Microsoft Ignite kicks off with cross-platform SQL and on-premise Azure

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The general availability of SQL Server 2017 for Windows and Linux is among the announcements made by Microsoft at its Ignite conference in Orlando.

SQL Server 2017 is the first cross-platform release of Microsoft’s relational database manager, and runs on Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7.3, Suse Linux Enterprise 12, Ubuntu 16.04, Docker containers, or Windows Server 2012 and higher.

The Linux release is not a port of the Windows version, but runs the same code through a platform abstraction layer.

Along with the Linux release, SQL Server offers an enhanced graph database features, new query optimisation called Adaptive Query Processing, and Python support in SQL Server Machine Learning Services (previously called R Services).

On-premise Azure

The company also announced that Azure Stack systems from Dell EMC, HPE and Lenovo are now shipping.

The Azure Stack, which lets businesses run Azure virtual machines (VMs) and a subset of other Azure services, including App Service, Azure Functions and Azure Container Service, in their own datacentre, was previously unveiled over two years ago.

There are limitations in the first release, notably that geo-redundancy and multi-region scaling is not supported, though this is promised in 2018. Systems from Cisco and Huawei will follow later, Microsoft said.

Azure Stack is also unusual in that although businesses buy the hardware outright, licensing is normally pay-as-you-go, though as Microsoft’s whitepaper notes, “Since customers take on the cost of ownership and operations, Azure Stack prices will be lower than Azure prices in many cases.”

Other Azure news includes the Azure Data Box, for migrating up to 100TB of data to Azure via physical shipping (the same concept as AWS Snowball appliances).

Azure also introduced Azure Cost Management, which will use technology acquired with Cloudyn earlier in 2017, and new integration between Azure Functions (serverless computing) and CosmosDB, the company’s distributed NoSQL database service.

Azure is also getting Reserved Instances, where VM prices are discounted by up to 72% if customers pay up-front for between one to three years. This is another feature that will be familiar to AWS customers.

The next step for Office 365

The company is keen to upsell customers from Office 365 to Microsoft 365, which adds device management through Enterprise Mobility Suite.

At Ignite, Microsoft announced Microsoft 365 for Education and Microsoft 365 for Firstline Workers, which is aimed at sales associates, customer service agents, factory workers and medical staff, for example.

Such workers represent 80% of the global workforce and have been “underserved by technology”, said Microsoft corporate vice-president, Ron Markezich.

The Microsoft 365 initiative is supported by Windows S hardware from HP, Lenovo, and Fujitsu, to be available later this year from $275. Windows S is locked down so that only store applications can be installed, though these can include desktop applications packaged using Windows Desktop Bridge.

Markezich stated that Microsoft would be compliant with the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which comes into force in May 2018.

“We will ensure everything in Office 365 and Microsoft 365 is GDPR compliant by the date it is implemented,” he added.

The company also announced a preview of Compliance Manager, which provides automated policy mapping, progress management and reporting.

Another service is Bing for Business, now in private preview, which unifies corporate and internet search drawing on data in Office 365.

Microsoft Teams, a collaboration service based on Office 365 groups, now offers voice, video and online meeting capability through an updated Skype infrastructure. The existing Skype for Business (formerly Lync) client will be replaced by the Teams client. Teams will include intelligent features such as translation and speech recognition.

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