Workflow automation was a predictable focus as Microsoft Ignite kicked off in Orlando, Florida this morning. To this end, the company took the wraps off new cloud-hosted AI, data analytics, and managed database services in preview and announced updates to existing offerings like Azure SQL Database Edge.

Azure Synapse Analytics

Perhaps the headliner is Azure Synapse Analytics, a service now in preview that leverages on-demand or provisioned resources to ingest, prepare, manage, and serve data for business intelligence and AI apps. It’s the evolution of Azure SQL Data Warehouse and pulls together insights from data warehouses and big data analytics systems across entire organizations.

“Today, businesses are forced to maintain two types of analytical systems — data warehouses and data lakes. Data warehouses provide critical insights on business health. Data lakes can uncover important signals on customers, products, employees, and processes,” wrote Azure Data corporate vice president Rohan Kumar. “Both are critical.”

Azure Synapse can query both relational and non-relational data at “petabyte-scale,” directed by lines of SQL. Features like intelligent workload management, workload isolation, and limitless concurrency optimize the performance of queries in real time, and deep integration with Power BI and Azure Machine Learning simplifies the sharing of cleansed and processed data.

A unified workspace — the Azure Synapse studio — provides tools for data prep, data management, data warehousing, big data, and AI tasks. Additionally, it lets users manage data pipelines and build proofs of concept while securely accessing data sets and custom control interfaces.

On the security side of the equation, Azure Synapse features automated threat detection and always-on data encryption, and it offers fine-grained access controls and column- and row-level security. That’s in addition to dynamic data masking.

“We have taken the same industry-leading data warehouse to a whole new level of performance and capabilities. Businesses can continue running their existing data warehouse workloads in production today with Azure Synapse and will automatically benefit from the new capabilities,” wrote Kumar. “Businesses can put their data to work much more quickly, productively, and securely, pulling together insights from all data sources, data warehouses, and big data analytics systems.”

Autonomous systems and machine learning

On the Azure Machine Learning front, Microsoft revealed a refreshed model designer and built-in programming notebooks for Python and R. Joining these are new role-based access, quota, and cost management controls, plus features addressing AI model fairness and interpretability.

Microsoft’s autonomous system platform, which allows engineers with limited expertise in data science to achieve desired outcomes and behaviors, expanded to more customers today. It uses simulations to generate training data for reinforcement learning models and then orchestrates the management and deployment of those models.

Through a partnership with MathWorks and others, Matlab and Simulink will come to the Azure Cloud, as will software from AnyLogic, CGTech, solution providers Fresh Consulting, Neal Analytics, and enterprise drone software maker 3D Robotics.

Azure SQL Database Edge

Azure SQL Database Edge, a small-footprint database engine for edge devices, is now available in preview following an unveil in May. By way of a refresher, it migrates many of the capabilities offered by Microsoft’s Azure SQL Database and SQL server to hardware-constrained devices. Azure SQL Database Edge supports Arm- and x64-based edge gateways and machines and delivers low-latency analytics that combine data streaming and time-series data with in-database machine learning and support for graph data.

Database Edge’s other spotlight features include policies that protect data at rest and in motion, as well as a programming surface in common with Azure SQL Database and SQL Server and support for cloud-connected and fully decentralized edge scenarios. Database Edge furthermore plays nicely with Power BI, Microsoft’s business analytics service that facilitates the creation of reports, dashboards, and more.

Azure Cloud Databases

Azure Cloud Databases for PostgreSQL Hyperscale is now generally available, Microsoft announced. For the uninitiated, Citus Data’s Hyperscale — an extension to PostgreSQ — horizontally scales single databases across hundreds of nodes to allow more data to fit in-memory, parallelizing queries and boosting indexing speeds in the process.

Microsoft also debuted new Azure SQL Database hardware options with up to 400% more memory and compute, alongside the integration of Azure SQL Database with Power Apps and Azure Stream Analytics.

Also announced were more flexible purchasing options across relational and non-relational databases and Azure SQL Database serverless, which automatically pauses compute during periods when the database is inactive and automatically resumes it when activity returns. Finally, Autopilot mode for Azure Cosmos DB — Microsoft’s service offering that delivers automatic scaling of provisioned throughput based on workload patterns — launched in preview.