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Microsoft Updates BI Tool

Microsoft on Wednesday released an updated version of a tool to help system integrators and other Microsoft partners build business intelligence applications atop SQL Server.

The 1.2 release of the SQL Server Business Intelligence Accelerator extends support down to the Standard Edition of SQL Server 2000, adds support for XML data imports and supports Office 2003, which has not yet been released.

At its core, the tool allows an architect to map out a business intelligence solution on an Excel worksheet, including data sources and targets. The tool then uses the Excel worksheet to set up and trigger services from SQL Server, including Data Transformation Services and Analysis Services, to build the BI application. The original version came out in May 2002 and supported only the Enterprise Edition of SQL Server 2000.

For a back-end tool, the Accelerator has been fairly popular with about 10,000 downloads, according to Microsoft. Most of the interest is among Microsoft partners, but advanced users at some companies have used the tool to build their own custom BI applications.

The changes in the new version are relatively minor and driven primarily by partner feedback, says Tom Rizzo, group product manager for SQL Server.

“We heard from partners that they really wanted to work on [SQL Server 2000 Standard Edition] as well. It allows a partner to go into smaller shops and deploy a solution,” Rizzo says. Support for XML-formatted files also plays into partner requirements, he says. Service providers can brand their own front-end application as part of a service offering to build the BI application and drive the data into the Accelerator via XML. Or partners can write pure code and use XML to push it into the Accelerator, rather than having to find some way to get it into Excel first.

Other features of the 1.2 version are separation of application generation and deployment processes to speed the time to production and support for “drill-through actions in count measures [that] enhances the reporting capabilities of the generated application.”

To download or find out more about the SQL Server Accelerator for Business Intelligence, visit www.microsoft.com/solutions/bi/.

About the Author

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

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