Microsoft SharePoint is always a popular topic in Microsoft's data warehousing/business intelligence (BI) chat rooms and user groups, but many BI professionals misunderstand how SharePoint 2007 supports and extends BI in the enterprise. In fact, many people think of SharePoint as a developer or administrator tool because most of the product’s features are used by those groups. However,SharePoint is a very important BI product that only a handful of professionals understand how to deploy to the enterprise.
Understanding SharePoint Versions and Editions
If you're just learning how to use SharePoint, you might get a little lost in the various versions and editions. SharePoint 2007 has two major divisions: Windows SharePoint Services (WSS) 3.0 and Microsoft Office SharePoint Server (MOSS) 2007. MOSS 2007 is an enterprise document management and collaboration platform that you must purchase, whereas WSS is free for Windows Server 2003 customers. If you decide to purchase MOSS 2007, there are two MOSS 2007 editions to choose from: standard and enterprise.
The Ultimate BI Portal
SharePoint fills several roles in the enterprise document and collaboration space, and provides integration with other Microsoft BI tools as well as its own native BI capabilities (e.g., Excel Services). WSS 3.0 contains the basic integration points (i.e., SharePoint’s ability to integrate with SQL Server 2005 Reporting Services—SSRSand Microsoft Office PerformancePoint Server 2007), and MOSS 2007 has additional BI features.
There's a big difference between the integration points for SharePoint and SSRS 2005 pre/post SQL Server 2005 SP2. For now, just know that with SQL Server 2005 SP2, SSRS has much deeper integration with SharePoint. From an IT decision-maker's standpoint, WSS 3.0 will work just fine for your BI applications as long as you don't require any of the add-on features found in MOSS 2007. The following are a few of MOSS 2007's add-ons.
Excel Services is one of the most popular MOSS 2007 BI features. Excel Services has three core pieces of functionality. First, Excel Services provides spreadsheet sharing (via the Internet) and version control (basic check in/out abilities with the option to keep historical versions). It contains a server-side calculation engine that performs faster and more stable calculations because the processing occurs on the server, not the client. Excel Services also provides a .NET web service that lets application developers reuse spreadsheets across multiple enterprise applications.
Business Data Catalog is another great MOSS 2007 BI feature. Business Data Catalog lets you integrate various data stores into your SharePoint environment. If you leverage Business Data Catalog along with some of MOSS 2007's other BI features (e.g., Excel Services), you can have the enterprise search “crawl” this BI content—this functionality is called enterprise BI search. Additionally, by “bridging” data into SharePoint, you can create composite portal applications.
Data Connection Libraries (DCLs) are document libraries in which you can store Office Data Connection or Universal Data Connection files. DCLs let other Office 2007 tools (e.g., Microsoft Office InfoPath 2007, Microsoft Excel) use a shared data connection. Other MOSS 2007 BI features include native Key Performance Indicators, dashboards, dashboard filter web Parts, the Report Center template, and enterprise search for BI.
More To Come
SharePoint 2007 is a double-edged sword—it offers a huge amount of functionality for both BI and non-BI applications, but it's also easy to misunderstand and get lost in the product because of its sheer size. In the next several Essential BI UPDATE commentaries, I'll discuss how to integrate SharePoint into your existing BI environment and show you some of MOSS 2007's capabilities and features. Please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any SharePoint questions.