Installing SQL Server 2008 R2 is much easier than previous versions. The installer takes care of all prerequisites, configuring and downloading a whole bunch of stuff from Microsoft. Once the prerequisite installer runs, deploying SharePoint 2010 is straightforward, a matter of running the installer, entering a key, choosing the default install and applying updates. Finally, you run the installer for SQL Server 2008 R2. It runs through a lengthy but well-integrated process. The only thing that can't be accomplished from within the installer is creating the service accounts.
A reboot completes the overall process. Afterwards, there are a large number of new applications available, including Microsoft SharePoint 2010, Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2, the SQL Server Business Intelligence Development Studio, the Analysis Services Deployment Wizard, the Master Data Services Configuration Manager, the Report Builder 3.0 and Microsoft Visual Studio 2008.
The overall suite of tools is easy to use, and especially stresses the ability of the end user to apply basic tools they're already familiar with to create business intelligence applications.
Business intelligence is a major problem for many managers – there's lots of data available, but finding the significant bits and manipulating that data can be difficult. PowerPivot and Excel 2010 allow managers to use a familiar tool to get BI from even very large sets of data.
During my testing, PowerPivot imported 4 million rows from the Microsoft test database. Microsoft says that with enough memory, 100 million rows can be imported. One can use Excel to import data, format the data, and put it into databases. Files can also be exported to SharePoint and shared. Data in SharePoint is connected to the back-end database – any updates to the data are reflected in the SharePoint site.
Data Analysis Expressions (DAX) is a new language available through PowerPivot that lets you manipulate data using expressions similar to standard Excel formulas. Using Excel with PowerPivot to manipulate data allows managers familiar with Excel to collect data, manipulate it and create presentations and reports completely within Excel, while retaining the data tables in SQL Server if desired.
SQL Server is also well integrated with Visual Studio 2008, and includes the SQL Server Integration Services Designer that integrates into Business Intelligence Development Studio (BIDS).