Microsoft’s introduction of real-time intelligence

Core capabilities

Microsoft made a major announcement at the Build 2024 conference regarding its unified platform, Fabric. The company announced a new workload known as Real-Time Intelligence, designed to provide instant insights from streaming data.

As a pivotal update, this new capability aims to transform how businesses manage and interpret real-time information, although it remains in the preview phase. Real-Time Intelligence promises to be a transformative element for Microsoft Fabric, improving the platform’s ability to deliver immediate data analytics.

Improved enterprise functionality

Real-Time Intelligence greatly extends the capabilities of Microsoft Fabric by enabling enterprises to directly ingest, analyze, and act upon real-time data streams. This addresses a variety of operational needs across industries.

For example, it can monitor idling equipment, optimizing machine usage and reducing downtime in manufacturing settings. To add to this, it can also promptly report issues such as failures on a payment page, which is key for maintaining trust and operational efficiency in eCommerce scenarios.

The new real-time feature also delivers “up-to-the-minute” insights. In today’s fast-paced business environment, the ability to make quick, informed decisions can often be the difference between leading the market and lagging behind.

Real-time insights assist team leads and decision-makers in navigating the complexities of modern business operations with greater agility.

Arun Ulagaratchagan, the corporate vice president for Azure Data at Microsoft, has highlighted the core benefits of Real-Time Intelligence in a detailed blog post. He emphasizes that the integration of this capability into Fabric allows businesses to respond to immediate data and anticipate future trends and issues before they become critical.

Primary features of real-time intelligence

Data handling and processing

Microsoft Fabric’s Real-Time Intelligence is a great leap in data analytics, particularly in how businesses handle vast streams of information. Fabric now facilitates the entire spectrum from data ingestion to its transformation, querying, and the consequent actions, all executed with remarkable immediacy. This effectively eliminates the traditional need for data to be stored before it undergoes processing, enabling a more fluid and dynamic data management process.

  • Integration of previous workloads: A core improvement is the integration of previous workloads—Real-Time Analytics and Data Activator—into a singular, more robust Real-Time Intelligence workload, simplifying the architecture, and reducing complexity for users while maintaining robust functionality.
  • Support for diverse data sources: Real-Time Intelligence supports a wide range of data sources through its out-of-the-box connectors, capable of integrating data from both Microsoft’s own and third-party cloud providers and platforms. Enterprises can leverage this to pull a diverse set of data into the platform seamlessly.
  • Tools for varied technical expertise: Microsoft provides tools tailored to various levels of technical expertise. Businesses can choose between low-code solutions for simpler applications and more sophisticated code-rich options for complex data manipulation needs. Enterprises can lean into this flexibility, aiming to adapt quickly to changing market conditions.
  • Real-time querying: The system also supports real-time querying for instant visual insights and enables automated actions based on specific triggers. For instance, if a machine starts to overheat, the system can automatically issue alerts, facilitating immediate intervention to prevent potential failures and improve operational efficiency.

Real-time hub

Central to the Real-Time Intelligence architecture is the Real-Time Hub—a consolidated platform designed to manage all data in motion.

Real-time hub is the nerve center where IoT sensor data, weblogs, and clickstreams are collected, managed, transformed and then routed to appropriate destinations within the Fabric ecosystem.

The Real-Time Hub improves operational visibility and control, allowing users to both create and consume new data streams actively. Businesses will be supported in developing more responsive and adaptive operational strategies by making real-time data accessible and actionable.

Real-time hub also includes advanced features for data profiling and configuration of endorsements. Users can set up and manage alerts directly from the hub, so that they are promptly informed of any critical changes in data patterns or system performance.

Current testing and potential applications

Microsoft’s Real-Time Intelligence is under rigorous testing with select companies such as One NZ and Elcome – allowing Microsoft to refine the technology in real-world scenarios to meet the diverse needs of its users across sectors.

The new capability is set to support and improve a range of critical applications, for instance:

  • Transportation and logistics: Real-Time Intelligence can optimize routes in real time, potentially reducing fuel costs and improving delivery times.
  • Energy and utilities: Companies can benefit from improved grid monitoring, leading to improved reliability and efficiency in power distribution.
  • Manufacturing: Predictive maintenance enabled by Real-Time Intelligence can prevent costly equipment failures and downtime, saving substantial resources.
  • Retail: Companies can use it for more efficient inventory management, so that stock levels meet consumer demand without surplus.

Upcoming new tools and features

Microsoft is further expanding Fabric’s capabilities with several new tools and features aimed at developers and businesses. The introduction of the Fabric Workload Development Kit, currently in preview, is a major step forward – enabling developers to create and deploy custom applications directly within the Fabric platform, building up flexibility and driving innovation.

Supporting developer engagement, Microsoft plans to introduce a workload hub. This platform will allow developers to easily discover, add, and manage their custom workloads, streamlining the development process and encouraging more personalized application development.

In data management, Microsoft has worked towards improving its Data Factory module to include the ability to define Directed Acyclic Graphs (DAG). These are used for complex data workflow orchestration, providing more tools for developers to manage and optimize data flows efficiently.

Finally, Microsoft is piloting an AI-powered Q&A feature named AI skills to support users in making direct queries about their data without needing prior configuration, simplifying data interaction.

Developer engagement and partnerships

Microsoft’s collaborative efforts with major players in the tech industry further improve the utility and reach of Fabric. Companies like Informatica, Teradata, Neo4j, and SAS are actively developing for the platform. Partnerships such as these extend the capabilities of Fabric and enrich the ecosystem with a diverse range of tools and applications, catering to the specific needs of industries and scenarios.

Tim Boesen

May 31, 2024

5 Min