Microsoft Hopes To Unify Big Data And Analytics In Newly Announced Suite

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Today at its Worldwide Partner Conference in Orlando, Microsoft announced the Cortana Analytics Suite. It takes the company’s machine learning, big data and analytics products and packages them together in one huge, monolithic suite.

Microsoft has put together the suite with the hope of providing a one-stop, big data and analytics solution for enterprise customers.

“Our goal was to bring integration of these pieces so customers have a comprehensive platform to build intelligent solutions,” Joseph Sirosh, corporate vice president at Microsoft, who is in charge of Azure ML told TechCrunch

As for Cortana, which is the Microsoft voice-driven personal assistant tool in Windows 10, it’s a small part of the solution, but Sirosh says Microsoft named the suite after it because it symbolizes the contextualized intelligence that the company hopes to deliver across the entire suite.

It includes pieces like Azure ML, the company’s cloud machine learning product, PowerBI, its data visualization tool and Azure Data Catalog, a service announced just last week designed for sharing and surfacing data stores inside a company, among others. It hopes to take advantage of range of technologies such as face and speech recognition to generate a series of solutions like recommendation engines and churn forecasting.

Chart with all of the products in the Cortana Analytics Suite.

It’s All About Integration

Microsoft expects that by providing an integrated solution, third parties and systems integrators will build packaged solutions based on the suite, and that customers will be attracted by a product with pieces designed to play nicely together. It is building in integration, thereby reducing the complexity of making these types of tools work together — at least that’s the theory.

“Where the suite provides value is the great interoperability, finished solutions, recipes and cookbooks,” Sirosh explained.

As an example, Microsoft talked about a coordinated medical care project at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center. The program, called ImagineCare, is built on top of the Cortana Analytics Suite and the Microsoft Dynamics CRM tool.

Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center patient dashboard built using Cortana Analytics Suite.

The hope is that by providing patients with home monitoring to measure things like heart rate, blood pressure, sleep patterns, weight gain and so forth, and sharing this information in the Azure cloud, they can coordinate better care and perhaps prevent a major medical event like a heart attack.

Nurses could monitor the data from a group of patients in a medical data dashboard and coordinate better care and responses to changes in the overall patient profile that could signal larger issues if left untreated. Sirosh was careful to point out that this is more of a future ideal, but Microsoft is hoping that by putting these pieces together in a coordinated fashion, it will provide a platform for these types of sophisticated projects moving forward.

Suite Emotion

What Microsoft is doing with this suite is the tried and true packaging technique, we have seen from big companies like Microsoft, IBM and Adobe for years, taking a group of somewhat-related products and putting them together to encourage customers to buy all of the products instead of just a couple.

Microsoft made billions for years delivering a similar type of integration with the Office suite. Adobe did the same thing with Creative Suite, both companies delivering ways to work more easily across the products that make up the suite.

Cortana Analytics Suite will be available later this Fall. Sirosh wouldn’t discuss pricing, but if you buy one suite, you’ll get a simpler billing model and more savings than you would get buying the individual pieces, he said.

It seems like a sound marketing practice, but in reality customers have indicated over the last several years, they want the best of breed across product categories and prefer to string together the products they want or already own.

Companies no longer want to be locked into a single vendor. They want their vendors, especially in the cloud to make it easier to make the various pieces work together, regardless of the manufacturer.

This suite bucks that trend. Time will tell if customers will bite.

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