Microsoft recently released the beta specification for XML for Analysis, its new protocol for extending business intelligence to the Web using .NET technologies. XML for Analysis lets application developers develop cross-platform tools for data analysis and manipulation with industry standards such as XML, Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP), and HTTP. Designed as an extension for OLE DB and OLE DB for Data Mining, XML for Analysis also provides security features that don't rely on particular client operating systems, programming languages, or middleware.

"Web-based services for e-business are definitely on the rise, and, in terms of business intelligence, this means accessing analytic databases hosted over the Internet," says Philip Russom, the research director of business intelligence at Hurwitz Group. "Microsoft's XML for Analysis addresses this need with a protocol that's based on Internet standards and optimized for interaction with Web services. Unlike newer attempts at a standard protocol, XML for Analysis is based on OLE DB for OLAP, which has seen almost three years of industry review, IT implementation, and support by third-party analytic software. And it's not just for OLAP: XML for Analysis also supports Web-based data mining."

More than 100 developers and architects from about 50 companies contributed to the XML for Analysis specification. The final specification is due later this year, and a beta software development kit (SDK) should be available by the time you read this. For more information, visit the Microsoft Web site http://www.microsoft.com/data.