My colleagues on the business intelligence (BI) side of the SQL Server world have been excited about Microsoft Office PerformancePoint Server 2007 for more than a year, but many of my friends on the relational side are still saying "PerformancePoint what?" The PerformancePoint Server 2007 Community Technology Preview (CTP) 3 shipped a month ago and PerformancePoint Server 2007 will be launched September 20, 2007.

My colleague Douglas McDowell, who writes a BI-focused column for SQL Server Magazine called "Eye on BI," has weighed in on PerformancePoint Server 2007 a few times in the past several months. I encourage you to read his articles 'Tis the season for CTPs: PerformancePoint Server 2007 CTP1 and PerformancePoint Server CTP2 Introduces "Planning".

It's time to learn a bit about this important new product, especially if you fall into the "PerformancePoint what?" camp. If PerformancePoint Server 2007 hasn't crossed your radar screen yet, it will soon.

Why is PerformancePoint Server 2007 of interest to the SQL Server community? For a myriad of reasons. To be honest, I had a hard time writing a concise description of what PerformancePoint Server 2007 is. The simplest way to describe the product is to say that it's a highly integrated performance management application that leverages key technologies from several new and old Microsoft offerings. That description might make sense if you know what performance management is. I have to admit that the relational database management system (RDBMS) performance tuning geek in me can't help but think about query optimization, indexing, and I/O rates when I hear the phrase "performance management." But the term has been co-opted by more business-oriented people to have a common meaning with respect to managing a business or operation. Wikipedia's performance management entry says, "Simply put, performance management helps organizations achieve their strategic goals. Rather than discarding the data accessibility previous systems fostered, performance management harnesses it to help ensure that an organization's data works in service to organizational goals to provide information that is actually useful in achieving them," (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Performance_management).

I gave up trying to write a concise description of the product and decided to quote from Douglas's article 'Tis the season for CTPs: PerformancePoint Server 2007 CTP1 instead.

"The best way to describe PerformancePoint Server from an architectural standpoint is to think of SQL Server and all its components as a database server platform. On top of that platform and the Microsoft IIS Web server platform, Microsoft has a collaboration platform: Microsoft Office SharePoint Portal Server and the server-side components of the 2007 Microsoft Office System (e.g., Excel Services).

Using these platforms--database, Web, Office, and collaboration--Microsoft is building applications for specific business functions. The company started with BI and built Office Business Scorecard Accelerator and its follow-up, Office Business Scorecard Manager 2005. Microsoft then saw a need for a planning, budgeting, forecasting, and financial consolidation application, so it started work on the product it has codenamed BizSharp. During that time, Bill Baker moved to the Office Business Applications team, where he made a decision to build or buy the applications the company needed to fill the gaps in its offerings in the Advanced Analytics application space. Microsoft decided to buy, and acquired ProClarity earlier this year.

All three applications--scorecarding, financial planning and consolidation, and advanced analytics--overlap a great deal in business functionality and are all built on the database, Web, Office and collaboration platforms. PerformancePoint Server is the result of merging these products into a consolidated, multi-function business application server."

You'll find a wide range of helpful information about PerformancePoint Server 2007 at http://www.microsoft.com/performancepoint. In particular, I found the article Microsoft Office PerformancePoint Server 2007 top 10 benefits to be one of the more useful links on the Web site for understanding how and why PerformancePoint Server 2007 adds value to an organization. You can register to download PerformancePoint Server 2007 CTP3 at http://connect.microsoft.com/site/sitehome.aspx?SiteID=181. PerformancePoint Server 2007 CTP4 is scheduled to be released soon, and the product will be launched September 20, 2007. Enjoy.