Microsoft has been trying to leverage its Azure (SQL Cloud) platform for a while now through enhanced availability and performance, as well as creating a few “unexpected” connectors, such as the Hadoop to SQL DB Connector, which is now available as a beta in an Azure environment.
One interesting aspect of the Azure platform is the Azure Marketplace, which allows you to buy (or use for free) some of the available data in the Azure environment, in order to enrich your data and your analysis, the idea is that the more you understand how your data behaves in relation to other data (such as Weather data), the more accurate decisions you will be able to take. The Azure Data Marketplace has a growing collection of different data packages across multiple categories and disciplines.
Now as part of leveraging that data service platform, and to ease the “Data Discovery” aspect of the Azure Data Marketplace, Microsoft has built the Data Explorer tool (which is part of the Azure Lab toolset).
This tool allows you to “Mashup” multiple data sources (such as SQL Server, EXCEL, Paste-In Content, etc.), and then the Data Explorer tool will suggest data packages in the Azure Data Marketplace that could be of relevance to the data you are analyzing. You could then easily combine any of the Azure Data packages with your existing data, draw some visuals, and analyze the results.
This basically empowers analysts with access to generic data, which when combined with business data through an easy-to-use suggestion platform, could yield interesting patterns or trends that are not previously discovered, or highlight and explain interesting data points (Microsoft refers to this as “The Pony” in your data).
Also, and I didn’t get much chance to go through this yet, but the Azure lab has a host of other interesting tools, such as the Social Analytics cloud service experimental cloud service, which allows developers access to a stream of social media data from top social hubs.
Definitely worth abit of investigation.
Anyway, rant is over, I recommend having a play with these tools, and generally keeping an eye on the Azure Labs.