Microsoft Azure Synapse

Microsoft is the world’s largest software company. Founded in 1975 and headquartered in Redmond, it has become a household name, primarily due to its Windows operating system and Office suite. Aside from these products, Microsoft has a vast range of enterprise software and cloud offerings including its own database, browser, various servers and ERP solutions. In recent years, Microsoft has focused its business on cloud-based solutions. AI and machine learning have also become increasingly important in product development.

Azure is Microsoft’s cloud platform offering over 200 different products and services on a global physical infrastructure consisting of data centers in over 60 countries. Officially introduced in 2010, Azure – and cloud business in general – has become a very important and successful strategic pillar for Microsoft, making up 38 percent of Microsoft’s operating income. The various services offered by Microsoft are known for being very accessible to companies of all sizes and industries and can be integrated quite easily with each other. In addition to Microsoft’s own services, certified partners offer a huge variety of solutions and services through the constantly growing Azure Marketplace.

As of today, Microsoft is the second largest cloud provider in the world (behind Amazon AWS). With a recently reported annual revenue growth rate of 59 percent (AWS: 32 percent), Microsoft seems to be addressing current business demands and challenges successfully.

Over the years, Microsoft has developed several services on Azure to allow for the seamless implementation of data and analytics solutions. Power BI, its cloud-based reporting solution, has become a de facto standard over the last 2-3 years while further services for data management, data lake storage, and data processing and transformation have been added over the years. To tackle the growing complexity facing customers looking to pick and choose the right cloud service for their needs, and to deliver a single cloud service for a complete data lakehouse architecture, Microsoft combined all its relevant services for data & analytics use cases into one central service called Azure Synapse Analytics.

Azure Synapse Analytics combines Microsoft’s Data Lake Storage service with its own massively parallel processing (MPP) SQL engine and Spark – the market-leading open source data processing engine – allowing for the execution of enterprise data warehousing workloads as well as data science and machine learning workloads in one cohesive environment. The Azure service for ETL – Data Factory – is also included in Azure Synapse Analytics, facilitating code-based and code-free implementation of data pipelines for many source systems including several cloud services and ecosystems (e.g., SAP, GCP, AWS, Oracle and many others). It also integrates with Power BI – its own cloud-based reporting solution – which in turn has introduced features to seamlessly integrate with Azure Synapse Analytics.

Recently, Microsoft has introduced database templates for Azure Synapse Analytics. These include content for industry verticals and a large number of generic use cases. This move follows Microsoft’s 2020 acquisition of ADRM Software, a leading provider of large-scale industry data models, which are used by many large companies worldwide as information blueprints. This suggests that Microsoft is trying to go beyond providing pure base technologies with Azure Synapse Analytics by offering additional business content.

User & Use Cases

The concept of the ‘data lakehouse’, which follows the approach of utilizing one platform for both data warehouse and data science use cases, has picked up momentum in the market and is now seen as the market standard many vendors are striving for. Several vendors that have traditionally only focused on one part of this platform are now delivering the second part as well. As a result, data warehouse and data science platform vendors alike are aiming to deliver a complete data lakehouse platform. Respondents seem to acknowledge Microsoft Azure Synapse Analytics’ data lakehouse approach with 71 percent of respondents focusing on advanced analytics workloads and 57 percent apiece working on data warehousing and data integration use cases. This shows that the combined platform approach is important to customers.

Unsurprisingly, self-service analytics and data governance use cases are not tackled with Azure Synapse Analytics. Microsoft offers separate cloud services for these purposes: namely, Power BI and Azure Purview.

It is also notable that Azure Synapse Analytics users are not involved with data fabric use cases. This is mainly due to all the ‘hyperscalers’ trying to move as many workloads as possible into their cloud platforms. As the market in this area matures over time and ever more users will be working with at least one cloud vendor, we expect data fabric use cases to be addressed more often by Azure Synapse Analytics customers in the future.

The platform scales from small to large scenarios, both in terms of user numbers and data volumes.

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Microsoft Azure Synapse

Peer Groups Analytical Database Products, Business Software Generalists (data management), Cloud Data Warehousing
Number of responses28
ProductAzure Synapse Analytics
Customers75 million approx.