Microsoft BI

Big IT players add analytics apps to enterprise systems

Some of the IT industry’s traditional powerhouses, including Intel and Microsoft, are looking to introduce new data analytics services that build upon the existing technology platforms they provide their government and private-sector customers.  

While IBM has been out in front of this trend with its Watson artificial intelligence/analytics platform, Intel and Microsoft have recently entered the big data and analytics market, offering ways to make it easier for agencies and businesses to adopt new data analytics tools.

Intel said it will add to its big data services in the second quarter by introducing the Intel Data Platform, a software suite based on open-source technologies designed to help its customers import, manage and analyze big data sets.

The platform builds on Intel’s distribution for Apache Hadoop, the open-source big data processing framework, but offers features not available with Apache Hadoop alone, Intel said. Those include enhanced security and support as well as faster analytics and data encryption from Intel’s Xeon processors and solid state storage. 

The Intel Data Platform will also include an “Analytics Toolkit” (Intel Data Platform AT) that will help customers create graph analytics and predictive modeling apps to highlight trends in their data sets. The platform features new data processing capabilities, including streaming data processing, iterative analytics and graph processing.

With fully integrated frameworks for stream processing in real time, agencies might use the Intel platform to quickly analyze social media or sensor data to determine the scale of natural disaster or the movement of a public health threat.

The platform will be available in two versions. The Enterprise Edition will offer full platform capabilities as a free software product to customers who can support their deployment. The Premium Edition will be available as an annual subscription and will provide additional technical features including enhanced automation, proactive security fixes and alerts, ongoing feature enhancements, and live support.

Boyd Davis, vice president and general manager of Intel's data center software division, compared the Intel Data Platform to an operating system for big data, as it “supports a wide variety of applications while providing improved security, reliability and peace of mind to customers using open-source software,” he said.

Meanwhile, Microsoft formally introduced this month a new service it previewed in June called Power BI for Office 365 that allows enterprise users to query large data sets in a natural language format to make business intelligence calculations.

Power BI will be offered as set of “self-service” features for Microsoft Office 365 Enterprise but does not require the expertise of IT staff or an organization’s business analytics team. The applications work with Microsoft Excel in a hosted version of Microsoft SQL Server.

"We're making it easier for the user to interact with the data without having to go back to IT," said Eron Kelly, Microsoft corporate vice president and director SQL server marketing, told the IDG News Service

The features work in combination with Excel to help users model and analyze their data as well as present data visualizations through its Power View and Power Map applications. The Q&A feature lets users ask natural language questions, and query results can be presented in a variety of formats, including Power Map, which can render geocoded data on a map provided via Microsoft Bing Maps.

Although designed as a self-service tool, IT departments can manage and curate the data and maintain control of what data sets are accessed and shared. 

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