Azure SQL Data Warehouse turns up the heat

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Azure SQL Data Warehouse turns up the heat


Rick Sherman is quoted extensively in this new TechTarget article: Azure SQL Data Warehouse turns up the heat, expands processing power

Abstract: Spirited competition is under way among cloud providers as they enhance large-scale relational data warehouses in the cloud. An Azure SQL Data Warehouse update by Microsoft is the latest example.

As more customer data has come to reside in the cloud, and as on-premises data warehouses bulge with ever-increasing amounts of data, cloud-based relational data warehouses are giving user organizations new technology options.

Amazon Web Services forged the category with Amazon Redshift, and has been countered by Google BigQuery, Snowflake and other offerings. With Azure SQL Data Warehouse, Microsoft is in the thick of the fray — and the company moved its cloud data warehouse forward this week, disclosing a preview-mode update that boosts the system’s data processing scale by threefold.

In a blog post coinciding with Microsoft’s Inspire 2017 channel partner event, Rohan Kumar, general manager of its database systems group, said the Azure SQL Data Warehouse scaling threshold has increased from 6,000 to 18,000 Data Warehousing Units, or DWUs. The DWU is a Microsoft in-house measure of CPU, memory and I/O resources required for parallelized data warehousing work.

The boost in DWUs is done without putting limits on the data warehouse’s associated columnstore indexing and storage. Such column stores, intended to speed concurrent data warehouse user queries, have become a hallmark of advanced analytics implementations.

“Column stores, from a business intelligence perspective, make a lot of sense. It’s great for BI because everything is indexed, and you can efficiently query against it,” said Rick Sherman, managing partner of consulting firm Athena IT Solutions.

Sherman said most cloud data warehousing activity he has encountered is still experimental, but that could change. That is because users foresee the need to collect and store more and more data, requiring more and more processing, and cloud vendors’ great banks of elastically scalable computers look like an apt place for such processing.

“Elasticity is the pitch for things like Azure SQL Data Warehouse. You pay for what you need, while leveraging the economy of scale that vendors gain with vast data farms across the planet,” he said. “Microsoft is definitely helping to push things to the tipping point.”

Cloud data warehouse implementers face limits in the number of concurrent users they can efficiently support for BI queries. That, too, makes Microsoft’s cloud data warehouse advances important. But the situation is fluid, according to Sherman. “Microsoft may offer more substantial scale-out than Amazon right now,” he said. “Redshift has to grow up a little bit more, but I wouldn’t count Amazon out.”

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