Microsoft launches toolset for capturing 'ambient intelligence'

Microsoft has a new service for capturing machine data and has updated its data warehouse software for Hadoop

Microsoft is targeting the growing volume of data being generated by both machines and humans: CEO Satya Nadella on Tuesday showed off tools that could help organizations better understand -- and profit from -- this trove of information.

One new hosted service, called the Azure Intelligent Systems Service (ISS), promises to ease the process of managing machine data from sensors and devices connected in the so-called Internet of Things. ISS is now available as a limited public preview.

Microsoft has also released Analytics Platform System (APS), an update and expansion of what was formerly called the Parallel Data Warehouse. APS can combine query results from relational data in SQL Server databases and non-relational data captured by Hadoop.

In addition, the company has launched SQL Server 2014, the first edition of Microsoft's relational database system that includes the ability to store entire databases in the working memory of a server, which allows for faster access of the data.

All these products can help an organization make better use of its "ambient intelligence," Nadella said at a customer event in San Francisco.

Nadella defined ambient intelligence as the data that is generated by both a growing number of machines such as sensors as well as by people who capture experiences with their digital devices.

"You have this enormous capacity to reason over all of this digitized information," Nadella said.

In a report commissioned by Microsoft, IDC estimated that organizations could generate US$1.6 trillion in additional revenue and cost savings over the next four years by better understanding their data.

The new Microsoft tools are aimed at bringing big-data-styled analysis to the enterprise.

"Using APS, customers are able to cleave off parts of their data warehouse and export them into Azure for further processing in HDInsight," said Quentin Clark, corporate vice president of the data platform group. HDInsight is Microsoft's Hadoop service.

The results from an APS search can be viewed in Excel, by using the software's Power BI feature.

ISS addresses the nascent but growing Internet-of-things market. IDC has predicted that there will be 212 billion Internet-connected devices by the end of 2020.

ISS will be able to ingest large amounts of data from multiple sources, regardless of the platform. Microsoft will offer software agents, both proprietary and open source, that can be installed on the data generating platform, to format and send data to Azure. It will also develop a unified security model to protect data en route.

Microsoft business intelligence software and services can then be used to analyze the data from ISS. The service will harness machine learning work that was originally developed for the Bing search engine, Clark said.

Joab Jackson covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Joab on Twitter at @Joab_Jackson. Joab's e-mail address is

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