In the past several weeks, my SQL Server Magazine colleagues and I have written quite a bit about Microsoft’s BI strategy. Don’t worry--I wont’ turn my back on core relational topics associated with SQL Server, and no, I won’t be turning my column into a soapbox that simply puppets Microsoft’s regular warm-and-happy press releases about how wonderful SQL Server is. However, a recent press release from Microsoft discusses SQL Server’s growth in the BI space, and this document, as well as a recent “Magic Quadrant” report from Gartner, are worth talking about for a few reasons, even if you’re “just a DBA” who doesn’t care about BI. Read on to find out why.

According to Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for Data Warehouse Database Management Systems, 2006 report (published September 12), Microsoft’s BI platform revenue grew at a rate of 35.9 percent in 2005. And Microsoft’s recent earnings reports (http://www.microsoft.com/msft/earnings/default.mspx) document that Microsoft SQL Server revenue as a whole also grew 35 percent year over year in the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2006. In Microsoft’s press release about its BI growth (http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/press/2006/sep06/09-22BIMomentumPR.mspx), Jeff Raikes, president of the Microsoft Business Division, says:

“Our ongoing BI investments are enabling a transformation of the way people interact with important business information. We continue to evolve our solution set, recently rounding it out with an integrated performance management application, such that our offering will provide customers with a complete, flexible and cost-effective BI solution, one that enables truly pervasive BI across the enterprise.”

Those of you familiar with Gartner’s magic quadrant model know that it breaks vendors into four categories: niche player, challenger, visionary, or leader. Garner assigns a vendor’s standing in the quadrant based on the vendor’s completeness of vision and ability to execute that vision. Gartner’s recent magic quadrant report shows that Microsoft has made great progress across the board in data warehousing and is now on the line between challenger and leader. The report says:

“Until recently, Microsoft SQL Server was relegated to departmental-sized applications...However, the ability of Microsoft to deliver DBMS solutions for the enterprise is no longer in question. With the addition of integration, reporting and analytical services, and the extensions in Office 2007, Microsoft will have an offering for the enterprise DW workload. Microsoft is rated between the Challenger and Leader quadrants, because it needs to prove itself as a DW solution. To move into the Leader's quadrant during the next few years, Microsoft will need to demonstrate the scalability and performance of the leaders in a mixed workload DW.”

Gartner doesn’t make its reports available for free to the general public, but the Magic Quadrant for Data Warehouse Database Management Systems, 2006 report is a good read. You could buy it for the $495 list price at http://www.gartner.com. Alternatively, the magic of Google allowed me to stumble across a link that provides the report free (http://mediaproducts.gartner.com/reprints/ncr/vol3/article2/article2.html), courtesy of NCR, another vendor the report discusses. The report isn’t terribly long, is easy to read, and includes some very interesting information about Microsoft and other players in this space.

So why should you care about this report if you’re “just a DBA” who doesn’t care about BI? Because one day you probably won’t be able to be a DBA without having some competency in the realm of data warehousing and BI. I’ve shared this perspective multiple times in the past and will do so multiple times in the future.

Take another gander at the quote from Jeff Raikes, in which he emphasizes the “transformation of the way people interact with important business information” and “a complete, flexible, and cost-effective BI solution...that enables truly pervasive BI across the enterprise.” Now, think through the implications of Gartner’s report, which defines a “new” fourth type of data-warehousing workload that is gaining traction in the industry, providing an increasing level of analytics and BI-oriented functionality in OLTP applications.”

Pervasive BI? BI functionality directly embedded in OLTP applications? The lines are blurring, and soon it won’t be so easy to see where BI stops and starts with respect to an enterprise, or departmental database strategy. What does that mean? Well, it means that someday, and sooner than you think, all DBAs (at least the ones who like having a job) will need to know more about BI than they do today.