Saturday, 29 September 2007

Microsoft BI - An Introduction

FeedBurner tells me that I have some subscribers already (thanks!), so I had better start focusing on the Microsoft BI offering.

So what makes up the Microsoft BI stack? in fact why is it called a stack in the first place? Well as you can see from the graphics, the product set is made up of layers based on a foundation of SQLServer 2005 (soon to be SQLServer 2008)

The stack includes:
  • Scorecards, analytics and planning functionality
  • Collaboration and content
  • Analysis with Excel
  • Integration, analysis and reporting capability based on the database foundation
This is a pretty complete product set and is quite similar to what other vendors such as Business Objects offer (although BO has some more bells and whistles). The difference is that Microsoft also provide the database platform.

A real trick to mastering a new technology is understanding the product heritage, as you can see on the left a previous version of the MS BI stack included two additional products:
  • Business Scorecard Manager
  • ProClarity
Both of these have been consumed into the new Perfomance Point Server 2007 that was launched in the US this week.

The History of Microsoft BI Product Set
There is a long history of acquisition and development behind the current product set:
  • SQLServer's heritage is comes from the Sybase database platform, it has come through several notable versions since Microsoft parted ways in 1993 (SQL Server v4.2 to v7.0, 2000, 2005 and SQL Sever 2008 code named "Katmai ").
  • Integration Services started life as DTS (Data Transformation Services) part of SQLServer 7.0 in 1999 and was upgraded as part of SQL 2000. It's was renamed to SSIS and bundled with SQL2005 to provide .NET compatibility (and much more)
  • Reporting Services is a more recent addition with the first version in bundled with SQL2000 and the addition of report builder in the SQL2005 release
  • Analysis Services also has a long history. Microsoft originally aquired their first OLAP technology in 1996 through the acquisition of Panorama Software. Analysis Services was orginally released with SQLServer 7.0, but has only really reached maturity with the release of SQLServer 2005
  • Sharepoint Server version history is somewhat more complex as Microsoft have changed what the term "SharePoint" refers to in each version following it's initial release in 2001. SharePoint has had 3 major releases. In 2001 there was Sharepoint Team Services and Sharepoint Portal Server. 2003 saw the release of Windows SharePoint services and Microsoft Office SharePoint Portal Server. The current release MOSS 2007 (Microsiot Office SharePoint server) is a huge product and uses version 3.0 of Windows SharePoint Services.
  • Business Scorecard Manager was released in Autumn 2005 and has now been incorporated into Performance Point server
  • ProClarity was acquired by Microsoft in April 2006 and is being integrated into Performance Point Server
  • Performance Point Server is to be launched in the UK on October 16th 2007

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