Thomas.I Microsoft BI & Analytics

A Site Dedicated to General BI Issues and MS BI Issues: Architecture and Technology

A new decade for BI

Posted by thomasivarssonmalmo on December 31, 2009

In early 2000 I was consulting on OLAP Services(SQL Server 7) and ProClarity as a front end.  In third quarter of 2000 SQL Server 2000 and Analysis Services 2000 was released. It was this edition that really took of and brought BI to the masses here in Scandinavia. ProClarity relased their Analytic Server with a central web based thin client report repository and together with AS 2000 this combination had a high market share. Panorama also had a good client solution but was hurt when they sold their innovative client, Nova View, to Cognos that bought that product to keep if off the market.
 
In 2003 I was able to see the new Reporting Services add in for Visual Studio but I think that the broad adoption of SSRS came with the release of SQL Server 2005, SSAS 2005 and SSRS 2005.  SSAS 2005 meant a total redesign of existing AS 2000 cubes and I have never had any regrets about advicing my customer in that direction.
 
After the release of SQL Server 2005 I think most of the innovation slowed down within Microsoft.  Excel 2007 was the first version that was a serious SSAS 2005 client but still with a lot of issues that will not be solved until the release of Excel 2010. ProClarity was bought by MS in 2006 and all development of that nice product was stopped with a promise that the functionality would be part of the first release of Performance Point Server in 2007. Nothing of that happened. I saw that the decomposition tree was part of CTPs of Performance Point, demonstrated at the first MS BI conference in 2007, but was removed in  the final release.
 
Good data visualization tools should be the priority of the MS BI Platform but the development in this area are too slow. In the Perfromance Point Services for Sharepoint 2010 we will finally see the decomposition tree but what will happen to the Performance Map and Perspective in ProClarity and what happened to the 90 degrees software?
 
The most innovative part of MS BI client offerings, after 2005, is the data mining add in for Excel 2007. Using statistics for data analysis is still a complicated area to learn and more time and money should be invested in this area.  Why query a million records if you can find patterns detected for you with much smaller samples?
 
The small DM-team at MS have done a great job but I am not expecting any new functionality in SQL Server 2008 R2.
 
The big news in 2010 is the release of Excel 2010 and PowerPivot.  Excel 2010 will have a lot of built in MDX logic that will remove a large part of server side MDX development. Another great news is the slicers that will make the Excel 2010 Pivot Tables much more interactive. PowerPivot is also good news. I have loaded around 2,1 million records of real data into PowerPivot, and that still takes some time, but as soon as the data is in PowerPivot opening a workbook with that amount of data takes a few seconds. Compression from a textfile of 800 MB to 120 MB in Power Pivot and really quick response time in the Pivot Tables looks very promising.
 
SharePoint 2010 also looks promising but I have my doubts regarding the adoption time of a large and complex platform like that. This is very hard to explain to MS people. I have never had any problems with installing ProClarity Analytic Server or SharePoint services but SharePoint is much more complicated. Customers will also have to think more than once before letting an application that might require a lot of extra consulting hours on their already restricted budgets.
 
Upgrades of Office and Sharepoint always takes 2-3 years after the release.
 
In the next decade I will expect more integration of database technology and index techniques. If you have ever tried the English Query application, part of SQL Server 2000, you will know what I mean. EQ was far away of what I am thinking about here but the vision of writing a semantic query and get a result from SSAS or SQL Server is not.
 
Finally I would like to thank the SSAS development team that always have been interested in hearing about our opinions outside of MS. A special thanks to Mosha that left that group this year and his great blogging.
 
Happy new year everyone!
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