Microsoft Updates 'Big Data in a Box' Appliance

Microsoft incorporates its latest Windows Server and SQL technology into Analytics Platform System (APS) Appliance with Update 3.


Microsoft has released a major new update to its turnkey "big data in a box" solution, Analytics Platform System (APS), the company announced this week.

APS combines SQL Server Parallel Data Warehouse, Microsoft's Hadoop distribution called HDInsight, and hardware from Hewlett-Packard, Dell or Quanta into an integrated big data processing platform. During APS' April 15 release, the company described it as "an evolution of our SQL Server Parallel Data Warehouse (PDW) appliance, which builds upon the high-performance and scale capabilities of that MPP [massively parallel processing] version of SQL Server."

The latest version has been "replatformed" to include the newest editions of Windows Server and SQL Server, according to Matt Usher, senior program manager on the Microsoft Analytics Platform System team. APS Update 3 "marks the upgrade of the core fabric of the APS appliance to Windows Server 2012 R2 and SQL Server 2014," he said in a company blog post.

The upgrade enables the APS appliance to take "advantage of the improved networking, storage and query execution components of these products," he added. "For example, the APS appliance now utilizes a virtualized Active Directory infrastructure, which helps to reduce cost and increase domain reliability within the appliance, helping to make APS the price/performance leader in the big data appliance space."

Also new is support for PolyBase directory transversal, allowing organizations to extend their data analytics capabilities. Usher explained that his team added "the ability to define an external table that targets a directory structure as a whole."

As a result, APS now "unlocks a whole new set of scenarios for customers" and provides them with "greater insight into all of the data collected within their data systems." APS also now features "full support for the Optimized Row Column (ORC) file format," commonly used in Hadoop environments.

Microsoft is making it easier for customers to link APS with the company's Azure-backed cloud services, extending its capabilities. "With the integration of the Microsoft Data Management Gateway into APS, customers now have a scale-out compute gateway for Azure cloud services to more effectively query sophisticated sets of on-premises data," said Usher.

Users of Microsoft's cloud-based Power BI offering, a self-service business intelligence toolkit, "can leverage PolyBase in APS to perform more complicated mash-ups of results from on-premises unstructured data sets in Hadoop distributions," revealed Usher. "By exposing the data from the APS Appliance as an OData feed, Power BI is able to easily and quickly consume the data for display to end users."

Finally, APS Appliance Update 3 features improved Transact-SQL (TSQL) compatibility.

"The AU3 release incorporates a set of TSQL improvements targeted at richer language support to improve the types of queries and procedures that can be written for APS," stated Usher. In the latest release, "the primary focus was on implementing full error handling within TSQL to allow customers to port existing applications to APS with minimal code change and to introduce full error handling to existing APS customers."

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...