The Art of Datazen

The Art of Datazen

So last year Microsoft acquired a company called Datazen, which was known for its enterprise solution for in reality mobile reporting. Their core product was a standalone solution with mobile application that allowed On-Premises data to be rendered and viewed either over the web using a HTML 5 site, or via the Windows Desktop Application’s or the mobile applications for all the platforms.

As of recently Datazen has now been merged into SQL Server 2016, but at least for the next year (well just under), your standalone version is supported.

Datazen is made up of various components, referring to their documentation you can see using this diagram that it is a lightweight application but has the potential to scale out as needed.

The core design is around creating a web service endpoint that everything talks too, along with connectors for the types of content you wish to consume and use. Visiting the “Get Started” page gives you some great details but ultimately points you to SQL Server 2016.

 

So why did Microsoft acquire Datazen?

Like most acquisitions that Microsoft have made, it is about good technology and the customer base. Within Office 365 Microsoft had been developing some great technologies around Business Intelligence but the On-Premises story had not been changed for many years. You can see this with the lack of love and attention that SQL Reporting Services has had for past few versions, along with the limited updates made to the SharePoint Business Intelligence Stack. Datazen filled this gap, by bringing great design surfaces and tools that business users can use to create dashboards and reports as needed.

Once Datazen has been installed outside of setting up the data in the format that is needed, it is really very simple to build and view report data. There are multiple approaches to this, however only one design canvas which is the Windows Application.

From an architecture perspective, Datazen is made up of three core components, Core Service, Data Acquisition Service and then the Web Applications which include Web API, Control Panel and the Viewer components. These can be distributed easily on multiple servers for better performance and control. 

Scaling is done by moving server components and services to other services. This particularly important to understand when large datasets are being used, as performance can sometimes be an issue. Caching is built in though, which utilized further server resources and components. Understanding this design for Datazen will also give you an idea of what to expect once you migrate to SQL Server 2016 Enterprise.

This site is protected by a master account, and then any other accounts you either define manually, utilize from your corporate Active Directory or from a federated platform such as Active Directory Federated Services. Datazen is based on the idea of creating “Hubs” that contain the reports and data needed for business users. This allows you to create multiple dashboards for specific organizations or users.

To configure the data first you need to open up the Control Panel or Administration web application.

Once a core dashboard has been created you can then add user accounts as needed, allowing for tight control as to who can make changes versus viewing. All the “Dashboard Hubs” that you belong to are listed within the Administration Console. They are also listed for you in the viewing console which looks similar in layout and design.

 

Dashboards are not listed within the “Hub” they can be grouped and permission added to control access even further. Once a group has been created using the core Windows Publisher application reports and dashboards can be created. Each dashboard hub has the ability control all of its components form the main console. Independent Dashboards, Data sources, Custom Maps, Users, User Groups and of course permissions are all self-contained within a Hub.

The main usage of Datazen is completed either though the mobile applications for iOS, Android and Windows, or the two desktop applications for both viewing and creating dashboards.

Upon launching either of the applications and mobile devices you are prompted for the server connection details, this will be the published Datazen Server that you have implemented for your company.  Once you have connected the various dashboards will be listed for you to access and use.

Clicking into any of the Key Metrics or Dashboards will take you into the Viewing mode for them.

Depending on the dashboard design, you can drilldown to other dashboards, based on the logic configuration of the components. The report above when clicked drills down to the following dashboard which shows further details and content.

Right clicking on a dashboard brings up further options at the top and bottom of the publisher application.

This allows for quick access to further reports and dashboards, or back to some of the core configuration.

Creating a dashboard from scratch or from an existing report is as easy as choosing to create from. This will then load the design canvas with some pre-populated data if you chose to create from, or some basic content if you choose to create from new.

The layout is simple, on the left are the controls, on the right is the canvas to move them around and associate any data, and then you have a data view to see how it looks and make any updates or changes for the report.

 

Clicking on one of the components will bring up the “magic wheel” of options that allows you to then configure further, along with the editing panel at the bottom of the application.

Adding new component is as simple as selecting them from the left panel and adding them to the right canvas.

Once added to the canvas you are then able to navigate to “Data View” and bind the data to the control.

After you have create the dashboard of your dreams and it is now ready with lots of data, drill-through, you can simply save and publish into the Datazen Server, making it available to all those that have access. This then allows the end users to view them either in the Windows Viewer application, the Web Viewer or the mobile application.

For me the win for Datazen is the mobile applications, with a rich user experience.

This is really why Microsoft acquired Datazen, to give us the Business User rich access to data that resides within our Organization or the cloud at any time.

If you have not had chance to play with Datazen, simply download the applications, and then connect to the demo Datazen setup. The things you learn playing with Datazen will help you as and when you transition to SQL Server 2016 Enterprise Mobile Reports.

 

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