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November 8, 2005

Microsoft adds more BI muscle to SQL server

Almost five years in the making, Microsoft SQL Server 2005 has finally been released, choc full of features that bump up the database's claim to be a fully-fledged business intelligence platform.

By CBR Staff Writer

While SQL Server 2005 adds improved features analyzing BI data and building reports, its the back-end capabilities for defining and managing data integration processes that really shine. The DTS (data transformation services) component has been more or less rewritten from scratch and renamed as SSIS (SQL Server Integration Service).

According to Microsoft Corp officials, SSIS provides a better performing and easier to manage version of the core DTS extract, transform and load (ETL) tools. The company says that performance outstrips that of SQL Server 2000 by a significant order of magnitude.

The revamped interface means also means that defining processing tasks – like transforms, sorting, groupings – can now be accomplished much quicker, using point-and-click, rather than writing lines of code.

Microsoft is even bold enough to say that SSIS is now comparable to functionality included in enterprise-class ETL tools like Informatica Corp and IBM/Ascential.

The new and revamped analysis tools in SQL Server 2005 step-up more easily to complex data models and analysis, like pinpointing correlations and patterns in data mining applications, and also provide real-time capabilities.

Some customers complained that the analysis features in SQL Server 2000 didn’t scale all that well.

However SQL Server 2005 does not address write-back performance, which is a necessary feature for building applications around planning. Therefore don’t expect Microsoft to bang loudly on the business performance management (BPM) drum just yet. SQL Server 2005 is really all about pure BI.

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Reporting Services has also been tightened with new self-serve, ad hoc report creation and enhanced query development for online analytic processing (OLAP) environments. A new Report Builder tool in database is designed to allow nondevelopers to create and publish BI reports. It removes the need for hand coding, allowing developers to accelerate the report development cycle literally by days according to Microsoft.

Microsoft is betting that the new features will open up new BI applications for its SQL Server database. Most BI applications running on SQL Server to date have been in SME and departmental applications.

Of course Microsoft also views the BI capabilities as a way to approach non-SQL Server customers, since the analysis tools also work with non-Microsoft data, and perhaps even displace rival databases like Oracle Corp and IBM.

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