Microsoft's cloud-based big data analytics vision took a major step forward with the official release of Azure Data Factory, the company's cloud-based data integration service.
A key component of Microsoft's Cortana Analytics Suite, Azure Data Factory (ADF) is designed to automate and streamline the process of moving data from disparate sources into an organization's business intelligence and analytics systems and transform it into usable formats.
"With ADF, existing data processing services can be composed into data pipelines that are highly available and managed in the cloud," said Joseph Sirosh, corporate vice president of Information Management and Machine Learning at Microsoft, in an Aug. 6 statement. "These data pipelines can be scheduled to ingest, prepare, transform, analyze, and publish data, and ADF will manage and orchestrate all of the complex data and processing dependencies without human intervention."
Taken altogether, ADF can help businesses accelerate their analytics initiatives, Sirosh added. "Solutions can be quickly built and deployed in the cloud, connecting a growing number of on-premises and cloud data sources."
ADF also serves as a backbone of sorts for Cortana Analytics Suite, said Sirosh. Describing ADF as "a foundational component of the Cortana Analytics Suite," the cloud service "stitches together and orchestrates a comprehensive set of services including Azure HDInsight, Azure ML, Power BI and more to bridge the gap between pervasive data and actionable intelligence."
Organizations also can reclaim much of the time and expense associated with building out their own on-premises data integration solutions, argued Sirosh. "Using ADF, businesses can enjoy the benefits of using a fully managed cloud service without procuring hardware; reduce costs with automatic cloud resource management, efficiently move data using a globally deployed data transfer infrastructure, and easily monitor and manage complex schedule and data dependencies," he said.
Further, customers can monitor and manage the offering from the Azure portal, along with their other Microsoft cloud services. And a Visual Studio plug-in brings developers into the fold.
One customer, Milliman, is already making the most of those benefits, Sirosh reported. The actuarial services provider for the insurance industry "has now cut IT costs by 30% and reduced reporting time by 95 percent," he stated.
"At the same time, with the new cost efficiencies gained with the on-demand use of cloud resources, they were able to utilize 600 percent more compute hours and double their supported customer base," Sirosh added. "Milliman's time to solution delivery dropped from months to weeks and their actuaries no longer had to spend 70 percent of their time on data management."
In addition to ADF, helping businesses improve the quality and availability of their analytics data was also a factor in Microsoft's recent investment in Informatica. The Redmond, Wash., software giant joined Salesforce, Permira Funds and Canada Pension Plan Investment Board in a $5.3 billion deal to take the data integration leader private on Aug. 6.