Microsoft has unveiled details of its SQL Server roadmap that it aims to deliver over two years. Dubbed a "brave and bold move" by research firm Ovum, the software giant has been open about its upcoming offering compared to other cautious competitors.
Central to the next release of SQL Server 2008 are three project components each relating to different functions. The first, code-named Kilimanjaro, will introduce self-service reporting capabilities. The second, Project Gemini, offers new managed self-service analysis capabilities, while the last, codenamed Madison, provides advanced data warehousing functionality.
Kilimanjaro will include a new version of Report Builder, first introduced within SQL Server 2005, which helps simplify the development, deployment and maintenance of reports, and supports data delivery into Microsoft Word and Excel.
Project Gemini itself constitutes a number of different client and server business intelligence components. It has three main elements: an update to the Analysis Services engine; an Excel add-in client component for in-memory, on-the-fly sorting, filtering and slicing & dicing of large data sets; and deeper integration with Sharepoint.
"Project Gemini is clearly targeted at the power users that require the familiarity of Excel but with the scale and power of a heavy-duty multidimensional tool -- SQL Server Analysis Services," pointed out Helena Schwenk, Senior Analyst at Ovum.
The Excel add-in component plays a central part in Microsoft's 'bring business intelligence to the masses' strategy, said Schwenk. The new function has been designed to overcome some of the technical limits to crunching data within Excel and allows users to download millions of rows of data from disparate sources and present and compare data within its interface.
The add-in component also alleviates the need for users to understand and become proficient with the design, build and population of a multidimensional structure. "It can, for instance, automatically infer relationships between data sets brought into the spreadsheet and join using Analysis Services behind the scenes," said Schwenk.
Furthermore users can model, build and test their own BI applications without impacting on live BI systems. If users want to share the multidimensional model, Gemini integrates with SharePoint for sharing, collaboration and management of the application, said Schwenk.
"However, Excel isn't the only client application Microsoft plans to leverage; users will be also able to access business intelligence data from Microsoft's Dynamics 2009," she added.
Madison, on the other hand, is designed to support high-end, large-scale data warehousing deployments. Madison will be available via a community technology preview in the next 12 months, with full availability in 2010.
While the new projects signify Microsoft's attempt to bolster its presence in the end-user business intelligence space, Schwenk pointed out that the vendor must improve on its punctuality in pushing out releases.
"Microsoft must buck the trend for late releases. It is not always know for its reliability on release dates; SQL Server 2008 was six months late and SQL Server 2005 was even later," she said.