The following post is from Quentin Clark, Corporate Vice President of the Data Platform Group at Microsoft.


I am pleased to announce that Windows Azure HDInsight – our cloud-based distribution of Hadoop – is now generally available on Windows Azure. The GA of HDInsight is an important milestone for Microsoft, as its part of our broader strategy to bring big data to a billion people.

On Tuesday at Strata + Hadoop World 2013, I will discuss the opportunity of big data in my keynote, “Can Big Data Reach One Billion People?” Microsoft’s perspective is that embracing the new value of data will lead to a major transformation as significant as when line of business applications matured to the point where they touched everyone inside an organization. But how do we realize this transformation? It happens when big data finds its way to everyone in business – when anyone with a question that can be answered by data, gets their answer. The impact of this is beyond just making businesses smarter and more efficient. It’s about changing how business works through both people and data-driven insights. Data will drive the kinds of changes that, for example, allow personalization to become truly prevalent. People will drive change by gaining insights into what impacts their business, enabling them to change the kinds of partnerships and products they offer.

Our goal to empower everyone with insights is the reason why Microsoft is investing, not just in technology like Hadoop, but the whole circuit required to get value from big data. Our customers are demanding more from the data they have – not just higher availability, global scale and longer histories of their business data, but that their data works with business in real time and can be leveraged in a flexible way to help them innovate. And they are collecting more signals – from machines and devices and sources outside their organizations.

Some of the biggest changes to businesses driven by big data are created by the ability to reason over data previously thought unmanageable, as well as data that comes from adjacent industries. Think about the use of equipment data to do better operational cost and maintenance management, or a loan company using shipping data as part of the loan evaluation. All of this data needs all forms of analytics and the ability to reach the people making decisions. Organizations that complete this circuit, thereby creating the capability to listen to what the data can tell them, will accelerate.

Bringing Hadoop to the enterprise

Hadoop is a cornerstone of how we will realize value from big data. That’s why we’ve engineered HDInsight as 100 percent Apache Hadoop offered as an Azure cloud service. The service has been in public production preview for a number of months now – the reception has been tremendous and we are excited to bring it to full GA status in Azure. 

Microsoft recognizes Hadoop as a standard and is investing to ensure that it’s an integral part of our enterprise offerings. We have invested through real contributions across the project – not just to make Hadoop work great on Windows, but even in projects like Tez, Stinger and Hive. We have put in thousands of engineering hours and tens of thousands of lines of code. We have been doing this in partnership with Hortonworks, who will make HDP (Hortwonworks Data Platform) 2.0 for Windows Server generally available next month, giving the world access to a supported Apache-pure Hadoop v2 distribution for Windows Server. Working with Hortonworks, we will support Hadoop v2 in a future update to HDInsight.

Windows Azure HDInsight combines the best of Hadoop open source technology with the security, elasticity and manageability that enterprises require. We have built it to integrate with Excel and Power BI – our business intelligence offering that is part of Office 365 – allowing people to easily connect to data through HDInsight, then refine and do business analytics in a turnkey fashion. For the developer, HDInsight also supports choice of languages: .NET, Java and more.

We have key customers currently using HDInsight, including:

· The City of Barcelona uses Windows Azure HDInsight to pull in data about traffic patterns, garbage collection, city festivals, social media buzz and more to make critical decisions about public transportation, security and overall spending.

· A team of computer scientists at Virginia Tech developed an on-demand, cloud-computing model using the Windows Azure HDInsight Service, enabling  easier, more cost-effective access to DNA sequencing tools and resources.

· Christian Hansen, a developer of natural ingredients for several industries, collects electronic data from a variety of sources, including automated lab equipment, sensors and databases. With HDInsight in place, they are able to collect and process data from trials 100 time times faster than before.

End-to-end solutions for big data

These kinds of uses of Hadoop are examples of how big data is changing what’s possible. Our Hadoop-based solution HDInsight is a building block – one important piece of the end-to-end solutions required to get value from data.

All this comes together in solutions where people can use Excel to pull data directly from a range of sources, including SQL Server (the most widely-deployed database product), HDInsight, external Hadoop clusters and publicly available datasets. They can then use our business intelligence tools in Power BI to refine that data, visualize it and just ask it questions. We believe that by putting widely accessible and easy-to-deploy tools in everyone’s hands, we are helping big data reach a billion people. 

I am looking forward to tomorrow. The Hadoop community is pushing what’s possible, and we could not be happier that we made the commitment to contribute to it in meaningful ways.