Microsoft announced yesterday that it’s SQL Server 2008 Release 2 was released to manufacturing. It’s a big accomplishment for the company and big news for database customers. Is it big news for the BI industry?
SQL Server 2008 Release 2 includes the in-memory capabilities, previously code named Gemini and now branded PowerPivot. It also includes a significantly enhanced Report Builder.
In both its press launch yesterday and a briefing last week, Microsoft emphasized that it is bringing BI to the masses through Excel and redefining self-service BI to the industry. This is where Microsoft’s BI vision seems myopic. Yes, Excel is a widely used tool and important to BI, but it is a tool for power users. Power users need access to data and may want most of their data in Excel. So SQL Server 2008 Release 2 is a big win for them. But Microsoft still misses the mark entirely for mainstream business users and the vast majority of decision makers.
If they were trying to meet the needs of those people, they would have been better off delivering BI via Outlook/Email, Google, or iPhone and BlackBerry (okay-- modify the last part and substituted Bing and Nokia). Even dashboards, a key component to BI and one that we have seen increased adoption of and success with had no mention in Microsoft’s BI strategy. That these capabilities are embedded in other products (SharePoint and Performance Point) is part of Microsoft’s BI challenge. To a similar point, while most BI vendors have adopted Adobe Flash to improve BI’s appeal, Microsoft SilverLight is non existent in Microsoft’s BI products.
This release is big for Excel users, for power users, and for developers. The vision for BI for the masses is my main complaint (as it was three years ago). While I’d like a little more vision from this influential vendor, it will be the strength of its partners that helps them along. For example, I had a preview of Dundas 2.0 Dashboards yesterday that looks far superior to dashboards from Microsoft. As well, Roambi, a vendor-focused on mobile BI, supports Microsoft Reporting Services content on the iPhone.
With this in mind, if customers are looking to take BI mainstream, they need to supplement the Microsoft BI components with products from other vendors.
Cindi Howson, BI Scorecard