I had the privilege of speaking at the Rocky Mountain Tech Tri-Fecta this past Saturday so I did two sessions on BI. The sessions were variations of other sessions I had presented, but they were still new as I targeted a different audience than the DBA crowd I normally speak to. The Tri-Fecta is meant for anyone doing work in the Microsoft environment and attendees include a broad spectrum of developers and other people working in the Windows world.
My morning session, The .NET Developer meets Business Intelligence, was intended as an introduction for software engineers who wanted to know more about BI. I had a good set of demos that showed how to use BI from your .NET code, and I felt well-prepared. But after 20 minutes into the talk and several questions from the audience, I had to take a step back. I was flabbergasted to see how little knowledge they had of even the fundamental parts of BI, even in Microsoft terms. While I planned to demo how to make your applications use Analysis Services, Integration Services and Reporting Services, instead I had to take some time to explain what a cube and a dimensional model are, describe what I meant when I mentioned a Kimball methodology data warehouse, and I spent time describing what data mining is used for.
I learned a lot in this session, maybe more than the audience.
Gartner recently released the results of their research on Business Intelligence vendors and their tools. If you’re developing BI solutions on the Microsoft stack and SQL Server, you are well-positioned. The Gartner magic quadrant shows Microsoft to be a leader in the BI space in both their Ability to Execute and as a Visionary. In fact, Microsoft execution capabilities are rated higher than any BI vendor, just above Oracle and MicroStrategy. In my view as a regular developer and implementer of SQL Server and BI solutions, the strong ratings are the result of Microsoft having done a good job integrating the various BI components such as reporting, OLAP, Excel, etc. into a coherent set of tools that work very well together.
Many businesses that own SQL Server are under-utilizing it and often don’t even know it. They use it as an OLTP database engine but haven’t implemented many of its other sophisticated features, especially the ones in Analysis Services and Integration Services. If you’re one of these users it’s good to know that there’s much more you can do with what you already own. You don’t have to invest in new platforms or in a variety of different software applications. Considering there’s more coming from Microsoft in the next version of SQL Server (Denali), it appears that the Microsoft BI platform will do your organization well for years to come.