Light-up Your Dashboards with Silverlight

by Mark Kromer

There are many advantages to making business intelligence dashboards with scorecards, graphs and trends that sparkle and have visually compelling elements. It makes your BI solution more accessible to all audiences, it makes them more interesting to use, increasing adoption, it can help to highlight the important areas from mounds of data and, hey, they look cool!

Below is an example from a Microsoft BI customer called Jettainer, who uses the entire Microsoft SQL Server and .NET stack and utilized Silverlight as part of their enterprise dashboard strategies to generate very impressive solutions.

jettainer

Derek and I are going to take a couple of weeks in this blog to begin outlying ways in which you can leverage SQL Server, Silverlight, SharePoint and a few third-party components to make exciting visualizations of your Microsoft BI solutions that can be displayed on different form factors from laptops to mobile devices.

Let’s start simple today, with a little background on Silverlight and the new Microsoft Silverlight PivotViewer control. Silverlight is Microsoft’s visualization platform technology that allows developers to build applications that include some of the cool factor elements that had previously been only available to Macromedia developers including vector graphics, transforms, transitions and embedded video, just to name a few. Silverlight PivotViewer (sample pic below) is new from Microsoft and is a free downloadable component from Microsoft that allows developers to organize and display mass amounts of data from data collections. We’ll walk you through how to use Silverlight components, including PivotViewer to make exciting dashboards on laptop screens as well as mobile.pivtoviewer001

But let’s establish a few guiding principals for this series first:

1. We are going to assume that you are not a pure application or web developer and are much more interested in building BI solutions and BI dashboards

2. What this means to me, is that you need the ease-of-use that tools like PerformancePoint Server & PerformancePoint Services bring

3. Therefore, we’ll provide code snippets and links to sites to get sample code to re-use instead of requiring you to write the code yourself

4. These dashboards should be available in SharePoint to enable your entire organization to access the reports

To wrap it up for this intro, let’s keep it simple and re-usable. For an overall BI strategy and BI solution for your organization, you may want to use Silverlight and mobile dashboards sparingly. That is, perhaps a landing page that maximizes the cool factor. But click-through and drill-down may lead your users to a classic PPS dashboard or SSRS reports.

What else would you like to get out of this series? Any other ground-rules or principals you would like to see for this series?

Next up … We’ll kick it off with exposing your SQL Server BI data sources to Silverlight and PivotViewer and the different methods for accessing BI data such OData & SSRS sources for Silverlight and Excel as a source of PowerPivot, keeping things simple and re-usable.

Discuss this Blog Entry 1

on Aug 3, 2010
It would be nice to get a thorought working sample that brings all of Microsoft's technologies together... Silverlight (specifically, the Bing Maps Silverlight Control), PowerPivot, and PivotViewer. I'm trying to get folks at my company excited about the possibilities that these tools provide. From a DBA's perspective, what is needed from a backend standpoint to prepare and massage the data that is consumed by these front-end tools to make visually compelling applications. I will be following your posts closely. Thanks!

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What's SQL Server BI Blog?

Derek Comingore’s, Mark Kromer's, and Jen Underwood's candid look at SQL Server’s Business Intelligence features.

Contributors

Mark Kromer

Mark Kromer has been a technical product manager & solution architect in business intelligence, data warheouse and Big Data world for over 20 years for Microsoft, Oracle and AT&T, currently...

Jen Underwood

Jen Underwood, Founder and Principal Consultant at Impact Analytix, has almost 20 years of experience in data warehousing, business intelligence, and predictive analytics. She is a former Global...
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