Microsoft's Cortana Expands Into Enterprise Business Analytics

After serving as a virtual assistant on Windows Phone and the upcoming Windows 10 OS, Cortana is gearing up to provide enterprises with big data-derived business insights.

big data analytics

During the Microsoft's Worldwide Partner Conference in Orlando, Fla., today, Microsoft announced Cortana Analytics Suite, a set of Azure-backed services for businesses seeking to drive smarter decision-making by capitalizing on their big data.

As an accessible and user-friendly technology, Cortana is the perfect embodiment of Microsoft's goal of placing advanced, contextually aware data analytics and machine learning technologies and tools in the hands of developers and, ultimately, everyday users, according to Joseph Sirosh, corporate vice president of Microsoft Azure Machine Learning.

"Until now, analytics and machine learning [were the province] of extremely sophisticated data scientists and Ph.D.s," Sirosh told eWEEK. Cortana is the "personification of intelligence and the proactivity of it," he added.

Cortana Analytics Suite is a fully managed set of cloud services that tie together information management, machine learning, and big data storage and processing, along with vision, face and speech analysis. As its name implies, it also integrates Cortana, Microsoft's digital assistant for Windows Phone and the upcoming Windows 10 OS. Visualizations and analytics dashboards are provided by the company's Power BI product.

The result is a platform for organizations to build predictive and prescriptive capabilities into their work processes. Despite being based on several pre-existing cloud solutions from Microsoft, Cortana Analytics Suite is not simply a new bundled subscription offering, stressed Sirosh.

Cortana Analytics Suite came about as Sirosh witnessed how "incredibly painful" it was for organizations to cobble together a big data business analytics platform and funnel its capabilities into their business applications. "The opportunity before us [was to] simplify it and get rid of the heavy lifting," said Sirosh.

The software giant is also offering industry-specific "cookbooks, recipes and templates" to help organizations get up and running quickly.

In a July 13 announcement, Takeshi Numoto, corporate vice president of Microsoft's Cloud and Enterprise group, said Cortana Analytics Suite, "while customizable to fit the unique needs of organizations, will also provide preconfigured solutions to speed deployment of common scenarios we see across many industries, such as fraud detection, churn analysis and recommendations."

Fitting with the conference's theme, Microsoft envisions that partners will help create a "cloud-first" ecosystem of Cortana-powered analytics services and solutions.

"With Cortana Analytics Suite, partners can now help their customers add intelligence to applications and across business scenarios," Numoto wrote. "Cloud is arguably as big a disruptor in technology as data is and today we're announcing new programs that help partners accelerate our customers' transition to cloud computing and embrace and manage the ever growing set of devices we all use to get our jobs done."

Cortana Analytics Suite will be available this fall. Once launched, Sirosh pledged that Microsoft will continue to expand on its data gathering and analytics capabilities. His group views the product as "a vehicle into which we'll continue to add innovation over time that keeps elevating [its] value," he said.

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the network of...