Report from TechEd – What’s new with SQL Server BI?


During the day, whenever I could I hung out in the SQL Server Business Intelligence world (another main site – here) – sessions, floor booth, also I did a book signing for my BI book.  I was also fortunate enough to have a long lunch with Gemini PM Donald Farmer.  So, what did I see?

1. GEMINI!  What the heck is this?  “Self-service BI” (delivered from within Excel) is the shortest description.  This really doesn’t do it justice though.  From Mosha’s blog:

In the couple of hours since the announcement here at MS BI conference, I talked with few people already and saw few threads and comments in the Web, and (as expected), there is plenty of confusion about what “Project Gemini” is and isn’t etc. Here are the facts:

A. Project Gemini is the Analysis Services

B. It is next version of Analysis Services, which will ship before SQL11, as part of SQL Server “Kilimanjaro”

C. It uses column oriented processing and in memory storage as core technological principals

Out of all coverage on the Web, that I saw so far – the best explanation comes from Doug Henschen article “Microsoft Will Bow In-Memory Analysis, Appliance-Ready Database in 2010” in Intelligence Enterprise. Here is the key quote from this article:  “It's essentially another storage mode for Microsoft SQL Server Analysis Services with access via MDX, so existing applications will be able to take advantage of the performance enhancements”

Just to repeat it in other words: Existing applications that work today with Analysis Services through XMLA and MDX will be able to work with Gemini, because Gemini is Analysis Services. In fact, in “SQL 2008 and beyond” session today, Thierry demonstrated how Report Builder worked with Gemini seamlessly. And because column oriented (and in-memory) are used as a foundation of storage engine, the performance and scalability by data volumes is much better.

Take a look at Donald’s demo – at TechEd during the ‘BI Power Hour’ he did the demo on a NETBOOK – just to show off!

2. Master Data Services – so what is this? Essentially it’s a system for enterprise data management (universal types if you will) – more from the announcement “Master Data Services provides customers with master data management (MDM) capabilities that help manage the data organizations rely on to create a "single version of the truth”– for more detail take a look here.  We announced at TechEd that Master Data Services for SQL Server will ship as part SQL Server 2008 R2.  The first CTP will be available in H2 of 2009.

3. BI in action – I just love it when we use our own stuff.  Check out this short video about the use of a mobile BI application at TechEd that the BI team used to monitor session and speaker scores at the show.  The takeaway is that BI doesn’t have to be HUGE or ENTERPRISE, rather it has to be relevant and appropriately sized. 

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