Microsoft is prepping a Big Data project known as “Hekaton,” which will layer in-memory technology into the next major SQL Server release. While the company isn’t sharing very many details at this time, it claims that Hekaton will apply in-memory capabilities to a variety of analytics and transactional functions, with boosted performance gains as a result. Microsoft is also using this week’s PASS Summit to announce the next version of SQL Server 2012 Parallel Data Warehouse (PDW), due in the first half of 2013. The upgraded platform will feature PolyBase, a new engine for processing queries across relational data and non-relational Hadoop data. In addition, the SQL Server 2012 Service Pack 1 (SP1) will layer more business-intelligence tools into Excel and SharePoint. “In-memory computing is a core element of Microsoft’s strategy to deliver a data platform that enables customers to analyze all types of data while also accelerating time to insight,” Ted Kummert, corporate vice president of Microsoft’s Business Platform Division, wrote in a Nov. 7 blog posting. “Our approach to in-memory computing is to provide a complete portfolio for all application patterns, built into our existing products that enable rapid insights on any data, structured or unstructured.” If Hekaton comes to fruition, it could offer sizable competition to SAP’s HANA in-memory technology. And given how HANA undergirds an ever-larger portion of SAP’s software portfolio (it helps power everything from SAP app-building services to sentiment analysis), that means the rivalry between Microsoft and SAP for business customers could rise to a whole new level. Given businesses’ increasing interest in everything related to data analytics, it’s inevitable that Microsoft would continue building up that side of its portfolio. However, it faces some large and fierce opponents in that sector. Research firm Gartner named SAP the top B.I., analytics and performance-management (PM) software vendor in 2011, by revenue, followed by Oracle, SAS Institute, and IBM. And over the past year, all those companies have worked diligently to make their analytical offerings more powerful.   Image: Dragon Images