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Sparks fly as Databricks buddies up with Microsoft in the cloud

Analytics biz now a first-party service on Azure

Databricks and Microsoft are getting cosy in the cloud, in a move that will give the Spark-wrangling company access to a new set of customers.

The pair have launched Azure Databricks, which deploys the analytic company's tech as a first-party service on Microsoft's cloud platform.

That's a much closer relationship than Databricks has with AWS, which was previously the only cloud platform it was available on.

Although that isn't going anywhere, Azure customers will be able to spin up Databricks much more quickly as they would a native Azure service.

David Wyatt, EMEA veep for Databricks, told The Register that the announcement – made at Redmond's Connect conference in New York – was the product of months of collaboration.

Although he didn't give up any specifics, he said that this was only "one of a few" similar relationships that Redmond had with other vendors.

The move means that Microsoft is selling, marketing, deploying and supporting Azure Databricks – pushing the firm's service much more widely.

The advantage for customers, Wyatt said, is optimised connections to Azure platforms, with Databricks tightly coupled to tools, such as Power BI.

But the main selling point he pushed was security. This is the "the most common pushback" when it came to convincing people to shift to the cloud, he said. The aim will be to bring more enterprise customers in security-driven sectors like financial services to Databricks.

Customers will deal with Microsoft directly, but Wyatt said there was effectively a "Microsoft team" within Databricks, and they will be on hand to deliver third-party support.

Azure Databricks has been released as a preview – "not a beta," Wyatt stressed, "which is a product that's not ready" – and has been in private preview for about three weeks.

There are about 15 customers on that preview, and around 100 to 150 customers in public preview, where private is "more or less free" and public is chargeable, but with a discount. General availability is set for Q2.

Meanwhile, Wyatt said Databricks is planning to drive up customer numbers in Europe, where they currently number around 50. The EMEA office opened on September 1 this year, and Wyatt said the firm was growing rapidly. "It wouldn't surprise me if there were a couple of hundred people in EMEA in a few years."

As well as the Azure Databricks launch, Microsoft also used its Connect conference to announce that it had joined the MariaDB Foundation as a platinum member and a preview of a fully managed MariaDB service on Azure. ®

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