Microsoft has announced the general availability of Azure Data Lake Analytics and Azure Data Lake Store, a pair of cloud services aimed at making big data analytics an easier proposition for customers who are willing to make certain tradeoffs. 

Data Lake Store is a low-cost and highly scalable storage option that while proprietary, is compatible with Hadoop and HDInsight, the Azure Hadoop service powered by Hortonworks.

"The separation of the Data Lake Store from the analytical aspects of Hadoop or Spark provides another key benefit in that these compute-intensive aspects of a big data platform can be scaled as needed and only when needed to handle analytic workloads," says Constellation Research VP and principal analyst Doug Henschen. "In a conventional Hadoop deployment, storage and compute capacity are scaled together, so it’s less flexible in terms scaling up compute capacity only as and when needed."

Meanwhile, Data Lake Analytics provides a framework for running analytic jobs on Data Lake Store. The benefits, similar to Data Lake Store, include support for Azure Active Directory and integration with on-premises security and access controls, Henschen notes. Microsoft has also come up with U-SQL, a query language friendly to .NET developers, as well as support for pointing Data Lake Analytics at sources outside Data Lake Store, such as SQL Server instances on Azure. 

The Bottom Line

"Azure Data Lake Store and Azure Data Lake Analytics offering compelling, though proprietary, alternatives to Hadoop and Spark without giving up support for or compatibility with either of these open platforms," Henschen says. "Azure Data Lake Analytics is also open to Python- and R-based analytics. The separation of storage from compute and the familiarity of Active Director and U-SQL will be compelling, but customers should keep in mind that neither service is available in another public cloud. Azure Data Lake Store, for example, is compatible with Hadoop Distributed File System, but it is not HDFS. In short, the more you commit to these two new services, the more locked into Azure you will become."

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