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Microsoft lays out SQL Server improvements

SQL Server, Office are key to driving business intelligence to users

By , Network World
October 06, 2008 03:02 PM ET

Network World - Microsoft this week began its uphill battle to make business intelligence software pervasive across corporate computing through capabilities it will build into its Office desktop suite and infrastructure software spearheaded by SQL Server.

Even before the official general release of SQL Server 2008 (Nov. 7), Microsoft took the unusual step of outlining the next interim release of the database that features a set of business intelligence (BI) add-ons and integrations designed to make the technology easily available via familiar Windows-based tools.

The company made the announcements last week at its second annual BI conference.

At the conference, Microsoft said its goal is to build a BI platform using the next version of SQL Server, code-named Kilimanjaro, SharePoint Server, Office Communications Server (OCS), Office Performance Point Server and the Excel desktop spreadsheet program along with other Office applications. The Kilimanjaro release, slated to ship in the next 14 to 20 months, is an interim release of the database that adds BI features and is not a major upgrade.

"The next big rework and rewrite update of SQL Server will be delivered 24 to 36 months from the RTM of SQL Server 2008, which was in August of 2008," said a Microsoft spokeswoman.

The intent is to simplify complex business intelligence technology so more users can access data across disparate sources, aggregate that data, build charts and reports using Excel and share the resulting applications via SharePoint and OCS.

Microsoft also plans to include in the mix a highly scalable data warehousing version of SQL Server that will be offered in an appliance by its hardware partners.

"They are trying to break the mold on how BI has been done and set the stage for how BI will be done going forward," says John Hagerty, vice president and research fellow at AMR Research.

Today, BI is constrained mostly by the resources IT can dedicate — both financial and manpower — to building and deploying all the pieces needed on both the client and the server.

Microsoft wants to explode that constraint by giving users self-service tools to build their own BI applications via access to corporate data sources such as SAP.

However, Microsoft says the platform will ensure IT maintains governance over access controls to corporate repositories and individual files.

But it won’t happen overnight.

"[This] is not going to be available until 2010 so we are talking a long term vision and not near-term deliverables," Hagerty says.

He says Microsoft is wise to announce its intentions so customers can "get their heads around it" given the drastic changes Microsoft seeks in whittling down monolithic business intelligence systems into just another set of desktop applications.

The Kilimanjaro version of SQL Sever is slated for release in the first half of 2010 with a focus on self-service and reporting capabilities for BI. Microsoft plans to have a community technology preview (CTP) available within the next 12 months.

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