Microsoft has been embracing the open source community a lot more in recent years, choosing to go where the developers are, rather than forcing them to come use the company's solutions. The strongest piece of evidence supporting this dropped on Wednesday, as part of the firm's brand-new Data Amp online event, which focuses on the software giant’s Data Platform and AI efforts.
Perhaps one of the most important announcements of the event was that now, Microsoft’s relational database offering, SQL Server 2017, is able to host code written in Python, alongside the previously offered R programming language integration. This makes it easier for developers to take advantage of SQL Server stored procedures, a capability not available via the native Transact-SQL (T-SQL) language and particularly cumbersome in R.
As a side note, for those who want to try it out, the Community Technology Preview 2 (CTP2) of SQL Server 2017 is now available, and includes support for Python. Microsoft labels it as a "production-quality" release.
The Redmond giant also announced GPU support for neural networks, and the General Availability of its R Server 9.1 and HDInsight integration, bringing support for SparklyR, SparkETL and Spark SQL, which are part of Apache Software’s namesake open-source cluster-computing framework. Also hitting GA is Azure Data Lake Analytics, along with Azure Data Lake Store (the underlying storage layer for Data Lake Analytics) in the Azure North Europe region.
Another product now generally available is Microsoft's Online Analytical Processing engine, Azure Analysis Services, which expanded to two other regions at the end of March, and got a sizeable update a couple of days ago.
Moving onto what are called “Cognitive Services”, Microsoft has also announced the global General Availability of the Face API, Computer Vision API and Content Moderator. These are part of its conversation-as-a-platform strategy, and are meant to integrate well with the firm’s Bot Framework.
The Face API allows the detection and comparison of human faces, as well the organisation of those faces into groups, and detection of people previously tagged in photos.
The Computer Vision API allows you to understand the contents of any image and automatically create tags that identify elements within the images, such as objects, people, actions, while at the same time crafting coherent sentences to describe said image. It also recognizes landmarks and handwriting.
The third and final Cognitive Service is Content Moderator, which gives you the ability to quarantine and review images, text, as well as moderate video content before publishing a certain piece of information. The latter of the three is available in preview as part of Azure Media Services.
Yet another announcement from Data Amp covers the availability of templates for the Cortana Intelligence Suite, templates which offer a customizable method of providing personalized offers, quality assurance, and demand forecasting inside of organisations.
Last but not least is the announcement that SQL Server 2017 will be the first iteration of the product to run on both Windows and Linux. Sticking with the second of the two operating systems, it means that SQL Server 2017 will also be able to run in Docker containers based on Linux, therefore including on a Mac.
On demand videos about these announcements are available at Microsoft’s dedicated portal.