Saturday, December 19, 2009

Dundas Dashboards , Silverlight and Microsoft Business Intelligence

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Silverlight is a term that has slowly become or is becoming quite integral part of .Net development world. But when it comes to Microsoft Business Intelligence world, it might seems to be a unknown rock on the BI landscape. But the fact is that Silverlight has already started making it's space slowly in the Business Intelligence arena.

Thou Microsoft has not directly come out with any product that integrates into the MS BI or its related stack of technologies, but 3rd party vendors have already started exploring the potential of visualization capability of Silverlight. Also to extend the reach of Silverlight content, Microsoft partnered with Novell and created Moonlight which is a plugin that can facilitate Linux users to access Silverlight content.

In June 2007, Dundas announced that it has licensed Microsoft for the usage of its source code for a part of Dundas Advanced Visualizations which included Dundas Charts and Dundas Gauge. And we saw a really professional set of charting and visualization capabilities in SSRS 2008. The first step in the share of Silverlight on the landscape of MS BI is on the delivery end of a BI solution i.e. Dashboarding and it has been developed by Dundas in the form of Dundas Dashboards developed using Silverlight. It's Dashboard visualizations are very impressive and in my viewpoint, it definitely has the potential to outperform the visualization capabilities of Performancepoint Server 2007. Thou Performancepoint Services for Sharepoint has now improvised in this area and seems like now it has digested the codebase of Proclarity to a better extent, but still in my views, the visualizations provided by Dundas Dashboards are quite competitive.

I am not sure about the pricing policies, and how well it integrates with the MS BI solution deck. But considering the history of integration of Dundas with Microsoft set of technologies, and its established milestone achievement in SSRS, it's would not be a wonder if we see Dundas Dashboards in the Dashboarding deck of MS BI Solution as a part of Performancepoint visualizations.

A full evaluation version of Dundas Dashboards can be downloaded from here. And to the best of my knowledge, after the evaluation expires, the components don't stop working but would start showing up a watermarked image in the background of the visualizations. Still check it out yourself.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Pivoting and Business Intelligence

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The term "Pivot" just used to be perceived as a small functionality before a couple of years. Over the period of time, it is quite amazing to see how this term has took so much importance in the industry.

Pivoting has made it's journey over the period of time that can evidently be seen in smaller steps. Firstly, it used to be mostly limited to pivot tables that used to exist in Excel. This slowly became one of the key functionality that addicted business users with Microsoft Excel. Office Web Component (OWC) which also contained this functionality, became very popular and started to make it's place in stand-alone and distributed applications.

Sensing the need for the same in database development, Microsoft introduced PIVOT and UNPIVOT operators in T-SQL with SQL Server 2005. This made queries much easier for developers, which used be a lengthy and complex piece of code used to creating resultsets that were typically consumed by some cross-tab reports. SQL Server Analysis Services 2005 (SSAS) cube browsing also got facilitated by using OWC.

Sensing a feature/characteristic of pivoting to aggregate huge information, project Gemini was started which finally resulted into what we know today as PowerPivot. It can aggregate i.e. pivot and analyse huge data from a variety of sources using engine of SSAS and interface of Microsoft Excel and looks very promising with its charting and analysis capabilities. Also it seems like Microsoft plans to go big in this direction, as Microsoft has set up a dedicated lab kind of research setup for pivoting known as Microsoft Livelabs Pivot.

Importance of pivoting is not just recognized by Microsoft, but other industry vendors are also making their move in this direction to get their slice of business. Infragistics has announced release of their Silverlight Data Visualization CTP which consits of two basic controls : OLAP Pivot Grid and Data Chart. OLAP Pivot Grid fetches data from analysis services using ADOMD and visualizations generated by it can be compared to that of Dundas Charts and others.

It seems like Pivoting is turning out to be new big business arena that has not been exploited to the best of its potential.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

XML AUTO option vs Tabular Data Stream ( TDS ) in SQL Server

I'm reading: XML AUTO option vs Tabular Data Stream ( TDS ) in SQL ServerTweet this !
Comparative study is one of the best ways to benchmark, compare and conclude right option for the right job. I came across an interesting comparative study of size of data that gets created by results returned thru TDS compared to size of data that gets created by FOR XML AUTO option for the same piece of data.

Even to my surprise, there is a huge difference between the two options when this size of data is to be accessed over the network. So when you expect huge resultsets to be returned, you might want to think twice by looking at the results in the below image (Image courtesy: It's not that XML option is not good, it has it's own place and set of requirements that it caters. But while designing your architecture, this piece of comparative study is worth considering and it can also prove helpful to carry out a Proof-Of-Concept ( POC ) before considering this option in your low-level designs.

Original article can be read from here.
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