How important is the release of SQL Server 2012?

Yesterday I attended the Microsoft Special Ops Tour highlighting the launch of SQL Server 2012.  Much of what was presented were things I had already seen since I attend a lot of Microsoft events, but it was interesting to see who was there and talk to people about the features that interested them.  It also made me give more thought as to where Microsoft Business Intelligence solutions stand in the industry, how well Microsoft is keeping up (or leading) in this fast-moving sector, and the importance of this release of SQL Server.

Competing Technology

At the Strata conference last week I saw a lot of technology that’s very appealing and it’s going to be asked for by my customers, much of it introducing a new paradigm for BI data architecture.  I had also taken a look at the Gartner Business Intelligence Magic Quadrant for 2012 a few weeks ago and noticed that Microsoft dropped slightly from the stellar position it held in 2011.  Compare the 2011 version on the left to 2012:

Why did Microsoft make a small move downward?  Based on the comments made by Gartner, for the first time they scored below average on their survey results for ‘Ability to Execute’. They also have a lot of multiproduct complexity (Office, SQL Server, Sharepoint), not much in the way of Mobile BI, they don’t have a comprehensive Big Data strategy, and are missing a single business metadata layer.

With the release of SQL Server 2012 it’s interesting to see how much Microsoft is relying on this release to fill some of these gaps.  Gartner states that just the addition of the Business Intelligence Semantic Model (BISM) will improve the Magic Quadrant ranking.

Strengths

Of course there are many strengths, many of them coming out in SQL Server 2012.  Adding the Tabular model with the success of OLAP and Analysis Services, Powerview, low-cost bundling, Visual Studio, and Cloud capabilities were all cited as strengths.  I’m already preparing for opportunities to implement some of the great new features.

Everything Changes

It’s difficult to stay on top.  In my view BI in the year 2015 won’t look very much like BI did  in 2010.  It’s a great opportunity for those of use who work in the business, but it means we will be more challenged than ever to stay current with the latest in data architectures, modeling, analytics, visualization and other database technology.  And Microsoft will be challenged to continue enhancing and improving SQL Server and it’s associated BI products on an ongoing basis, so expect change to be the norm.

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