Microsoft has been pouring R&D resources into building out its business intelligence (BI) feature set and the upcoming SQL Server 2014 (SQL 2014) release will continue that trend. The new release includes enhancements to make data exploration easier, improvements in BI semantic modeling, new offerings to help build and support massive databases and data warehouses, and tools to ensure the quality and consistency of data. Here’s what SQL 2014 will do for you with regards to business intelligence:
- Data Exploration Enhancements in SQL Server 2014: Microsoft has more than 300 million users who think of Excel when they think about manipulating data. It only makes sense to reinforce the relationship between Excel and to a wider extent Microsoft Office, as a front end for data manipulation, exploration, and visualization against a SQL Server back end all through the rich and familiar front end of Excel. Microsoft’s new PowerPivot add-in for Excel makes accessing and analyzing data very easy for end users. The new Power View browser-based add-in for Excel adds new, powerful means of visualizing data, wherever it resides. Other new tools include Power Map (formerly known as Project GeoFlow) and Project Data Explorer, for better mapping and geographic data integration and data import into Excel for heterogeneous data sources, respectively.
- BI Semantic Model in SQL Server 2014: Microsoft’s improvements in their BI Semantic Modeling (BISM) enables users new ways to build out BI solutions the scale from small, single-person usage to huge Fortune 500 organizations, focusing on credible and consistent data.
- Big Data: Big data gets even easier in SQL2014. There are lots of new offerings to help build and support massive databases and data warehouses, such as scaling up to 15k partitions in a data store and up to 640 logical cores on high-end database servers. In addition, Microsoft has fully embraced Hadoop in the form of HDInsight, on Windows Azure and Windows Server, to take advantage of unstructured data and the parallel computational approach common to Hadoop applications. PolyBase, also new in SQL2014, is a feature of the SQL Server Parallel Data Warehouse (PDW) which makes combining nonrelational data and traditional relation data an easy and swift process.
- Enterprise Information Management (EIM): Enterprises need help controlling the spread of data silos and ensuring the quality and consistency of data. Microsoft has introduced or enhanced several tools to serve this requirement. The Data Quality Services (DQS) tools help enterprises and data stewards manage end-to-end data management by building a knowledge base of data-quality topics. Master Data Services (MDS) adds new features, such as an MDS add-in for Excel, to map objects, reference data, and control dimensions and hierarchies of data.
That’s a lot of new features and tools for the data analysis and insight side of business intelligence. The focus, in my opinion, is on enabling end users to gather, analyze, and maintain their own business intelligence.