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Microsoft Releases SQL Server BI Tool

Microsoft Corp. on Wednesday rolled out a tool for making business intelligence projects easier and quicker to develop on its SQL Server database platform.

The SQL Server Accelerator for Business Intelligence consists of a technology wrapped in a partner and consulting program.

"It's a downpayment on our goal and vision to make business intelligence for the masses a reality," says Don Petersen, product manager for SQL Server.

While Microsoft doesn't charge for the toolset, it does intend for customers to use it with help. A dozen partners, including Compaq Computer Corp., MIS AG and ProClarity Corp., will offer solutions based on the kit. Microsoft also offers its own Microsoft Technology Centers and Microsoft Consulting Services as avenues for building BI solutions based on the new BI Accelerator. No direct download will be available, although Microsoft plans to post a registration section in the next few days to allow enterprise developers with experience writing BI applications to get access to the bits for free.

Partners or Microsoft consultants are recommended for performing the original extraction, transformation and loading of source data into a SQL Server staging database, as well as for general advice on effective means for integrating business intelligence processes into organizations.

"Our motto is we'll meet you at your star schema," Petersen says of the SQL Server-based staging database where the source data from various business applications gets deposited.

From there the tool takes over, using a variety of Microsoft technologies, including Microsoft Office, Microsoft's new Data Analyzer client tool, SQL Server's relational database engine, SQL Server Data Transformation Services and SQL Server Analysis Services.

Using an Excel-based tool called the Analytics Builder Workbook, integrators walk customers through the process of modeling a BI solution. From there a component called the Analytics Builder quarterbacks the data from the staging server through Data Transformation Services into multidimensional cubes or relational databases as required on a case-by-case basis.

Microsoft hands the process back to consultants for performance optimization and monitoring.

Analyst Mike Schiff with Current Analysis says the tool is a good move for Microsoft, especially with competitors like Oracle folding OLAP services into their databases.

"Basically what they've done is they've developed a tool that makes it easier to use Microsoft Analysis Services. It's like a 4GL for Analysis Services," Schiff says.

"This may be Microsoft's way of making its technology more pervasive by making it easy for developers to use it," Schiff says.

Sheryl Tullis, a product manager with SQL Server, says the tool is one among several Microsoft is putting out to make SQL Server more of a platform than a database. In that light, Tullis says, the BI Accelerator follows in the footsteps of the SQL Server Notification Services that Microsoft announced recently that allows organizations to build their own "My Alerts"-style notifications.

Microsoft will promote partner solutions built on the BI Accelerator at The Data Warehousing Institute conference next week in San Diego.

More information on the SQL Server Accelerator for Business Intelligence is available at www.microsoft.com/solutions/bi/.

Editor's note: ENT's parent company, 101communications, owns The Data Warehousing Institute.

About the Author

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

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