Microsoft Has Made Data King—and Every Business Can Benefit

Eric MacDonald

Director Cloud Transformation

In 1996, Bill Gates wrote an essay entitled “Content is King,” predicting the enormous value digital content would hold in the succeeding years. While content still holds enormous value at the consumer and business ends of the digital space, Microsoft’s own investments in data analytics have helped make data and analytics a co-reigning source of value for business today. 

The heavily integrated Microsoft analytics ecosystem, including the Azure platform for cloud computing services, Synapse for orchestrating the ingestion of data from diverse sources, and Power BI for generating actionable dashboards and reports, has made data analytics available to firms of all kinds. Any business can benefit from having a data strategy. In this post, we’ll discuss why we like the Microsoft ecosystem, and show how it can help firms start generating value quickly and securely.

Synapse for data ingestion

Microsoft has done a great job of laying out their Synapse platform to be exceptionally feature complete. It includes functionality for data ingestion, setting up pipelines directly within the platform, carrying out data manipulation, and support for other workflows including machine learning functionality that integrates directly with Power BI.

These features and functionality together make Synapse a one-stop shop as an analytics platform, allowing users to consume and visualize reports directly. Naturally, there are tasks required to prepare the platform and get those reports stood up and integrated. Microsoft has made these start-up activities intuitive with features including native connectivity to all available data sources.

An excellent feature of Synapse is that companies don’t need to be running systems on Azure to take advantage of its tools. One of the unique features of Synapse is its collection of out-of-the-box connectors that interface with many different types of data sources. For example, if a customer is ingesting some data from Azure systems alongside data ingestion from branch sites and other data centers, Azure’s functionality coordinates the mixed cloud/on-premises process..

Why we prefer Synapse

The Microsoft ecosystem is one of the most well-developed and widely-used in the analytics space—and it’s also tightly integrated. Choosing to use Synapse allows firms to take full advantage of the enormous research and development Microsoft has poured into both the functionality and native integration of its entire ecosystem.

Let’s take a look at an innovation-oriented example of how this advantage plays out. With Synapse, a firm can use the powerful Azure automation tools to spin up a workspace and intelligently manage compute consumption, ensuring that the most value possible is derived from every compute hour purchased.

Users also integrate very easily into the Azure environment using their current Microsoft credentials, which have security and audit compliance features like multi-factor authentication built in. As a result, it’s easy for existing authorized users throughout an organization to securely access the published Power BI reports and workspaces they need to inform innovative work.

How to adopt Power BI and Synapse

The advantages of the Azure environment’s strong integration and well-developed ecosystem doesn’t stop at the business level. On a deployment and user experience level, Azure tools can start generating value out of the box. 

For example, both Power BI and Synapse can be adopted and start generating value using in-house resources without the need to engage an MSP. Even without specialized training, out-of-the-box Power BI is intuitive for most users. Additional training and specialization will allow users to maximize the value they can get from Power BI, but it isn’t necessary to get started. 

The same is true for Synapse: training, specialization, and additional expertise in the form of in-house resources, partners, or an MSP aren’t required to get started, but most organizations will want to introduce one or more of them eventually to get the most from the tool.

A case study in the power of Synapse + Power BI

A manufacturing industry customer of Protera came to us with a specific business goal they wanted to achieve with data, but didn’t have the in-house knowledge or experience required to connect their data and get a platform up and running. The company had a number of branch sites from which they wanted to quickly connect data to inform an analysis of downtime in their shipping lines and its impact on their overall business.

We helped the firm deploy Synapse and Power BI to collect the data pertaining to the uptime of equipment from each of their manufacturing sites, from which we generated an in-depth view into how preventative maintenance schedules were affecting equipment downtime. Insights at this operational level could then be correlated with business outcomes, affording the firm an empirical understanding of how equipment downtime contributed directly to business delays.

These are the kinds of insights that make data analytics valuable in so many applications. No longer does this particular firm have to rely on instinct or less sophisticated analysis to understand the inefficiencies in their business. They now have hard evidence for the source and magnitude of business delays originating in their operations, and were able to get to those insights quickly through Microsoft’s analytics tools.

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