Two weeks ago, Microsoft introduced a revolutionary data and analytics platform named Microsoft Fabric, which experts predict will provide a significant edge over major competitors Amazon and Google in the fiercely competitive cloud market. The comprehensive Microsoft Fabric platform offers a suite of tools that empower corporate users to store, manage, and analyze vital operational data. It integrates products catering to all data users within an organization, from specialized experts handling data processing to executives seeking insights and making data-driven decisions.
Microsoft Fabric, currently broadly available for use and expected to roll out new features in the upcoming months, has surprised many industry experts. While some are withholding their final judgment until they witness it in action, others have hailed the platform as a major advancement that could assist Microsoft in surpassing Amazon and other cloud providers, including Google, particularly in servicing large enterprises. “Microsoft currently has a slight edge over other hyperscalers with these combined capabilities,” commented Noel Yuhanna, an analyst at Forrester.
According to research firm Gartner, Microsoft was already a leader in data and analytics software even before this launch. However, Microsoft Fabric elevates the company’s offerings to a novel level of integration and user-friendliness that competitors might find challenging to match in the near future.
While Fabric constitutes a robust offering for Microsoft, analysts say the focus now shifts to execution. Amazon’s AWS cloud service currently holds the lead in overall market share against Microsoft’s Azure and is likely to maintain that for a while. However, when it comes to enterprise analytics and data, Microsoft’s cloud offerings now excel in the breadth of capabilities. The degree of execution success, however, largely depends on deals yet to be proven, stated Hyoun Park, an analyst at Amalgam Insights.
Microsoft Fabric stands out, according to analysts, due to Microsoft’s streamlined and unified data architecture using a single data lake, OneLake, capable of storing and providing access to all kinds of data from diverse sources and operations. This system offers significant customer benefits, including cost savings, transparency, scalability, governance, and data quality.
Despite seeming like a simple concept, it has been elusive for most cloud providers, including Microsoft, Amazon, and Google, due to the incremental approach they’ve taken in assembling their various data and analytics tools. Microsoft Fabric, however, promises to eliminate this complexity by providing true integration – including a single copy of data, one experience, and one interface.
The ‘secret weapon’ behind Microsoft Fabric is OneLake, which stores a single copy of data from Microsoft’s diverse services in a common format, Apache Parquet. This open-source file format simplifies and speeds up the process of querying and analyzing data. Additionally, it accommodates data from external sources through the use of the open-source format Delta Lake.
The integration effort behind Microsoft Fabric took years and has finally paid off by breaking down silos and amalgamating its data services into a single software as-a-service (SaaS) offering.
The primary competition among cloud providers revolves around data quality, which enhances customer insight and decision-making. By linking data sources, Fabric enhances the reliability and richness of data. Similarly, Microsoft has caught up with the ‘lakehouse’ trend – a combination of data lake and data warehouse technologies – through its implementation of Delta Lake protocol in Fabric.
Ultimately, Microsoft plans to employ its new generative AI technology, acquired from its investment in OpenAI, to enhance its Skipper tool. This will enable users to ask and receive answers to data queries in natural language. However, the full impact of applying generative AI across the Fabric offerings will take time to materialize as users are yet to explore what this technology can do.