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Microsoft ignites Apache Cassandra Azure service

Microsoft rolled out a series of enhancements for the company's cloud data efforts, including updates to Azure Cosmos DB and a new database service for Cassandra.

Microsoft rolled out a series of new Azure Data services on March 2 as part of its flurry of news coming out of the virtual Microsoft Ignite 2021 conference.

Among the data items unveiled at Ignite was the general availability of Azure Synapse Link for Cosmos DB, which integrates the Azure Synapse Analytics service with Microsoft's Azure Cosmos DB cloud database.

Microsoft is now also providing more support for the MongoDB 4.0 API inside of Azure Cosmos DB, enabling better compatibility for users of the popular MongoDB document database.

Microsoft also unveiled at the Ignite conference a preview of its Apache Cassandra Azure service, which provides a managed cloud version of the popular open source Apache Cassandra database to Microsoft's cloud.

Cosmos DB enhancements

Sanjeev Mohan, a Gartner analyst, said Cosmos DB's support for MongoDB's 4.0 API gets it closer to full MongoDB compatibility. Mohan noted that as part of the Cosmos DB update, the database gets new multi-document transactional capabilities and aggregation functions.

"This is good news for the users of Cosmos DB, which is already a millisecond latency and globally replicated polyglot database that is available in every Microsoft Azure region," Mohan said.

Meanwhile, Forrester analyst Noel Yuhanna noted that from his perspective, the Azure Synapse Link for CosmosDB offering is an important milestone for Microsoft that enables organizations to run analytics at the speed of transactions.

"We find a growing demand for near-real-time analytics from many vertical industries, including financial services, retail and healthcare. However, latency in data movement and processing from transactional systems often slows down this initiative," Yuhanna said. "With Azure Synapse link for Azure CosmosDB it brings OLTP [online transaction processing] and OLAP [online analytical processing] closer together that will help organizations support real-time analytics with minimal effort." 

Apache Cassandra Azure service expands Azure Data offerings

Microsoft is now also wading into the competitive market for Apache Cassandra database services. Several vendors, including DataStax and Instaclustr, already offer supported Cassandra services. And Microsoft's cloud rival AWS introduced its managed Cassandra service in December 2019.

Based on our research, we find that Apache Cassandra adoption has been growing rapidly over the past two years, primarily because of the need to support distributed data applications and analytics across regions.
Noel YuhannaAnalyst, Forrester

"Based on our research, we find that Apache Cassandra adoption has been growing rapidly over the past two years, primarily because of the need to support distributed data applications and analytics across regions," Yuhanna said. "Cassandra, over the decade, has been established as one of the leading providers of distributed databases, and with the support of Apache Cassandra on Azure Cloud, it will help organizations simplify distributed database deployments."

Mohan noted that the new preview service from Microsoft is geared to move on-premises Apache Cassandra services into Azure. The Apache Cassandra Azure service will provide all the managed offering features such as provisioning, backups and updating versions.

"As Apache Cassandra deployments can be complex, this service will help alleviate the time and effort needed to onboard Cassandra applications," Mohan said.

Apache Cassandra vendors comment

Mohan noted that DataStax's Astra cloud offering is already available to run Cassandra as a service in Azure and this new service from Microsoft now adds a new alternative. However, he noted that DataStax Astra is multi-tenant and runs on other major public clouds while the new Azure service is single-tenant and for Azure only.

DataStax chief product officer Ed Anuff said DataStax is seeing strong and growing interest in Cassandra. Given the demand for Cassandra, Anuff said DataStax expects to see a variety of services for Cassandra in the market.

Steve Francis, chief revenue officer at Instaclustr, said the vendor also is seeing continued demand for Cassandra services. Having a tech giant such as Microsoft in the Cassandra community is a positive sign for the project, he said.

"Microsoft's increased commitment to Apache Cassandra is excellent validation for the project and demonstrates its continued importance as businesses of all kinds increasingly digitize," Francis said. "Apache Cassandra provides scale and performance that is unrivaled when it is expertly managed."

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