Rohan Kumar explains Microsoft Azure Synapse Analytics at Ignite 2019
Rohan Kumar explains Microsoft Azure Synapse Analytics at Ignite 2019

Microsoft Torches Google and Amazon on Big-Data Benchmarks, Says Microsoft

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During a recent keynote talk by CEO Satya Nadella, Microsoft said its new Azure Synapse analytics service executed a complex query 75 times faster than Google’s BigQuery service, and another query 3 times faster than Amazon’s Red Shift.

Now, before you think this is nothing more than measuring the quantity of angels dancing on pinheads, consider the ramifications if Microsoft’s claims hold up in the real world of digital business:

  • Every company in the world is racing to become a data-driven enterprise in which volumes of data and speed of analytics are paramount.
  • Google and Amazon are among the world’s top companies in data management, analytics and data science. So for Microsoft to have achieved those levels of superior performance would be a stunning achievement.
  • No doubt we’ll soon be hearing some reactions from both Google (#6 on the Cloud Wars Top 10) and Amazon (#2 on the Cloud Wars Top 10). What are the odds that those forthcoming statements tell a very different story?
  • Best of all for business customers, the claims from Microsoft (#1 on the Cloud Wars Top 10) will trigger a new round of competitive battles that will ensure those customers will have a range of outstanding analytics solutions from which to choose in 2020.
Dropping the News at Microsoft Ignite

It’s interesting to see that Microsoft elected to make these claims not in an obscure paper or just on a benchmarking site, but rather in its holiest of holies: a very public presentation by Nadella. This one took place last week at Microsoft’s annual Ignite mega-event as Nadella punctuated his big-theme keynote with several hand-offs to colleagues who delved into the details of the new products and approaches touched on by Nadella.

The segment about Microsoft’s new Azure Synapse Analytics was delivered by corporate VP for Azure Data Rohan Kumar. He defined Synapse as “the next generation of the Azure SQL data warehouse, which blends together big-data analytics, data warehousing and data integration into a single unified service that provides end-to-end analytics at cloud scale.”

Kumar locked on to the notion of extreme speed and performance, promising that “With Synapse, project timelines will be measured in hours and not months.” He also emphasized the end-to-end capability of allowing users to explore all of their data to capture all possible insights.

Here’s the relevant portions of Kumar’s presentation. (You can check it out in its entirety within the larger transcript of Nadella’s entire keynote here.)

Microsoft Azure Synapse: the Details

What’s happening behind the scenes is the intelligent distributed-query optimizer of Synapse is executing this query across hundreds of nodes in a fault-tolerant manner. Wow, it just took 9 seconds to execute this complex query against a petabyte scale dataset… Now, in the interest of some friendly comparisons, let me run the same query against Google’s BigQuery.

What I’m doing here is running the exact same query against the exact same dataset running in Google’s BigQuery. Now, as you can see, it’s taking a little longer. Now, in the interest of time, we ran this query earlier. Any guesses on how long it took Google’s BigQuery to complete the same query? Two minutes? Five minutes? Eight minutes maybe? Let’s take a look. It took a whopping 11 minutes. For this complicated query Synapse is 75 times faster than Google’s BigQuery.

TPCH is a very comprehensive benchmark for analytics and the current state of the art for TPCH is 30 terabytes. I’m really excited to announce that with Synapse we have successfully run all of the 22 TPCH queries at record time at 1 petabyte.”

Query concurrency has long been a challenge for all analytic systems. Now, to showcase how Synapse empowers users with limitless scale, I have a dashboard here that compares that with the other offerings in the market. Now, what’s backing this dashboard is a system that allows me to show concurrent-user access using industry-standard benchmark queries. Let’s start with 50 concurrent users. As you can see, even with this few a user set, Synapse, based on the query response time, is three times faster than Amazon’s Red Shift and five times faster than Google’s BigQuery.

Big-Data Benchmarks: a New Front in the Cloud Wars

As Kumar’s demo continues, it’s hardly surprising that the virtues of Synapse multiply. And that the challenges for Amazon’s Red Shift and Google’s BigQuery continue to mount.

But Microsoft’s not known for making idle claims about its core technology, and certainly not under the imprimatur of CEO Nadella. So there’s clearly something compelling going on here.

No doubt, Google and Amazon will soon be telling their own stories to rebuff the snappy Synapse and showcase their own extreme capabilities. And no matter which of those three companies ultimately “wins” this benchmark competition, the biggest winners will be the business customers who get to tap into all that hypercharged performance.

So let the claims begin!

Disclosure: at the time of this writing, Microsoft and Google Cloud were clients of Evans Strategic Consulting LLC and/or Cloud Wars Media LLC.


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