Power BI General Availability


Business Intelligence is an ever growing area and I think it will continue to grow for quite some time. Taking note of the data you have, analysing it and making decisions based on it is becoming more and more prevalent – think what Billy Beane has been doing at the A’s for years, what Bill James does with the Red Sox, look at how Opta stats have become such a huge thing within premier league football…all these are examples of business intelligence.

The old way:

The new way:

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I’m amazed at some of the things that are being done with Power Bi, especially combined with Excel 2013! The opportunity for organizations to become so much smarter with how and what they’re doing is huge – the fact that it’s cloud based so allows access from anywhere is a big deal, especially with the Windows 8 & RT apps AND HTML5 support.

It’s available now so pricing is in the pricefiles – to see some of the things you can do with Power BI, head over to:

http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/powerbi/default.aspx#fbid=rZ1xycdtZvO

Microsoft Project Madison


Project Madison is a new Data Warehousing solution from Microsoft, born out of their purchase of DATAllegro in August 2008. It is a:

“highly scalable data warehouse appliance that delivers performance at low cost through a massively parallel processing (MPP) architecture.”

It’s official name is “Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2 Parallel Data Warehouse” (I’d have kept Madison myself) and it’s aim is to make Datacenters easily scalable from “Terabytes to Petabytes”.

Massively Parallel Processing (MPP)

Most traditional architectures are Symmetric Multi-Processing. This means that all the queries are processed in one physical instance of the database; so CPU, Memory & storage limitations of the box all limit the speed & scale of the implementation.

Madison and it’s MPP approach get around that nicely as large tables are partitioned over multiple physical nodes. Each node has it’s own CPU, Storage and Memory and it’s own running instance of SQL Server…this is a patented approach known as “Ultra Shared Nothing” :-) Everything is mirrored as well for HA and redundancy.

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It’s use of Industry Standard hardware helps keep the costs down and gives a much lower TCO (Total Cost of Ownership) that current DW (Data Warehousing) offerings. If you need to scale you can simply buy some more server (HP DL380’s, IBM Xwhatever’s etc) and add them into the environment…no more needing to purchase a whole new appliance and write off the previous one. Definitely a good point for CFO’s and their kind :-)

Architecture

Madison’s approach to data storage makes it quicker, more reliable & more responsive to the needs of a business; or even to the needs of individual dept’s within a business. If you have multiple separate but related companies under a single umbrella (or you’re a big enterprise that has internal departments the same size as a small company!) Madison is definitely something you should take a look at.

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Here, each Business Unit has it’s own Data Mart making it easier, quicker and cheaper for them to store and access their data, but a single “Golden” copy of data in the central reservoir resolves many issues. There is also great high availability here as Spokes or hubs can back each other up.

 

This next image does a great job of showing the difference between Madison and current DW solutions:

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Much more flexible :-) It’s also going to be fast, one example I saw was:

“625K rows returned in 11 seconds from 1 trillion row table”

That’s amazing!

 

You can see in the diagram below that it plugs into Office and also “BI Tools”, which surely is Sharepoint. This backs up what I’ve heard that Sharepoint Online will support Madison too!

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Learn more over at:

 http://www.microsoft.com/sqlserver/2008/en/us/parallel-data-warehouse.aspx

Performance Point Server killed off?


Performance Point Server (PPS) has been part of the Microsoft product portfolio for a while now but, as far as I can tell, it hasn’t really made much of an impact. It’s been the top-end, full featured Business Intelligence (BI) product but the uptake hasn’t been amazing and MS announce there won’t be another standalone version of PPS, making Performance Point Server 2007 the last.

A lot of clients I work with who you would expect to jump on PPS have stayed away and they aren’t the only ones. The impression I get is that most people are unsure about Microsoft’s credentials in this part of the BI arena; they’re not sure that PPS will stack up against competitors such as SAP (Business Objects), Oracle (Hyperion) and IBM (Cognos) when it gets to the nitty gritty high end enterprise features. PPS isn’t cheap-coming in at around 17K-and when companies invest at that kind of level, they need to be completely confident they will get the best possible return on their investment.

However, this isn’t the end for Performance Point Server, or at least it’s component parts. As expected the scorecarding, dashboard and analytics features will all be folded into Sharepoint 14 (due this year/early 2010) and the new “Performance Point Services for Sharepoint” will be available via the Enterprise CAL.

I think this is a really good idea and will certainly increase peoples usage of MS BI and thus help increase their market share. The proliferation of MOSS 2007 (Sharepoint) throughout all market sectors means an amazing amount of people will have much easier access to these tools. It will make it yet another compelling reason for people to make the move to Sharepoint and for those that already have (but didn’t take Software Assurance)-a good reason to upgrade. By removing a product from the portfolio it looks like MS will increase the use of that product as well as grow it’s (Sharepoint) revenue at the same time…good skills :-)

From the official statement:

“Additionally, in the summer of 2009, we will release ‘Service Pack 3′ for PerformancePoint Server 2007, which will include updates to the Planning module. From there we will focus our development on the new monitoring and analytic capabilities in ‘PerformancePoint Services for SharePoint’ and will not offer standalone versions of PerformancePoint Server.”

Microsoft Business Intelligence (Project Gemini)


From Microsoft, Project Gemini could be the Business Intelligence turning point it needs. Despite SQL & Excel’s popularity, Microsoft were ranked just 5th in the BI arena by IDC.

Microsoft are getting serious about BI now, with SQL 2008, Performance Point Server 2007,Excel 2007 and now Project Gemini. Forrester say Gemini will

“bring an Excel-based user analytics mashup tool into the core of Microsoft’s BI and data warehousing product portfolio”. Tools currently only available to OLAP modelers will be accessible to all as an “in-memory, drag-and-drop, pivot-table-enabled” dashboard.

Tom Casey, Microsoft’s general manager for SQL Server business intelligence had this to say:

“is a game-changer for the BI and OLAP space, and will usher in the post-OLAP age of supremely versatile, deeply dimensional, user-developed analytics.”

The full article can be seen over at ComputerWorld here.

Nigel PEndse has got a great article over at olapreport, where he makes some great insights into what Gemini means for Microsoft, their users and their competitors..it’s well worth checking out.

SQL 2010: Microsoft Business Intelligence Conference 2008


It’s the 2nd Microsoft Business Intelligence Conference and we’ve already got info on SQL 2010 (Killimanjaro) thanks to the wonderful Mary Jo Foley over at ZDNet !!!

Despite SQL 2008 only just being in the price files for customers to buy, the SQL team are revealing details on the next incarnation, SQL 2010 codename Killimanjaro. Preview builds will be around in the first half of 2009, and then SQL Server 2010 will be available in the first of the following year.

“Kilimanjaro is set to include self-service analysis tools (codenamed “Gemini”) that Microsoft is saying will allow information workers to better “slice and dice data and create their own BI (business intelligence) applications and assets to share and collaborate on from within the familiar, everyday Microsoft Office productivity tools they already use.”” We will also see further add-ins to Excel as well as deeper Sharepoint integration, making it esaier for users to  share their own BI analyses.

Microsoft Office 14 (2009/2010)


Microsoft Office 14, the next version of the Office Suite, is set to include the monitoring & analytics component of Performance Point Server..making Business Intelligence easily accessible to a huge number of people.

The release date was originally thought to be 1st half 2009 but it now looks more likely to be the 2nd half..maybe even Q1 2010.

There isn’t a huge amount of information on Office 14 available but enhanced Enterprise Content Management, tighter Unified Communications integration and security all seem likely to be included.

If I hear anything else I’ll let you know..if you’re one of the lucky beta testers-let me know your thoughts!

Microsoft Office Sharepoint 2007 Licensing


As a follow on to my MOSS 2007 post, here’s some information on the various versions and how they are licensed…hope it helps!

The main and most common edition is:

Microsoft Office Sharepoint Server 2007: This is licenced with a single server version and then 2 editions of Client Access Licences (CAL)-Standard and Enterprise. It is the CALs that determine which features are avilable to the users and they are “additive” meaning you must have both the Standard AND Enterprise CALs to receive the Enterprise features, which include:

  • Line of Business Data Search
  • Business process and forms capabilities (such as Web-based Microsoft Office InfoPath forms)
  • Business intelligence capabilities (including report center sites, the ability to build interactive dashboards, and Excel Services)

 Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 for Internet sites: This version is licensed per server only and is used for running extranets and internet sites. This means it cannot be accessed by internal employees “creating, sharing, or collaborating on content which is for internal use only”. As there are no CALs required, this edition includes the functionality of both the Standard AND Enterprise editions.

Microsoft Office Forms Server 2007: This licensed via the Server/CAL model so each client accessing the server needs a CAL.

Microsoft Office Forms Server 2007 for Internet sites: As with MOSS 2007, this is per server licensing only, cannot be used for internal only projects and includes full Enterprise functionality.

Microsoft Office Sharepoint Server 2007


Microsoft Office Sharepoint Server (MOSS) 2007 is one of the most exciting, and the fastest selling, Microsoft products of ALL time. Sharepoint can be used for so many things in so many ways by so many people-it’s highly functional, easy to use and extremely versatile.

My aim with this post is to show you what Sharepoint is, how it works and most importantly, how it can benefit your business.

Microsoft Office Sharepoint Server 2007 gives companies a single, integrated location where employees can collaborate with team members across the globe, locate internal resources, manage content/workflow and analyse Business Intelligence data and much more.

Collaboration: Allow teams to work together effectively, collaborate on and publish documents, maintain task lists, implement workflows, and share information through the use of wikis and blogs.
 
Portals: Create a personal MySite portal to share information with others and personalize the user experience and content of an enterprise Web site based on the user’s profile.
 
Enterprise Search: Quickly and easily find people, expertise, and content in business applications.
 
Enterprise Content Management: Create and manage documents, records, and Web content.
 
Business Process and Forms Create workflows and electronic forms to automate and streamline your business processes.
 
Business Intelligence Allow information workers to easily access critical business information, analyze and view data, and publish reports to make more informed decisions.
 

One of MOSS 2007′s big advantages is it’s tight integration with the Office 2007 family. There are countless ways that the two can work together, but here are a few examples to give you an idea.

Microsoft Office PowerPoint 2007:  Create a library of PowerPoint slides that can be shared with other users on an Office SharePoint Server 2007 site.
Microsoft Office Access 2007:  Take a SharePoint list offline and use the reporting features in Office Access 2007 to view the data and create reports while travelling. Forms and reports that use the SharePoint list are fully interactive — and Office Access 2007 can later synchronize the local list with the online list when you bring your laptop back online.
Microsoft Office Outlook 2007:  Take document libraries offline. SharePoint folders are displayed just as other Outlook folders are.
Microsoft Office InfoPath 2007:  Design browser-compatible form templates, publish them to an Office SharePoint Server 2007 site, and enable them for use in a Web browser.
Microsoft Office Excel 2007:  Save worksheets on a SharePoint site so that users can access them by using a browser. You can use these worksheets to maintain and efficiently share one central, up-to-date version, while helping to protect any proprietary information, such as financial models, that is embedded in the worksheet.
Microsoft Office SharePoint Designer 2007:  Create and customize Office SharePoint Server 2007 sites and workflows. Create your own master pages and content pages, so that your site has a consistent look and feel, or customize sites by using the latest ASP.NET technology, established Web standards such as Extensible Hypertext Markup Language (XHTML) code, and cascading style sheets.

A good introduction to MOSS 2007 and some of the things you can do can be found at:

http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/sharepointserver/HA101732171033.aspx

 There can be confusion around the differences between Windows Sharepoint Services (WSS) and Microsoft Office Sharepoint Server (MOSS) 2007, hopefully I’ll be able to clear that up here.

WSS is included free of charge with Windows Server 2003/2008 and provides low level collaboration functionality to keep workforces together and to help them work efficiently. It is on this base that MOSS 2007 is built.

For a complete breakdown of the differences between the two products, please visit:

http://download.microsoft.com/download/1/d/c/1dc632e8-71e1-466f-8a2f-c940f1438e0a/SharePointProductsComparison.xls

and download the Product Comparison Chart. A quick overview of the differences can be seen below:

A brief overview of the differences between WSS & MOSS 2007

 Microsoft SharePoint Products and Technologies Document: Transform Your Business With SharePoint Products and Technologies: Download whitepaper here.  

 You can download a trial version here or use the VHD files from my other post here.

Once you’ve tested Sharepoint and decided it’s just the ticket to help your organisation move forward, you’ll need to decide which version you need..so here’s my

Guide to MOSS 2007 Licensing:

Crystal Reports 2008


Crystal Reports is, in my opinion, the best reporting software in the market today. It’s been a real success story for us hear at Bechtle…2008 has seen a 600% increase in sales! I’d like to think this was all down to me and the sales guys and while we’ve certainly been instrumental, there has definitely been increased interest from customers in reporting software.

We all have SO much data these days and many of us (me included) have the feeling that if we could just get a handle on it, find it, organise it, process it and filter it-it would make a dramatic impact on how we do business. Say you’re a sales company and your systems contain information on who bought what, when they bought it, what else they bought, where they’re based and what industry they’re in for all 25,000 customers. If you could compile all that data, filter it, de-dupe it and match it you could make some really great targeted campaigns…but doing all that, quickly and easily can be nigh on impossible.

Yes, most systems these days have some kind of reporting tools but more often than not these feel tacked on in post production, almost an afterthought and they never quite let you run the reports you need. This is where Crystal Reports comes in..it can connect to almost any data source:

Native, ODBC, OLE DB, and JDBC connectivity to relational, OLAP, web services, XML, legacy, and enterprise data sources, and new salesforce.com driver.

The Parameter Panel means parameter values can be set without refreshing data. Parameters used are displayed on the panel so that report consumers can easily see them, make changes, and have the new values applied directly to the saved data.

On-Report sorting, filtering & re-formatting allow users to change and explore the information without having to re-query the database.

Built in Barcode Supportmeans you can easily convert fields to Code39 barcodes without coding or extra steps.

Also, from a licensing point of view there is just one version of Crystal Reports 2008 making it easier to maange your licensing.

Free fully functional 30 day trials can be download from:

http://www.businessobjects.com/product/freetrials.asp

and of course, visit www.bechtle.co.uk or contact software@bechtle.co.uk for more info ;-)