Microsoft pushes out Azure Data Catalog alongside other major updates

This week is a big one for Microsoft and its Azure cloud platform, with major updates coming through before its Worldwide Partner Conference. The updates introduces a raft of juicy new features, including Azure Data Catalog and Power BI Desktop.

Azure Data Catalog is actually available in public preview today, and Microsoft describes it as an enterprise metadata portal for the self-discovery of data sources.

Cloud Pro reports that Joseph Sirosh, corporate VP of information management and machine learning at Microsoft, commented: "Azure Data Catalog is a fully managed service that stores, describes, indexes and provides information on how to access any registered data source. It closes the gap between those seeking information and those producing it."

In short, organisations that are faced with a huge range of data sources need help finding the right source for any given problem, and Azure Data Catalog helps them do this swiftly.

As Microsoft puts it, the service means that staff members won't spend more time searching for the relevant data than they actually do working with the data itself.

Azure Data Catalog uses crowdsourcing, and Sirosh noted: “Any user, for instance an analyst, data scientist or data developer, can register, enrich, discover, understand and consume data sources. Every user is empowered to register the data sources that they use. Registration extracts the structural metadata from the data source and stores it in the cloud-based Catalog, while the data itself remains in the data source.

“Crowdsourced annotations let users who are knowledgeable about the data assets registered in the Catalog to enrich the system at any time. This helps others understand the data more readily, including its intended purpose and how it’s being used within the business.”

The overhauled data crunching tool Power BI will also be out very shortly – on July 24, in fact – and it will be made available alongside Power BI Desktop, which Microsoft describes as a powerful new visual data exploration tool, providing simple drag-and-drop exploration of data and an array of interactive visualisations.

Azure Batch is also now available, which aims to make it a breeze to handle the provisioning and scaling of virtual machines. All in all, these are some very powerful new tools which should make life easier for many businesses.