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Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella envisions a world where every company has a data-centric culture.

And, ideally, those companies use Microsoft products like Office and Azure.

At a customer event in San Francisco today, Nadella laid out his vision for Microsoft’s “data platform,” which consists of key services within the company’s Office, Azure, and SQL Server divisions.

“We want to take an architectural approach that brings together different products — from Excel on one end to SQL and Hadoop on the other end — to create this notion of ambient intelligence,” said Nadella onstage at the event.


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To flesh out the newly defined platform, Nadella introduced three new Microsoft offerings: SQL Server 2014, Analytics Platform System, and Azure Intelligent Systems Service.

The products and services that make up Microsoft's "data platform."

Above: The products and services that make up Microsoft’s “data platform.”

Image Credit: Microsoft

SQL Server 2014, which launched today, is the latest product from Microsoft’s $5 billion relational-database management division. The big innovation with the 2014 version, said Nadella, is that in-memory technology works across all data workloads, accelerating workload throughput.

But SQL Servers don’t need to work on their own. With Microsoft’s Analytics Platform System, now generally available, you can run queries across both traditional relational data warehouses and unrelational data stored in Hadoop. So you could, for example, query data from transactional and log systems alongside real-time data from social streams and websites. Microsoft calls it “big data in a box.”

“We’re really not only thinking of these worlds of cloud and on-premises, private cloud as these two separate worlds for customers,” said Nadella.

Lastly, Azure Intelligent Systems Service is a service for the Internet of things. It helps customers collect data from all sorts of sensors and servers. It’s available in limited public preview now.

Microsoft also highlighted its “Power BI” tools, which attempt to turn Office into a useful UI for data. Launched six weeks ago, Power BI enables PowerPoint and Excel users to readily access local or cloud-based data, toggle filters and animations, and ask search-style questions to create intelligent graphs and charts on the fly.

“Think of Office as the canvas or the surface or the scaffolding through which you can access all the data,” said Nadella.

“Every aspect of Microsoft’s business has been fundamentally transformed because of data. … To be able to truly benefit from this platform, you need to have a data culture inside of your organization.”

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