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Microsoft Releases Beta Spec of XML for Analysis

Taking another step today to further extend its .NET strategy, today Microsoft Corp. release the beta specification for XML for Analysis.

The new protocol will enable developers to create analytic applications on any platform using any programming language. “It uses XML, SOAP, and HTTP and is an extension to OLE DB for OLAP and OLE DB for data mining,” says John Eng, lead product manager for SQL Server.

Microsoft expects the new specification will make business intelligence (BI) more readily available to users in remote locations. “It broadens out the number of people that can access it. We call it ‘BI for the masses,’” Eng says. “The data source is in the enterprise but now you open it up to all the different users, and that makes BI accessible for everyone.”

Since the .NET is all about using the Internet as a platform, this latest XML specification further extends Microsoft’s .NET strategy. “The specification itself allows users to write applications that leverage the Internet,” Eng says.

Another important element in the .NET strategy is a heavy focus on XML.  “A key part of the .NET strategy is enabling applications, and a key part of that is XML,” says Steve Murchie, group product manager of SQL Server. “The XML for Analysis protocol is built upon the same technology.”

While XML is important for Microsoft and its .NET strategy, the significance of XML spans well beyond that -- which is why Microsoft felt it was so vital to get other vendors involved in the review of the new specification.

After designing a prebeta draft of the spec, Microsoft passed the draft around to its partners -- and other vendors who were highly involved with the specification -- for input. After the initial review, Microsoft took the input, cleaned up the spec, and presented the protocol along with sample applications to over 100 users at the design review. Those users then took the specification back to their respective organizations for feedback. The result of this process is the beta specification for XML for Analysis.

Microsoft goes through this whole process so it can offer customers more variety when choosing a business intelligence (BI) vendor. “Only with agreement between vendors can we achieve any kind of goal, so we work with key vendors, application vendors, and customers -- so that we know the ease of building applications is there,” Murchie says. “Ultimately it makes the cost lower and availability ubiquitous -- the benefit to customers is more choice, lower cost, and more features.”

Microsoft expects to have the beta software available during the first quarter, and to have the final specification complete in the first half of 2001.  Currently, the beta specification is available for download at: http://www.microsoft.com/data. --Alicia Costanza

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.

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