Microsoft Business Intelligence roundup

There have been a few key announcements in the Microsoft BI world recently, we’ve gathered them up and summarised below in case our readership have missed any of the key announcements.

SQL Server 2008 R2 – (CTP Summer 09)

“SQL Server 2008 R2 expands on the value delivered in SQL Server 2008 by providing a wealth of new features and capabilities that can benefit your entire organization. This release will further improve IT Efficiency with new and enhanced management capabilities and empower business users to access, integrate, analyze and share information using business intelligence tools they already know.” Read more here.

So what does this mean for you? In R2 there will be a number of new features from Gemini to Master Data Services, support for more than 64 processors to extended functionality in the Management Studio. We’re all looking forward to Gemini and the potential that has to offer – rest assured the XLCubed development team are working closely to ensure that the product is compatible straight out of the box. If you have any questions contact support@xlcubed.com

Service Pack 1 for SQL Server 2008 Available  (April 09)

Microsoft announced the release of SP1 for SQL Server 2008 earlier this month, for many this marks the psychological point at which they’ll take interest in and investigate the product in depth. With a large uptake of the product already in the market place and the fastest OLAP engine we’ve seen from Microsoft, there is now no excuse not to evaluate upgrading or migrating to SQL Server.

Contact our services team for more information or how we can help you with SQL Server 2008.

SQL Server 2008 SP1

Service Pack 1 for SQL Server 2008 is now available for customers. The Service pack is available via download here and is primarily a roll-up of cumulative updates 1 to 3, quick fix engineering updates and minor fixes made in response to requests reported through the SQL Server community. While there are no new features in this service pack, customers running SQL Server 2008 should download and install SP1 to take advantage of the fixes which increase supportability and stability of SQL Server 2008.

Customers have no reason to wait to upgrade to SQL Server 2008 and many are already taking advantage of SQL Server 2008 as a smart IT investment. In fact, there have been over 3 million downloads of SQL Server 2008 since the RTM in August. With this Service pack, Microsoft is introducing 80% fewer changes to customer configurations compared to previous SQL Server Service Pack releases. This remarkable decrease is a testament to a revised product development process and updated servicing strategy that is focused on ease of deployment while keeping customer environments stable.

Microsoft BI Conference moves bi-annual

The MS BI conference last held in October 2008 in Seattle, WA has now been changed to an bi-annual event, citing  global economic constraints to travel budgets worldwide, Microsoft are moving the BI conference to a bi-annual event, with the next conference scheduled in Seattle on October, 2010. The next BI Conference scheduled for October 2009 will be moved to October 2010 in Seattle, WA, and all further BI Conferences will be held every second year on an ongoing basis. Content till then will be covered at the SQL Pass Summit, TDWI and SharePoint conferences.

If you were looking forward to seeing the XLCubed product team at the BI Conference this year, don’t worry you can still contact them at xlsales@xlcubed.com

SQL Server Fast Track Data Warehouse (Feb 09)

Microsoft announced SQL Server® Fast Track Data Warehouse, a new set of Reference Architectures for SQL Server 2008 that enables customers to accelerate their Data Warehouse deployments and reduce cost.  In addition, customers can further jump start their Data Warehouse design with new industry solution templates provided by System Integrators – Avanade, Hitachi Consulting, Cognizant and HP.

Seven new Reference Architectures with storage capacities from 4 to 32 TB were unveiled in partnership with HP, Dell and Bull.  Developed and tested by Microsoft, these architectures use balanced hardware optimized for Data Warehousing.  As a result customers will get

  • Better price performance than competitive solutions.  Fast Track Data Warehouse offers similar performance to the competition at 1/5th the price
  • Faster time to value and lower cost to setup and configure
  • Better performance out of box through pre-tested hardware. 

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Customers can also choose the right Fast Track Data Warehouse with the right performance, storage capacity and pricing to suit their business needs.   Unlike Appliance Vendors with proprietary solutions, the new reference configurations use industry standard hardware from Dell, HP and Bull giving flexibility and cost savings to customers.

Fast Track Data Warehouse is available from today: customers will buy their SQL Server 2008 licenses through their preferred Microsoft Partner and the hardware from Dell, HP or Bull. If you’re looking to implement a data warehouse, contact the services team to see we can help.

Demise of Performance Point Planning (Jan 09)

It’s been a few months now since the announcement by Microsoft of the demise of Performance Point Planning, and the rebranding of the Monitoring and Analytics elements as PerformancePoint Services. This was an announcement back in January (09) that caught many by surprise, however for us its provided a useful segue into the new XLCubed Planning application. Many customers were waiting to see what was coming next, when PerformancePoint would be ready to compete with the likes of existing players with proven planning technology (i.e. in memory OLAP) and the  tempting announcements around Gemini certainly added confusion. Now looking back at the conversations we had in Seattle and Microsoft presentations perhaps the announcement isn’t as big a surprise as it felt at the time.

As above our long term commitment to an Excel front ended planning application continues, the demise of PerformancePoint Planning has simply increased the market for us and in many ways freed clients from the constraints of using purely Microsoft technology. Augmenting the Microsoft toolkit and providing our clients with the functionality they need to build effective planning, budgeting and forecasting applications remains at the forefront of our product set and services.

If you want to know more about our products and services (consulting team) just send an email to services@xlcubed.com and someone in your region and market sector will get back to you straight away.

Augmenting the MS BI Stack

Here at XLCubed we’re often asked how the product sits in relation to the Microsoft Business Intelligence tools.
The answer is that we add to and augment the features and functionality that Microsoft has to offer. Excel is a fantastically powerful and flexible spreadsheet engine and this is exactly what it should be used for. However all too often, Excel is used as a database. With linked spreadsheets, and huge data extracts.

XLCubed have a number of products designed to take advantage of the functionality available with Microsoft Business Intelligence tools, these include XLCubed Excel edition, MicroCharts, and XLCubed