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December 15
Evolution of Microsoft Business Intelligence in 2015

As we come to the end of the year it is a good time to reflect on what Microsoft has done with Business Intelligence in 2014 and how it may impact us in 2015.  I am going to address the following four capabilities and comment on how they may affect our 2015:

      1.       Power BI

      2.       Data Management Gateway

      3.       Power View ability to utilize a SSAS Cube

      4.       Delve

Power BI

There is no doubt Microsoft is all in for the cloud and Microsoft’s Valentine’s present to us was the production release of Power BI in early February.  This consists of Power Query, Power Map, Power View, and Power Pivot.  I won’t waste your time on what all these are (there are plenty of resources online that do that) but instead will approach its capabilities from a customer view.

First of all, while everyone says they want to do BI, many times it winds up low on the priority list for resource challenged organizations.  The question becomes, “How do we make BI easier for the end user?”  Hence the words you often hear from Microsoft, self-service BI.

Power BI is Microsoft’s answer.  Tools that users can access from the cloud that takes the internal IT infrastructure out of the picture for tool delivery (not data).  This allows for broader adoption.  No longer will you hear “our IT has not installed that feature.”  In addition, Microsoft can control the pace of features and their release (which is relentless).  Just in the last few months we have seen the following features:

       ·         Support for Power Query to access data (Interesting fact – this is the most commented article on the Power BI blog)

       ·         Power View can perform forecasting

       ·         Power View can be embedded in your blogs and websites

These are only three updates I thought worth mentioning but there are many more.  2015 promises a slew of innovation through evolution.  In particular, we will see Microsoft utilize, enhance and lead with Power View’s data visualizations building a compelling story as to why one should use Power BI. 

The Power BI blog is one of the key places to follow and see what is happening.  It is very active.  Find it here:​.

Data Management Gateway

As I said earlier, IT is not completely out of the picture, not even close.  For starters, where is the data located?  In most cases, on internal organizations' database servers.  Having Power BI without the internal data is akin to having a Bentley with no gas.  Worthless.

Other organizational questions arise that require specific BI governance, but we will not address those issues here.  The most important question for end users is this:

How are users supposed to get to the on premise data from Power BI?  Microsoft’s answer: Data Management Gateway. 

This component was an end of summer gift released in August 2014.  It is a client agent that is installed on your infrastructure (or Desktop!!!) that enables the shuttling of data from the on premise environment to Power BI.  Sounds like a no brainer.

Just in the last year it has gone from gathering data only from SQL Server and Oracle to including SAP, Active Directory, Exchange, and ODBC data sources.  WOW.  It takes no psychic to say in 2015 look for this component to mature into a full blown application that will enable governance and security.

Power View can use the traditional Cube

With the advent of Power View back in 2010 one of the most desired features was the ability to consume existing Data Warehouse cubes.  Let’s explain:

SQL Server Analysis Services (SSAS) supports two types of models: Tabular and Multidimensional.  When SQL Server 2012 appeared the tabular model was introduced and out of the box, Power View consumed this.  Prior to this capability, thousands of organizations used (and still use) multidimensional models referred to as cubes.  These organizations love what they see in Power View but want to utilize existing assets, not pour money into new models.

Last year in May, SQL Server 2012 received CU4 which brought support for cubes.  More importantly, on April Fool’s Day this year SQL Server 2014 was released and with that, the innate ability to consume cubes.

2015 promises continued integration.  One could almost say, everything is going to integrate.  These integrations are going to mature and offer capabilities to be in line with corporate policies.  One could easily picture the Data Management Gateway, which is a windows service, being integrated into SQL 2014 or better yet Windows 2012 R2 and being given a console where things can be controlled.


One of the bigger announcements this year in September that telegraphs where Microsoft is going in 2015 and beyond is Delve. 

In 2015 Community and Social Intelligence will just begin to take a seat front and center.  Communities because that is where adoption flourishes (Pinterest or Facebook anyone).  Social Intelligence because this is a very real competitive advantage.

I heard the following story the other day which was very telling in this area and creepy.  A woman was doing research for her Ph.D. on products on the market for erectile dysfunction.  No surprise, she started to see the ads all over her browser in the following days.  What was surprising is that her boyfriend started getting those ads!

What does this have to do with Delve?  This application is a new way to discover relevant information and connections from across your work life.  The information finds you versus you having to find the information and presents itself.  BI Social Intelligence.  Welcome to 2015.

In summary, 2015 promises to be a great year in Microsoft BI.  Look for data from anywhere, social BI, beautiful data visualizations, and better governance.  As I said earlier, there is no lean toward the cloud here, BI is the cloud!  

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