Tomorrow's Microsoft BI Platform

Tomorrow’s Business Intelligence Platform

One of my favorite aspects about Microsoft is the company never stands still from a product development standpoint. The company is constantly driving innovation and releasing new products to the market. On the heels of the release of Microsoft SQL Server 2008 (which serves as the foundation for the Microsoft Business Intelligence Stack), Microsoft is already beginning to discuss its next generation Business Intelligence products. The information in this article is a result of my personal research efforts and none of its content is under NDA with Microsoft Corporation.


The Foundation: SQL Server 'Kilimanjaro'

SQL Server ‘Kilimanjaro’ will provide customers with a BI-centric release of Microsoft's data platform. Scheduled to be released in the first half of 2010, ‘Kilimanjaro’ will enable self-service BI applications by incorporating ‘Gemini’. ‘Kilimanjaro’ is being release ahead of the next major version of SQL Server (version 11) due to perceived demand (much like Reporting Services’ early release for the SQL Server 2000 platform). It should also be noted that ‘Kilimanjaro’ will feature added capabilities for IT compliance leveraging policy-based management and discovery of SQL Server instances.

'Gemini', an end-user analytics platform will feature an update to Analysis Services, enhancements to Report Builder 2.0 (the Office like report authoring environment), add-in for Excel 14. Contrary to my original thoughts, ‘Kilimanjaro’ is expected to have the same supported upgrade paths as SQL Server 2008, since Kilimanjaro is SQL Server 2008 with new functionality.

End-User Tools: Excel 14 & PerformancePoint Planning sp3

Excel 14 will feature ‘Gemini’ add-ins to facilitate the self-service analytical capabilities. Excel will continue to be the Microsoft BI end-user tool of choice due to its wide adoption and familiarity. PerformancePoint Planning sp3 will be released in mid 2009 to provide the final updates to the product's planning module. Current Planning customers will continue to be supported, however I am labeling the component as 'deprecated' since it will not obtain future releases.

Consumption, Collaboration, and Data Quality: 

Office SharePoint Server 14

SharePoint Server continues to be the core delivery mechanism for Microsoft Business Intelligence. SharePoint Server will encompass 'Bulldog', the Master Data Management (MDM) solution resulting from Microsoft's recent acquisition of Stratature's +EDM product. MDM is a solution to the challenging needs of enterprises that contain redundant entities in their various lines of business systems. Customers, products, and locations are examples of such redundant attributes found in the enterprise. MDM solutions entail a ‘hub’ software architecture by which a system of record informs the ‘hub’ to send out updates to subscribing systems when a certain entity incurs attribute alterations.

PerformancePoint Services (monitoring & analytics) will continue its life as a part of SharePoint Server starting with its current release (version 12) and continuing with SharePoint Server 14 (Office 13 was skipped due to the aversion of the number 13). PerformancePoint Services provides a premier dashboard & scorecard environment in which users can create and publish their works to SharePoint Server. 

Finally, ‘Gemini’ analytical views will be published and shared via SharePoint Server. Much like we have in current day with Excel Services, users will be able to create their ‘Gemini’ views in Excel 14 and then publish those saved views to SharePoint Server. I suspect that Excel Services will still be the primary foundation for this functionality and thus users requiring read-only usage of ‘Gemini’ views would not require the Excel 14 client.

The Teradata Competitor: 'Madison'

While Microsoft SQL Server 2008 can scale to tens of terabytes for a Very Large Data Warehouse (VLDW), the product has known limitations around the hundreds of terabyte range. Teradata has long been the leader in the data warehouse appliance market.

Microsoft continuing its investment in the BI market acquired DATAllegro and its data warehouse appliances. Originally powered by an Ingress database, ‘Madison’ will be powered by SQL Server Kilimanjaro which will include all of the scalability improvements found in SQL Server 2008 for data warehousing. Additionally, the appliance will leverage what is known as Massively Parallel Processing (MPP) to dramatically accelerate performance & scalability, while operating on industry standard hardware to keep costs low. ‘Madison’ will also not have a single point of failure for ensuring high availability. With ‘Madison’, Microsoft will be extending SQL Server's data warehousing scale to the hundreds of terabytes and possibly even petabytes of data for the largest enterprise data warehousing initiatives.

Looking Forward

As we look to the future we can see that Microsoft is continuing to invest in the Business Intelligence market. Microsoft will extend Business Intelligence to more users with ‘Gemini’. ‘Madison’ will enable Microsoft to penetrate the data warehouse appliance and VLDW market. Finally enterprise data quality will be addressed with SharePoint Server 14’s MDM functionality. All of these projects have separate beta, community technology preview, and release to manufacturing dates in 2009 & 2010. What is clear is that Microsoft Business Intelligence is about to become even more pervasive!

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