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Can Next Release of SQL Server Bring BI To Masses?

When Microsoft outlined its BI strategy for future releases of SQL Server at its Business Intelligence Conference 2008 in Seattle last week, the company put forth an ambitious road map that looks to broaden the reach of its data management platform.

Ted Kummert, corporate vice president of Microsoft's Data and Platform Storage division showcased three efforts in play. First is the next release of SQL Server, code-named "Kilimanjaro," due out in 2010 and intended to further penetrate the enterprise database market owned by Oracle and IBM.

Second is Project "Gemini," a set of tools Microsoft is developing with the aim of bringing BI to a wider audience of information workers. The third project he outlined was Madison, aimed at taking the technology Microsoft acquired from DATAllegro, an Aliso Viejo, Calif.-based provider of data warehouse appliances and developing its own to be sold as hardware.

In addition to trying to up the ante with enterprise deployments, perhaps more notable about Kilimanjaro is that "it signifies a greater emphasis towards supporting the needs of end users by leveraging the capabilities of SQL Server and the ubiquity of Excel," writes Ovum senior analyst Helena Schwenk in a bulletin to clients.

"These are unchartered waters for Microsoft," Schwenk warns. "While Excel is a pervasive BI tool, it has certain technical limitations that prevent it from being used as a full-blown reporting and analysis tool."

Despite the challenge, the next release of SQL Server promises to address these limitations, she adds. If Microsoft makes its delivery goals and can price it competitively, Schwenk believes Microsoft could make further inroads into the BI market at the expense of other BI vendors.

Still, IBM, Oracle and SAP aren't sitting still. With all three having made huge acquisitions over the past year, the battle to broaden BI is still at an early state of evolution.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 10/15/2008

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