Microsoft lays out SQL Server road map

By John Fontana, Network World |  Software, BI, Microsoft

Microsoft Monday
laid out its road map for SQL
Server
and a complement of add-ons it hopes will eventually redefine
business intelligence and data warehousing.

The next version of the database
server, code-named Kilimanjaro, is slated for release in the first half of 2010
with a focus on self-service and reporting capabilities for BI. Microsoft plans
to have a "community technology preview" (CTP) available within the next 12
months.

The self-service features are wrapped up in a set of technologies
code-named Gemini. Those technologies let users build BI  applications
that can access data across many sources, aggregate the data, build charts and
reports and share the resulting applications via SharePoint.

Microsoft also
plans to integrate the unified communications capabilities of Office
Communications Server to aid the sharing of BI results.

Microsoft said
much of the Gemini technology will be tied to Excel, allowing users of that
desktop program access to the self-service analytics.

Microsoft made the
announcements at its annual BI Conference, which is going on in Seattle this
week and is expected to draw 2,500 users and partners.

The company's
acquisitions in the BI market and its stated intentions to expand BI
capabilities on the back of its popular SQL Server have been shaking up the
market in the past six months.

Giants such as Business Objects/SAP,
Cognos/IBM,
Hyperion/Oracle are
among the BI heavyweights with an eye on Microsoft.
A report by Gartner
earlier this year said Microsoft still "lags behind pure-play vendors in terms
of metadata management, reporting, and dashboard and ad hoc query
capabilities."

Microsoft plans to systematically address those
deficiencies.

The immediate goal is to extend its BI tools and software
so they are more accessible to users, especially those using Excel and
SharePoint.

With Gemini, Microsoft hopes to bring BI to users without
sacrificing IT control.

"One important thing about Gemini is managed
self-service," says Fausto Ibarra, director of product management for SQL
Server. "Managed means IT is in control of the process where today end-users use
Excel without control of IT or without control on data."

With Gemini, IT
will be able to see how data is being shared, will have control of security on
the data, and will make data sources available to users.

Those sources
could include ERP data, mainframe applications and independent software vendor
programs.

Another key feature of Gemini is in-memory BI, which analyzes
large amounts of data in memory in order to speed performance.

At the
conference, the company also unveiled plans for a highly scalable database
technology code-named Madison that would be available in an appliance. Madison
integrates SQL Server with technology the company acquired when it bought DataAllegro
earlier this year.
DataAllegro developed large-volume data warehousing
appliances, and Microsoft hopes to scale Madison to handle hundreds of terabytes
of data. At the conference, Microsoft showed a demo using 1 trillion rows of
data.

The company also plans to use data quality technology acquired when
it bought Zoomix
in July to enhance the quality of available information. Microsoft would only
say the technology will come in "future versions" of SQL Server.

CTPs of
Madison will roll out in the next 12 months with the appliances available in the
first half of 2010. Dell, HP, Unisys, Bull Systems and EMC have signed on as
hardware partners.

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