The business intelligence (BI) categories this year reveal an overwhelming shift away from third-party solutions to the BI tools that Microsoft provides with SQL Server. In this month's editorial "The SQL Server Steamroller," page 5, Michael Otey praises Microsoft's leadership in the BI space. "SQL Server 7.0 was the first enterprise-level relational database to add OLAP capabilities and extraction, transformation, and loading (ETL) capabilities to the base product. Microsoft continued this leadership with the SQL Server 2000 release by being the first enterprise-level relational database to include data-mining capabilities. SQL Server 2005 will continue this tradition with the inclusion of the revamped Integration Services and Reporting Services subsystems." Best of all, these features, which are costly add-ons in other platforms, are free with SQL Server. It's no surprise that Microsoft swept these categories.

Best Data-Mining Tool and Best OLAP Tool. Microsoft SQL Server 2000 Analysis Services lets you perform rapid, sophisticated analysis on large, complex data sets. You can take analysis to the next level by using OLAP actions to guide your business processes. And data-mining features let you discover patterns and trends and make predictions about future trends in your business. One voter enthused, "Hey, it's Microsoft, it's free with SQL Server, and it's great!" Another voter praised Analysis Services' established track record, saying, "Microsoft has indeed proved its reliability and is still number one in creating user-friendly environments."

Best ETL Tool. Microsoft scored another win with its built-in ETL tool, SQL Server 2000 DTS. DTS provides a set of graphical tools and programmable objects to help administrators and developers solve data-movement problems, including the extraction, transformation, and consolidation of data from disparate sources to single or multiple destinations. Like most of Microsoft's BI tools, its convenience makes DTS an easy choice. One user testified, "I use it all the time. Never used anything else. Why would I?"

Best Reporting Tool. Released in early 2004, Microsoft SQL Server 2000 Reporting Services showed up frequently as a write-in vote in last year's Readers' Choice awards, and this year it edged out third-party reporting tools as the voter favorite. "Crystal and Cognos, look out!" warned one voter. Reporting Services is a comprehensive, server-based solution that enables the creation, management, and delivery of paper reports and interactive, Web-based reports. An integrated part of the Microsoft BI framework, Reporting Services lets you use the SQL Server's data-management capabilities to deliver realtime information through Microsoft Office applications. Powerful developer-oriented features combine with a friendly end-user GUI to bring IT departments and business users together.



Best Business Intelligence Products

Best Data-Mining Tool and Best OLAP Tool


Microsoft, SQL Server 2000 Analysis Services
800-642-7676, http://www.microsoft.com/sql/evaluation/bi/bianalysis.asp
Price: Included with SQL Server 2000 ($19,999 for Enterprise Edition; $4,999 for Standard Edition; $3,899 for Workgroup Edition)

Best ETL Tool


Microsoft, SQL Server 2000 Data Transformation Services
800-642-7676, http://www.microsoft.com/sql
Price: Included with SQL Server 2000 ($19,999 for Enterprise Edition; $4,999 for Standard Edition; $3,899 for Workgroup Edition)

Best Reporting Tool


Microsoft, SQL Server 2000 Reporting Services
800-642-7676, http://www.microsoft.com/sql/reporting
Price: Included with SQL Server 2000 ($19,999 for Enterprise Edition; $4,999 for Standard Edition; $3,899 for Workgroup Edition)