Well, readers, all good things must come to an end. This is part 5, the final part of my series where I’ve walked you through the tools, techniques and pieces of the Microsoft Cloud BI puzzle that you’ll need to start developing your own Microsoft BI solutions that are Cloud (mostly, perhaps a bit hybrid) BI solutions.
We’ve talked about created data marts using Microsoft’s cloud database, SQL Azure, based off your large on-premises SQL Server data warehouse using SSIS or data synch. We’ve touched on creating analysis reports and dashboards with PowerPivot, SSRS and SQL Azure Reporting Services directly off that cloud data. And then we created some Azure-based dashboards and Web apps that used ASP.NET and Silverlight to present the business intelligence reports back to the user on a variety screens from PC to laptop to mobile devices.
As promised, I am wrapping things up with a look into the future of Microsoft Cloud BI. I am going to break this look into the future into 3 bullet items: SQL Server Data Mining in the Cloud, BI 3.0: Social BI and Cloud BI in SQL Server 2012.
1. SQL Server Data Mining in the Cloud
The Microsoft BI Labs team has been working on a project to put SQL Server data mining in the cloud. If you’ve ever used the SQL Server data mining add-in for Excel, then you’ll be familiar with this new lab tool. It has the same concept of importing data into an spreadsheet and then running one of the SQL Server data mining algorithms against your data for the purposes of finding key influencers, market basket, classifications, etc. This site is a great example of BI in the cloud and is experimental, so not all of the models that you come to expect from the Excel add-in are available from this glimpse into the future project.
2. BI 3.0: Social Business Intelligence
A very important set of use cases for Cloud BI has emerged around Social BI or BI 3.0. Some vendors are running with the concepts of Social BI 3.0, such as what Panorama is doing with their Necto product. Social collaboration and integration of social networking weaved directly into the business intelligence experience is a direction within the BI solution space that I am very excited by. We pioneered these efforts at Microsoft with the integration of SharePoint, PerformancePoint, SSRS and SQL Server where SharePoint is the key to BI 3.0 by leveraging the social collaboration capabilities of SharePoint. This is a natural progression from BI 2.0 which was pioneered by efforts like our Microsoft Enterprise Cube (MEC) project which brought interactive visualization through Silverlight to the existing out-of-the-box visualizations in PerformancePoint and SSRS together in SharePoint. Once social media took off as a natural part of life and enterprise collaboration, adding in that capability through SharePoint was a very easy and natural extension of BI 2.0, such as what Bart Czernicki described in his Silverlight for BI book.
3. SQL Server 2012
There are a couple of advances in SQL Server 2012 that have been announced recently that will help you on the road to Cloud BI with SQL Server. First, one of the most talked-about features in SQL Server 2012 is Project Crescent, which provides report authors with a fully browser-based Silverlight experience for report authoring. You could use that tool instead of the thick-client Report Builder tool. Also, the new DAC and data synch capabilities in both Azure and SQL Server 2012 will make it much easier to migrate on-premises databases to the cloud and to keep them synched-up. If you wish to implement the suggested architecture from this series of an EDW on-premises, then SQL Server 2012 will help with your data warehouse by including columnstore indexes for your fact tables and you can then synch that data to SQL Azure data marts with data synch.