Big Changes for BI in SQL Server 2005

I recently sat down with Bill Baker, General Manager of Business Intelligence (BI) for SQL Server, and talked about some of the major BI enhancements that Microsoft is including with SQL Server 2005, the growing importance of BI within the industry, and some of Microsoft's goals for BI and SQL Server. Bill said that Microsoft is adding capabilities to SQL Server 2005 that will address the entire BI spectrum, from integration, to analysis, to reporting.

To enhance the BI platform's integration portion, Bill talked about the changes to Data Transformation Services (DTS). Microsoft rearchitected DTS, which has dramatically improved workflow and programmability and gave it a new name: Integration Services. And Integration Services will extract data from Web services in addition to performing data transfers between SQL Server, Oracle, IBM DB2, and other ODBC- and OLE DB-compliant data sources.

To improve the analysis portion of the BI process, Analysis Services is also undergoing several new enhancements. Microsoft has introduced the new Unified Dimensional Model (UDM), which provides richer cube metadata, enabling more complex calculations, a built-in Key Performance Indicator (KPI), and language-translation features. Bill also said that several Analysis Services' improvements were inspired by conversations with customers. For example, the idea for the new proactive caching capability came from a customer meeting in which customers shared pain points regarding OLAP project deployment. Instead of requiring cubes to be processed before use, proactive caching lets you immediately query the cubes, which are automatically populated as they're used. Controls let the administrator control the cache's latency level and data lifetime. In keeping with Microsoft's deeper emphasis on security, Analysis Services 2005 includes more than 100 security-related enhancements.

On the reporting front, Bill pointed out that Microsoft will enhance the SQL Server 2000 Reporting Services subsystem with a new Report Builder feature. An end-user reporting tool, Report Builder is based on the technology that Microsoft acquired from ActiveViews, which Microsoft is enhancing with an improved UI and deeper integration with the Reporting Services subsystem. With Report Builder, users can easily deploy reports by using the One-Click deployment feature that's supported by the .NET Framework 2.0. The new Report Builder feature will make its debut in SQL Server 2005 Beta 3.

Bill said Microsoft's goal for SQL Server 2005 is to create an enterprise-ready, end-to-end BI platform that handles the "start-to-finish of BI functionality." SQL Server 2000 provides the fundamental tools to enable BI in the industry. SQL Server 2005 "has gone a long way to embed BI functionality into the applications that IT professionals use." Tools such as Report Builder and Office products such as Microsoft Excel bring the power of BI from the server to the desktop. It's clear to me that organizations can put BI technology into use today and evolving tools will pull it deeper into the enterprise.

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