

  • Cloud – Operating Expense (OpEx) model versus Capital Expense (CapEx); ease of provisioning; ease of deployment; modernization of available services; speed of iterations and pace of change
  • Scale – Across all major analytics workloads: storage, processing and compute, and serving; scale of access/deployment; and availability
  • Analytics – BI modeling; data visualization; machine learning/data mining; artificial intelligence and cognitive analytics

And then the combination:

Cloud Scale Analytics – Now, let’s zero in on what these words mean together. If we move past the core IT services that underpin all of this – to wit, storage, processing and compute (and serving, to the end users) – with either Data or Analytics as the focus, we arrive at a more refined set of capabilities that belong under this term:

  • A Modern Data Platform that includes the Data Lake (comprised of scalable storage for Structured Data, Unstructured Data, Semi-structured Data, Streaming Data)
  • Analytical Modeling capabilities (that can aggregate and query billions of rows of data with scalable compute)
  • Interactive Visualizations, and the ability to train and process Machine Learning models over multi-threaded, distributed compute clusters

Conveniently, Cloud Scale Analytics quickly encapsulates the technical capabilities that BlueGranite leverages in helping our customers harness the value of data – it describes a ‘tool’ built perfectly for digital transformation! We’ve built a team of experts at applying the individual technologies to maximize their impact, and a strong partnership with Microsoft to furnish the tools of our trade.

And already, Microsoft has been delivering on this vision with Azure SQL DW, delivering unmatched price and performance (and of course, price:performance!) along with ease of deployment and clean interoperability with other tools. Together with complementary Azure services like Azure Databricks, Data Factory, and Power BI, Azure SQL DW has already become the bedrock upon which data and analytics capabilities are built in the cloud. And when reviewing Microsoft’s product details for Azure Synapse Analytics, we can see the evolution ahead of us.

The promise of Limitless Scale coupled with “On-demand query” builds upon workload importance & isolation to allow flexibility and cost control previously unheard of.

Integrations contained in Powerful insights support and empower the dramatic increase in citizen data consumers (both data scientists and self-service BI analysts) by seamlessly expanding access to all types of data in industry-leading tools like Power BI and Azure Machine Learning Services.
The tools and capabilities that provide a Unified experience mean that data developers and engineers can provide expertise and support demanded by the growing audience of data consumers, upgrading existing skills and capabilities with new capability and efficiency.

And backed by Microsoft’s commitments and decades of expertise with SQL Server, Azure Synapse Analytics can promise the truly Unmatched security that today’s organizations demand.

Closing thoughts: For any team of technical experts, the pace of change in technology can be both scary and exciting. But digging in deep with Azure Synapse Analytics has been remarkably exciting, and not at all scary! Sometimes new tech can be described as a ‘revolution’, but that type of disruption often precipitates chaotic times… and this feels more like an ‘evolution’ where every aspect becomes more efficient and more powerful. We’re witnessing the unification of the full set of technologies and capabilities powering true cloud scale analytics, and the future looks very bright indeed.

Interested in partnering with BlueGranite to bring Azure Synapse Analytics to your organization? Start here to learn more about our experience and insights regarding Modern Data Platform solutions, and let’s deliver the value together!

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Erik Roll

About The Author

Erik Roll

Since 2006, Erik has invested efforts and insights at BlueGranite, designing and building solutions for clients, partners, and BlueGranite itself. As COO, Erik is responsible for ensuring the BlueGranite team delivers high quality solutions for clients while building and maintaining a winning culture in a dynamic and changing technological landscape. He also works with strategic accounts, partners, and team members to provide leadership, vision, and operational alignment.

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