Microsoft’s Road Map for Business Intelligence

The general manager for Microsoft’s SQL Server Business Intelligence was in Singapore recently to confer with the regional Chief Information Officers (CIOs) in Southeast Asia. Tom Casey is also responsible for charting Microsoft’s direction towards Business Intelligence or BI. The recent trip served only to underscore the importance of Southeast Asia and China to the Seattle based corporation. Tom remarked that while the rest of the world has been undergoing gradual IT modernization, the East Asian Region has been leapfrogging it, making giant leaps from ad-hoc solutions to modern standardized infrastructure. Tom Casey wants to capture the market that matters the most, which consists of the financial and the public sectors.

While competing vendors implement the “I” in Business Intelligence into a suite of specialized products, Tom wants it known that for Microsoft, intelligence is a big part of the software that businesses use every day, from SQL server databases down to Microsoft office applications especially Excel. As the glue that holds the team together, Microsoft SharePoint makes it possible for members to collaborate, communicate, share, and socially network with Business Intelligence as the center point for all these activities.

While BI could be one of the newest terms thrown into the jargon pile, Microsoft has been doing business intelligence today as it had already been doing a couple of years before the new millennium, only it wasn’t known as BI then. Tom reminds us about OLAP or On Line Analytical Processing which makes it a breeze to answer multi-dimensional questions about business. OLAP morphed into Analysis Services and together with reporting services from what is now known as Business Intelligence. Business Intelligence is not something new to Microsoft and the software giant envisions everyone in the business to collaborate with SharePoint as the portal and SQL Server at the backend.

2010 will be an exciting year for SQL server. SQL Server was updated to R2 in May. In months ahead, customers will find the newest version of SQL Server where parallel data warehousing makes it possible to store hundreds of terabytes of data from the current situation where tens of terabytes of data is the norm. Perhaps the most exciting development for Microsoft’s flagship database software will be the move towards the Azure platform with Sequel Azure. The move to cloud computing is only a fitting response to the enormous opportunities that lie ahead because of the internet and increased interconnectivity.

SQL Server will be more secure and to drive costs down, and as apt response to massive increases in CPU horsepower, virtualization will become more prevalent. Tom Casey is quick to point out that a highly responsive customer base is helping shape most of Microsoft’s products and the cycle of release and feedback reinforces the production of software that people will really use.

Along with the many lessons learned from the last economic crisis, Microsoft is finding out that the potential customer base wants to consolidate platforms and hardware. They want to simplify tool sets without sacrificing analytical capabilities. Microsoft has introduced innovations that are in line with current economic realities like simplified licensing schemes, and a number of applications that are already built into SQL Server which significantly reduce the number of software that has to be purchased. With Microsoft Business Intelligence, companies can realize ways of saving costs, and the same time find new opportunities that BI brings into the table.

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