# Friday, 08 January 2010

A few days ago I started to made some predictions on the future of .NET for 2010. I said 2010 will be remembered as a “tipping point” year for three things in the Microsoft space. I am not saying that on December 31st, 2010 you will sit back and say I am right on all of these, but I am saying that by December 31st, 2011 or 2012 you will. That said, 2010 will be the tipping point for:

  • Moving beyond .NET
  • Business Intelligence for the masses
  • The Cloud

Earlier this week I spoke about Silverlight and the future of .NET. Today I will talk about BI.

Business Intelligence for the Masses

There is an insatiable demand for BI in the marketplace, yet few developers “get” BI. When I talk to CIOs of large companies about their software needs, they always say to me “do you know anyone who does BI?” BI is seen today as something that end users want more and more of, but IT departments are having a harder and harder time actually delivering.  BI is considered complex and expensive.

Later this year (I suspect at TechEd US in June), Microsoft will launch SQL Server 2008 R2. This version of SQL Server is focused mostly on BI and along with PowerPivot will deliver “Self-Service Business Intelligence.” I have written about PowerPivot before on this blog, but in short it allows users (or developers) to connect to a data source (or data sources) and download data, take it offline in their Excel spreadsheet, slice, dice, and manipulate the data how they see fit, as well as create very powerful Pivot Tables and Charts in seconds. PowerPivot ships with a data engine as part of your workbook, so you can have a self contained OLAP cube inside of your XLSx file. It compresses super well, but you don’t have to email it, PowerPivot also integrates nicely with SharePoint for collaboration with your co-workers.

Let me be clear, this is game changing technology. Out of the box data visualization tools are complex and clunky (and expensive!), so we force ourselves into Excel for BI. Microsoft has done something brilliant, they have taken the world’s number one BI client (Excel) and taken off the training wheels.

While end users may not be able to build OLAP cubes or write TSQL queries like I did in this PowerPivot example, SQL Server R2 and PowerPivot drastically lower the barrier to entry for BI development. (Note, PowerPivot works for many databases, not just R2.) Developers will spend time building the Data Warehouse and ETL on the back end and setting up simple queries in PowerPivot on the front end and the users will then turn and build amazing drill downs and pivot tables and charts. A golden age of BI development will begin where BI apps are simple and plentiful, including “Self Service”. While 2010 will not be the year where we reach this, we will look back at 2010 as the starting point of the golden age of BI.

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