Microsoft destined to follow in big data

Software giant won't lead exploding sector

By , ITworld |  Big Data, Zettatag

Will Microsoft be a player in the growing big data sector?

Yes, but the software behemoth is not likely to become a leader anytime soon.

This is, of course, one pundit's opinion, but it seems that Microsoft has definitely missed the first plane on the Amazing Race to the big data prize.

It's not for lack of trying, mind you: Microsoft was a big presence at this month's Strata conference, and they have heavily touted the next release of SQL Server 2012 as a big data solution when it becomes available on April 1. But compared with existing tools in the big data space, SQL Server 2012 will be significantly behind.

SQL Server 2012 is supposed to introduce a lot of Hadoop data analysis tools, but those tools won't be coming anytime soon, according to an InformationWeek article earlier this month. The only big data feature that will be ready on release day will be the data connectors to Hadoop, which were already preview released in late 2011. What's the delay on the rest of the toolset?

"The open source components needed for Microsoft's planned Windows-compatible Hadoop distribution, which was announced in October, are awaiting approval by the Apache Hadoop community. The components were developed by partner Hortonworks, and the two parties recently extended co-development work with plans to add a JavaScript development framework and a Hive ODBC driver that will enable Hadoop data to be analyzed in Microsoft Excel, Microsoft PowerPivot, and the new PowerView interface introduced in SQL Server 2012."

Microsoft has been very slow to pivot into the big data sector. It announced its plan to move to Hadoop-framework systems last Fall, even as it dropped its own home-grown Dryad data processing service--a framework Microsoft had reportedly been building since 2006, when Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates first brought it up.

Five years is a heck of a long time to build a data processing framework that's still not ready. Doug Cutting started Hadoop when he was at Yahoo! in 2006, but in the same amount of time, Hadoop not only matured, it became the basis for an exploding tech sector.

That Microsoft had to scrap its own plans and plug into Hadoop when it had the same amount of time to build its own solution is telling. Obviously, Microsoft's corporate focus is very large as it tries to maintain its dominance in all things IT, but that wide focus may have cost them a chance to dominate in the big data sector.

I would also venture that Microsoft's natural aversion to true open source development (instead of the shared-source/open-surface twist it likes to say is open source) may have held Microsoft back as well. By getting the Hadoop project into the Apache community, Yahoo! plugged into the massive innovative power of open source and was able to pull far ahead of Microsoft.

If Microsoft out completely? There I would have to say no. Unlike their fumbles in the mobile space, Microsoft has a lot more channels and experience working with the enterprise and should eventually assert itself as a big data player.

But as a leader? That title is going to go to someone else.

Read more of Brian Proffitt's Zettatag and Open for Discussion blogs and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Drop Brian a line or follow Brian on Twitter at @TheTechScribe. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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