Microsoft unites SQL Server with Hadoop

Once a holdout, Microsoft now aims to bring big data to mainstream by integrating open source framework with Windows

Microsoft today revealed more details surrounding Windows and SQL Server 12 support for big data analytics via cozier integration with Apache Hadoop, the increasingly popular open source cloud platform for handling the vast quantities of unstructured data spawned daily.

With this move, Microsoft may be able to pull off a feat that has eluded other companies: bring big data to the mainstream. As it stands, only large-scale companies with fat IT budgets have been able to reap that analytical bounty, as the tools on the market tend to be both complex and pricey.

Microsoft's strategy is to groom Linux-friendlier Hadoop to fit snugly into Windows environments, thus giving organizations on-tap, seamless, and simultaneous access to both structured and unstructured data via familiar desktop apps, such as Excel, as well as BI tools such as Microsoft PowerPivot.

Microsoft's embrace of Hadoop isn't particularly revolutionary. Cloud upstarts such as Cloudera and Datameer have been enhancing the platform for general enterprise consumption for the past couple of years, building out management and configuration tools, programs for streamlining jobs, and even spreadsheet-style front ends to enable easier access to and manipulation of Hadoop-delivered data. What's more, the move is not especially surprising in that Redmond telegraphed its interest in integrating Hadoop with SQL as recently as August.

Still, Microsoft's position on Hadoop has undergone a notable 180-degree turn since 2009 when Microsoft's technical fellow David J. DeWitt dismissed it as a trendy yet unnecessary alternative to SQL: "We'd never bring Hadoop code into one of our products."

Evidently, Microsoft simply could no longer ignore that Hadoop has become the platform of choice for the biggest fish out there, including Facebook, Google, IBM, and many, many more. Oracle's recently announced big data appliance includes support for Hadoop. Even Dell revealed plans to sell servers preconfigured with Hadoop last August.

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