Microsoft goes for Dundas – the one that got away?

SQL Server Reporting Services 2008 had a great many enhancements which I have talked about before. Much of the new functionality came from the Dundas nursery, a company that has extended Reporting Services very effectively in the past with its Charts, Gauges and Maps. Microsoft made a move for the Dundas components in 2007 but came away with only a subset of the code base. Dundas has done very well to keep hold of their core functionality, allowing Microsoft to benefit while giving the third party company tons of press and free advertising. It just goes to show what happens when you produce a quality product that people need. Let’s take a look…

The key word in Business Intelligence these days is “Visualization”. Being able to visualize data instead of just looking at the numbers is huge. “A picture tells a thousand words” holds true and what analysts want to see is a dashboard style application giving the vital signs of the business with the option of drilling down to explore in more detail. Microsoft embarked on this strategy by providing its KPI (Key Performance Indicator) object in Analysis Services 2005. This was a small step in the right direction allowing developers to capture a KPI as part of a cube definition. To its credit, Microsoft recognized that it needed to provide more than KPIs to release the full power of visualization so it proceeded to do what it does best. Acquire. Proclarity was a market-leading company in this area with its superior Analytics products. Microsoft proceeded to take these products, enhance them and release a brand new product named Performance Point Server 2007.  This was a great addition to the BI stack.

That was fine, but it really didn’t help us with Reporting Services which was heralded as one of the three major components of Microsoft’s BI solution complementing Integration Services and Analysis Services. Microsoft needed more components to expose on reports. Enter Dundas. However, instead of a straight acquisition of the company, Microsoft acquired just some of Dundas’s data visualization technology in June 2007, namely Dundas Chart, Dundas Gauge and Dundas Calendar, for integration into Reporting Services 2008. These components are great features of 2008, but some cool technology is still in the Dundas net, for instance, Dundas Map which allows users to mouse over States (in the case of the USA map) and click to drill down to see more detail. To get this type of advanced functionality, you will need to still purchase from Dundas directly. If you access the Dundas web site demos, you can run real SSRS reports showing the mapping capabilities. As a technician, I like seeing a real example. That shows a vendor’s confidence in its own technology.

To Microsoft’s credit, the Reporting Services architecture is designed to allow for these custom extensions. Some customers may choose to design their own components but many will wait on the innovative vendors like Dundas to provide the extensible functionality. I am sure Microsoft categorizes this type of partnership as a method of outsourcing. Instead of swallowing up a smaller company in the classic sense, why not license the technology and let the vendor continue to innovate undeterred? When you think about it, it’s a win-win situation. In a word – smart.

Microsoft certainly has bigger fish to fry.  



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