Tim Sweeney is positively steam-ed about Microsoft’s Windows Cloud operating system

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Yesterday, we reported on Windows Cloud — a new version of Microsoft’s Windows 10 that’s supposedly in the works. Windows Cloud would be limited to applications that are available through the Windows Store and is widely believed to be a play for the education market, where Chromebooks are currently popular.

Tim Sweeney, the founder of Epic and lead developer on the Unreal Engine, has been a harsh critic of Microsoft and its Windows Store before. He wasted no time launching a blistering tirade against this new variant of the operating system, before Microsoft has even had a chance to launch the thing.

With all respect to Tim, I think he’s wrong on this for several reasons. First, the idea that the Windows Store is going to crush Steam is simply farcical. There is no way for Microsoft to simply disallow Steam or other applications from running in mainstream Windows without completely breaking Win32 compatibility in its own operating system. Smartphone manufacturers were able to introduce the concept of app stores and walled gardens early on. Fortune 500 companies, gamers, enthusiasts, and computer users in general would never accept an OS that refused to run Win32 applications.

The second reason the Windows Store is never going to crush Steam is that the Windows Store is, generally speaking, a wasteland where software goes to die. The mainstream games that have debuted on that platform have generally been poor deals compared with what’s available on other platforms (like Steam). There’s little sign Microsoft is going to change this anytime soon, and until it does, Steam’s near-monopoly on PC game distribution is safe.

Third, if Microsoft is positioning this as a play against Chrome OS, Windows Cloud isn’t going to debut on high-end systems that are gaming-capable in the first place. This is a play aimed at low-end ARM or x86 machines with minimum graphics and CPU performance. In that space, a locked-down system is a more secure system. That’s a feature, not a bug, if your goal is to build systems that won’t need constant IT service from trojans, malware, and bugs.

Like Sweeney, I value the openness and capability of the PC ecosystem — but I also recognize that there are environments and situations where that openness is a risk with substantial downside and little benefit. Specialized educational systems for low-end markets are not a beachhead aimed at destroying Steam. They’re a rear-guard action aimed at protecting Microsoft’s educational market share from an encroaching Google.

 

 

[Source:- Extremetech]

Google Cloud SQL provides easier MySQL for all

Google Cloud SQL aims to provide easier MySQL for all

With the general availability of Google Cloud Platform’s latest database offerings — the second generation of Cloud SQL, Cloud Bigtable, and Cloud Datastore — Google is setting up a cloud database strategy founded on a basic truth of software: Don’t get in the customer’s way.

For an example, look no further than the new iteration of Cloud SQL, a hosted version of MySQL for Google Cloud Platform. MySQL is broadly used by cloud applications, and Google is trying to keep it fuss-free — no small feat for any piece of software, let alone a database notorious in its needs for tweaks to work well.

Most of the automation around MySQL in Cloud SQL involves items that should be automated anyway, such as updates, automatic scaling to meet demand, autofailover between zones, and backup/roll-back functionality. This automation all comes via a recent version of MySQL, 5.7, not via an earlier version that’s been heavily customized by Google to support these features.

The other new offerings, Cloud Datastore and Cloud Bigtable, are fully managed incarnations of NoSQL and HBase/Hadoop systems. These systems have fewer users than MySQL, but are likely used to store gobs more data than with MySQL. One of MySQL 5.7’s new features, support for JSON data, provides NoSQL-like functionality for existing MySQL users. But users who are truly serious about NoSQL are likely to do that work on a platform designed to support it from the ground up.

The most obvious competition for Cloud SQL is Amazon’s Aurora service. When reviewed by InfoWorld’s Martin Heller in October 2015, it supported a recent version of MySQL (5.6) and had many of the same self-healing and self-maintaining features as Cloud SQL. Where Google has a potential edge is in the overall simplicity of its platform — a source of pride in other areas, such as a far less sprawling and complex selection of virtual machine types.

Another competitor is Snowflake, the cloud data warehousing solution designed to require little user configuration or maintenance. Snowflake’s main drawback is that it’s a custom-build database, even if it is designed to be highly compatible with SQL conventions. Cloud SQL, by contrast, is simply MySQL, a familiar product with well-understood behaviors.

 

 

 

[Source:- IW]

Azure brings SQL Server Analysis Services to the cloud

Azure brings SQL Server Analysis Services to the cloud

SQL Server Analysis Services, one of the key features of Microsoft’s relational database enterprise offering, is going to the cloud. The company announced Tuesday that it’s launching the public beta of Azure Analysis Services, which gives users cloud-based access to semantic data modeling tools.

The news is part of a host of announcements the company is making at the Professional Association for SQL Server Summit in Seattle this week. On top of the new cloud service, Microsoft also released new tools for migrating to the latest version of SQL Server and an expanded free trial for Azure SQL Data Warehouse. On the hardware side, the company revealed new reference architecture for using SQL Server 2016 with active data sets of up to 145TB.

The actions are all part of Microsoft’s continued investment in the company’s relational database product at a time when it’s trying to get customers to move to its cloud.

Azure Analysis Services is designed to help companies get the benefits of cloud processing for semantic data modeling, while still being able to glean insights from data that’s stored either on-premises or in the public cloud. It’s compatible with databases like SQL Server, Azure SQL Database, Azure SQL Data Warehouse, Oracle and Teradata. Customers that already use SQL Server Analysis Services in their private data centers can take the models from that deployment and move them to Azure, too.

One of the key benefits to using Azure Analysis Services is that it’s a fully managed service. Microsoft deals with the work of figuring out the compute resources underpinning the functionality, and users can just focus on the data.

Like its on-premises predecessor, Azure Analysis Services integrates with Microsoft’s Power BI data visualization tools, providing additional modeling capabilities that go beyond what that service can offer. Azure AS can also connect to other business intelligence software, like Tableau.

Microsoft also is making it easier to migrate from an older version of its database software to SQL Server 2016.  To help companies evaluate the difference between their old version of SQL Server and the latest release, Microsoft has launched the  Database Experimentation Assistant.

Customers can use the assistant to run experiments across different versions of the software, so they can see what if any benefits they’ll get out of the upgrade process while also helping to reduce risk. The Data Migration Assistant, which is supposed to help move workloads, is also being upgraded.

For companies that have large amounts of data they want to store in a cloud database, Microsoft is offering an expanded free trial of Azure SQL Data Warehouse. Users can sign up starting on Tuesday, and get a free month of use. Those customers who want to give it a shot will have to move quickly, though: Microsoft is only taking trial sign-ups until December 31.

Microsoft Corporate Vice President Joseph Sirosh said in an interview that the change to the Azure SQL Data Warehouse trial was necessary because setting up the system to work with actual data warehouse workloads would blow through the typical Azure free trial. Giving people additional capacity to work with should let them have more of an opportunity to test the service before committing to a large deployment.

All of this SQL news comes a little more than a month before AWS Re:Invent, Amazon’s big cloud conference in Las Vegas. It’s likely that we’ll see Amazon unveil some new database products at that event, continuing the ongoing cycle of competition among database vendors in the cloud.

 

 

[Source:- IW]

Azure brings SQL Server Analysis Services to the cloud

Azure brings SQL Server Analysis Services to the cloud

SQL Server Analysis Services, one of the key features of Microsoft’s relational database enterprise offering, is going to the cloud. The company announced Tuesday that it’s launching the public beta of Azure Analysis Services, which gives users cloud-based access to semantic data modeling tools.

The news is part of a host of announcements the company is making at the Professional Association for SQL Server Summit in Seattle this week. On top of the new cloud service, Microsoft also released new tools for migrating to the latest version of SQL Server and an expanded free trial for Azure SQL Data Warehouse. On the hardware side, the company revealed new reference architecture for using SQL Server 2016 with active data sets of up to 145TB.

The actions are all part of Microsoft’s continued investment in the company’s relational database product at a time when it’s trying to get customers to move to its cloud.

Azure Analysis Services is designed to help companies get the benefits of cloud processing for semantic data modeling, while still being able to glean insights from data that’s stored either on-premises or in the public cloud. It’s compatible with databases like SQL Server, Azure SQL Database, Azure SQL Data Warehouse, Oracle and Teradata. Customers that already use SQL Server Analysis Services in their private data centers can take the models from that deployment and move them to Azure, too.

One of the key benefits to using Azure Analysis Services is that it’s a fully managed service. Microsoft deals with the work of figuring out the compute resources underpinning the functionality, and users can just focus on the data.

Like its on-premises predecessor, Azure Analysis Services integrates with Microsoft’s Power BI data visualization tools, providing additional modeling capabilities that go beyond what that service can offer. Azure AS can also connect to other business intelligence software, like Tableau.

Microsoft also is making it easier to migrate from an older version of its database software to SQL Server 2016.  To help companies evaluate the difference between their old version of SQL Server and the latest release, Microsoft has launched the  Database Experimentation Assistant.

Customers can use the assistant to run experiments across different versions of the software, so they can see what if any benefits they’ll get out of the upgrade process while also helping to reduce risk. The Data Migration Assistant, which is supposed to help move workloads, is also being upgraded.

For companies that have large amounts of data they want to store in a cloud database, Microsoft is offering an expanded free trial of Azure SQL Data Warehouse. Users can sign up starting on Tuesday, and get a free month of use. Those customers who want to give it a shot will have to move quickly, though: Microsoft is only taking trial sign-ups until December 31.

Microsoft Corporate Vice President Joseph Sirosh said in an interview that the change to the Azure SQL Data Warehouse trial was necessary because setting up the system to work with actual data warehouse workloads would blow through the typical Azure free trial. Giving people additional capacity to work with should let them have more of an opportunity to test the service before committing to a large deployment.

All of this SQL news comes a little more than a month before AWS Re:Invent, Amazon’s big cloud conference in Las Vegas. It’s likely that we’ll see Amazon unveil some new database products at that event, continuing the ongoing cycle of competition among database vendors in the cloud.

 

 

[Source:- Infowrold]

Azure SQL Data Warehouse brings MPP to Microsoft cloud

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“It is an extremely high-performance MPP service, with column store indexing,” according to Andrew Snodgrass, analyst at Directions on Microsoft in Kirkland, Wash. “Azure SQL Data Warehouse can put numerous processors to work on queries, returning results much faster than any single server.”

For many smaller companies, a data warehouse is still new, and dedicating staff to nurse and feed the warehouse is a burden. Cloud can be a benefit there. But even large companies with established data warehousing programs are currently reviewing their options.

That is one reason Microsoft is promoting the new offering as an alternative to on-premises data warehouses, especially those that focus on producing monthly reports. Today, these systems may have low utilization over much of the month, and then find high use as monthly reports come due.

That is a perfect case for cloud, a Microsoft data leader asserts. In an online blog last week discussing Azure SQL Data Warehouse’s move to general availability, Joseph Sirosh, corporate vice president overseeing Microsoft’s Data Group, described Azure elastic cloud computing as a means to efficiently marry processing with workload requirements for data warehousing. The service has been available in preview releases since June of last year.

Broad shoulders of column architecture

While some column-based analytics systems go back over 20 years, broad use of the column data architecture was still fairly new in 2012 whenAmazon tapped such technology for its Redshift data warehouse in the cloud. Such software was principally useful when data warehouses were required to support large numbers of user queries against their data stores.

Redshift seriously upped the ante in cloud data warehouses, making them more than commodity type products. As Redshift became a prominent part of Amazon’s cloud portfolio, it put pressure on Microsoft to add similar capabilities to its Azure line, while at the same time supporting basic SQL Server compatibility. While it has taken a while to achieve, viewers said this release of a Microsoft cloud-based data warehouse is still timely.

“Microsoft is playing catchup to some extent. But it was required to make some significant changes. Their strategy now is cloud first,” said Ben Harden, principal for data and analytics at Richmond, Virg.-based services provider CapTech Ventures Inc.

Harden said cloud computing is a very influential trend and that CapTech is now seeing demand for both Amazon and Microsoft cloud implementations.

The wait for Microsoft’s cloud data warehouse may have been worthwhile, according to Joe Caserta, president at Caserta Concepts LLC, a New York-based data consultancy that has partner agreements with both Amazon and Microsoft analytics.

“I am kind of glad they waited until they were ready,” he said. “They now have a good core set of tools.”

Scalability on a scale of one to ten

The ability to scale up to handle peak data loads is a plus for Azure SQL Data Warehouse, according to Paul Ohanian, CTO at Pound Sand, an El Segundo, Calif.-based electronic game developer that has worked with the new Microsoft software. A major use has been to produce analytics to track players’ behavior, identify trends and create projections. Scaling up was a concern, he said.

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“Our game was featured in the iOS App Store for seven weeks over Christmas. We went from testing a game with about 1,000 people overseas to all of a sudden getting half-a-million users in six days. But Azure SQL Data Warehouse allowed us to very easily scale from something like 1,000 users to 100,000 users,” he said. “Literally, we saw that rise in eight hours.”

Handling such issues was his team’s original goal, according to Ohanian. “When we shipped our game, the scaling totally worked,” he said.

Ohanian said his group has been an Azure cloud user for a number of years, but that it looked at other cloud and analytics alternatives. Affinities between APIs already in use and APIs for Azure SQL Data Warehouse were a factor in choosing the Microsoft software, he said.

By his estimation, the cloud data warehouse service is not too late to the fair, and it is full-fledged in important areas such as management.

“Maybe it’s because it is coming later, but it seems to have streamlined some of the complexity,” Ohanian said. “It is easy to get things up and going, and to manage.”

Ohanian found favor with Azure SQL Data Warehouse pricing, which separates expenses for storage and computing. Starting Sept. 1, data storage will be charged based on Azure Premium Storage rates of $122.88 per 1TB per month; at that time, compute pricing will be about $900 per month per 100 data warehouse units, according to Microsoft. Data warehouse units are the company’s measure for underlying resources such as CPU and memory.

It is important for Microsoft to field data warehouse products suited for its established users, so, naturally, C# and .NET developers continue to be a target of Azure cloud updates.

“We are seeing pretty equal demand between Amazon and Azure clouds. It is boiling down to what skill sets users have today,” said consultant Harden. “People are taking the path of least resistance where skills are concerned.”

Path of least resistance leads me on

The availability of Microsoft’s massively parallel processing cloud data warehouse augers greater competition in cloud data, which is welcome by some.

An example is Todd Hinton, vice president of product strategy at RedPoint Global in Wellesley, Mass., a maker of data management and digital marketing tools. He is not alone in saying greater competition in the cloud data space could be good, or being unwilling to pick a winner just yet.

“I think they are going to be head-to-head competitors. You have Amazon fans and you have Microsoft fans. It’s almost like the old operating system battle between Linux and Windows. For our part, we are data agnostic. We will be interested to see how Azure SQL Data Warehouse shakes out.”

Like others, his company’s software supports both Amazon and Azure. The company offers direct integration with AWS Redshift already, and he said he expects it will offer native support for SQL Azure Data Warehouse later this year.

Competition in cloud data warehouses goes further too, with players ranging from IBM, Informatica, Oracle and Teradata to Cazena, Snowflake Computing, Treasure Data and others. While it is not as hot as the Hadoop or Spark data management cauldrons, releases like Microsoft’s show the cloud data warehouse space is heating up.

 

[Source:- techtarget]

On the Mac, Siri has room to grow

Siri is on nearly every Apple device but the Mac, but its debut on the desktop has the potential to change everything.

siri primary hero
That was my initial reaction when I heard the report last week that one of the major features of the next version of OS X would be Apple’s virtual assistant, Siri.

That’s a long time in the making: Siri debuted on the iPhone 4s back in 2011—seems virtually ancient, doesn’t it? Since then, the voice-activated assistant has been a staple of Apple’s devices, migrating first to the iPad, and more recently to the Apple Watch early last year and the new Apple TV last fall.

But the Mac, Apple’s longest running product line, has been left out in the cold. It’s an odd choice, given that most Macs are plenty powerful to handle the computing needs of the virtual assistant. Meanwhile, there’s been competition from other quarters, such as Microsoft’s Cortana on Windows 10 (and even iOS) and Google’s voice search built into Chrome, Android…and even iOS.

That said, Siri’s late arrival on the Mac doesn’t make it an unwelcome one. I’m just hoping that it comes with some improvements.

Always on

According to the same report that heralded Siri’s inclusion in OS X, the Mac version will—like its iPhone counterpart—respond to “Hey Siri” when it’s plugged in. That’s good news for iMac users, since it means that Siri’s always available. As an Amazon Echo user, I know the benefits of having an always-on voice interface that you can use when your hands are full or you’re far away from your computer.

But I also have some worries, both in terms of software and hardware. For one, part of the reason that the Echo works so well is because it has an array of seven carefully tuned microphones designed to pick up your voice from far away. Most Macs, meanwhile, have limited ambient noise correction on their internal microphones—and most have only one mic, unlike recent iPhones, which use a second mic for noise cancelling. Hearing you say “Hey Siri” may be possible, but it remains to be seen how well your Mac’s internal mic will understand your query from across the room, or when there’s a lot of background noise.

Another potential wrinkle is that we have many devices that can potentially respond to “Hey Siri” these days, including iPhones, iPads, and the Apple Watch. Will Siri know, intelligently, which device to trigger when the phrase is used? Or will we instead be greeted by a chorus of Siri responses from all our various gadgets? While it may not make the first iteration, I’m hopeful this might lead to the ability to have customizable phrases to trigger Siri on different devices. (Okay, maybe I just want the Star Trek experience of calling my iMac “Computer.” Sue me!)

Talk to each other

I’d also like to see Apple make Siri more aware of all of our various devices, and in bringing the virtual assistant to the Mac, I’m hopeful that we’re one step closer to that being a reality. I’d like to be able to tell Siri to look something up on my Mac and send the result to my iPhone. Or have it tell my Apple TV to start playing a certain video.

More to the point, I’d like Siri to be a little smarter and, well, a little more assistant-like. For example, when I ask Siri “How long will it take me to get to my dentist appointment today?” it will tell me that I have an appointment at 3pm—but that’s not what I asked. It’s all the more surprising, since I know my calendar appointment has the location of my dentist appointment, and will pop up a notification when it’s time to go.

In short: Real assistants are good at synthesizing information. Siri, not so much.

Of course, that’s the hard part of programming a virtual assistant or AI: creating those links between different information, which the human brain does so naturally. I’m sure Apple’s engineers are hard at work on an even smarter Siri, but in the meantime it would be great if the company would make the assistant more aware of the information it already has.

The more, the merrier

Finally, many of us have long awaited some form of third-party extensibility for Siri. Might the integration with OS X at last provide a platform on which it makes sense to test that out? Despite the recent enforcement of restrictive features like sandboxing, the Mac platform has historically provided a much more open environment, and many of the concerns that one might have on a mobile platform—limited resources, locked-down security model, etc.—aren’t as much of a worry on a desktop or laptop.

I’d love to see Apple start to open up Siri to Mac developers, letting them integrate the virtual assistant with their applications. We don’t all do our email via Mail, our browsing via Safari, our writing in Pages, or our tweeting via the Twitter app. Letting third-party developers create hooks into Siri would open up the possibility for some great new implementations and innovation, just as it has for features like 3D Touch.

Siri on the Mac is full of possibilities and opportunities for Apple, developers, and users—just as long as the company decides to actually take a chance and not just give us a warmed over version of the Siri we already know.

[Source:- Macworld]