Microsoft’s new Azure Data Factory

Azure Data Factory, now in preview, enables you to process on-premises data like SQL Server, together with cloud data, like Azure SQL Database, Blobs, Big Data and Tables.  Jesse Kraut, a Mariner Data Analytics Consultant who is quickly becoming an expert in this, characterizes it this way:

Azure Data Factory
Azure Data Factory (Image courtesy of Microsoft)

Azure Data Factory is a managed service for orchestrating and managing diverse data, especially in hybrid environments where some data sources reside in the cloud and others are on-premise. Developers can use Data Factory to transform semi-structured, unstructured and structured data from on-premises and cloud sources into trusted information. This Services allows developers to compose data storage, movement, and processing services into streamlined data pipelines.

Digital Business + Azure Data Factory

In the world of digital business, the Azure Data Factory can manage the data needed to leverage the additive capabilities of the cloud, big data, analytics, decision management, social, mobile and Internet of Things (IoT) technologies.  For example, the Azure Data Factory can be a critical link in making digital business applications effective for enhancing customer service.

A Typical Scenario for Azure Data Factory

Imagine that you want to gain a better understanding of your customers, their buying habits, and whether or not they are targets for cross-selling or repeat purchase. Let’s say you sell air filters through retail outlets and online. Right now you may access to purchase histories and place of purchase. But then what?  What if you could take data about previous purchases and mash them up with tweets and forum posts, known as sentiment polarity, and geospatial data to gain a better understanding of your end customer?  And what if you could share that with your retailers before they reorder and restock the shelves? Perhaps you’d be able to uncover a need for a new product or increase the frequency with which they buy your consumable product.  Perhaps you’d uncover that certain parts of the country, consumers object to the use of landfill unfriendly materials or in the arid southwest, your products don’t adequately filter fine dusts/sand.  These are the types of questions you can ask when large amounts of different data types are organized, correlated and shared with decision makers at all levels. In short, this is when Azure Data Factory would dramatically improve how you do business.

In the book, “Leading Digital: Turning Technology into Business Transformation,” case studies highlight the importance of marrying large amounts of cloud-based data with organizational data to enhance the customers’ experience buying or using a product.  Azure Data Factory is ideal for combining geospatial, social and purchase data to connect customers more deeply with your brand and buy more frequently.  The book cites Burberry’s Customer 360 program, “a data-driven shopping experience that invites customer to digitally share their buying histories, shopping tendencies and fashion preferences – to allow Burberry to profile and personalize the experience.”  These digital moves enable companies to understand their customers better, increase brand loyalty and in most cases, gain market share.

Learn more about the Azure Data Factory

To learn more about Azure Data Factory, read Jesse’s blog post, An Introduction to Azure Data Factory, in which he previews the interface and how to move data from an on premises SQL Server table to an Azure SQL Server table.  You can also check out Microsoft’s website, and sign up for a free trial.

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