RESEARCH & RESOURCES

Partners Revel in SQL Server 2005 Launch

Most of Microsoft’s BI partners have been champing at the bit for some time now. This week they got a chance to strut their stuff.

Microsoft Corp. isn’t the only one with a lot riding on SQL Server 2005.

After all, Microsoft’s business intelligence (BI) partner ecosystem grew up on top of (or came into its own thanks to) SQL Server 2000’s foundational BI stack. Not surprisingly, then, most of Microsoft’s BI partners have long been prepping SQL Server 2005-oriented releases of their core BI offerings.

And at Microsoft’s SQL Server 2005 launch event in San Francisco, ProClarity Corp., Panorama Software Ltd., and others finally got a chance to tout their own SQL Server-powered products. It’s been a long time coming.

Some of Microsoft’s partners (such as ProClarity) have supported SQL Server 2005 features or enhancements for about a year already, so it’s hard to tell who’s more excited now that the next-gen database is finally here. ProClarity, for example, announced ProClarity Analytics 6.1, a SQL Server 2005-ready update of its core business analytics suite. It’s a pivotal release for Boise-based ProClarity, which—in spite of its embracement of Oracle and DB2—remains firmly in the SQL Server camp.

“It’s mostly a SQL Server-based business for us, and, quite frankly, the work that we do [to support Oracle and DB2] really helps people migrate from those other database platforms to SQL Server,” says Clay Young, senior vice-president of strategic marketing with ProClarity.

The new ProClarity 6.1 release boasts support for SQL Server 2005’s new Unified Dimensional Model (UDM); a new Dashboard Server offering; a new Publishing Server component, which Young says can generate PDF and HTML documents that combine analytic views and author commentaries; and canned integration with Microsoft’s Business Scorecard Manager (BSM) performance management tool. But the key, Young insists, is Microsoft’s next-generation database. “Obviously, it’s been a long dry spell between SQL Server releases. But the end game for us is finally having a new [SQL Server] release out there. It’s fresh technology. It’s pretty innovative technology.”

Indeed, now that the next version of SQL Server is finally a reality—or a soon-but-inevitability-to-be-Generally-Available reality, anyway—he expects to see a surge in Oracle- and DB2-to-SQL Server 2005 migrations. Given the pricing and all-in-one attractiveness of SQL Server 2005, Young says it’s a no-brainer.

“Having a powerful scriptable Integration Services [the former Data Transformation Services], a more powerful scripted Analysis Services, the unified approach to relational and multidimensional [data], the notification services—all of those things come together to allow me to drive much lower TCO for our customers,” he comments. “For just the relational database, you could spend $250,000. For data integration, you could spend another $80,000 or $90,000. For the OLAP technologies, you could spend even more. But this gets very expensive, and I challenge you to prove that SQL Server 2005 is inferior to the relational or OLAP stack of any other vendor on the market.” In addition to its BI platform launch, ProClarity also announced a SQL Server 2005 BI Resource Center, complete with toolkit downloads, white papers, and—of course—deployment and design advice from ProClarity experts. To a large degree, Young suggests, ProClarity’s new site is a reflection of the new SQL Server’s steep—and potentially intimidating—learning curve.

“This is all about making sure that people actually have clarity on what the best practices are on SQL Server 2005 and demonstrating that we have deep domain expertise on how you use these [new SQL 2005 features] for BI,” he explains. “The business-as-usual concept around SQL Server 2005 is anything but business as usual. The new approach to UDM is radically different and basically renders the old OLAP null and void; the [Integration Services] have been given a complete makeover, and there are a number of different ways you can build your data warehouses. Really, everything is very different. To me, this is a lot like the old SQL Server 7.0 launch, where [Microsoft was] first introducing this idea of OLAP to a broader market, and I felt like we were doing a huge amount of education and kind of knowledge sharing work.”

Partners Revel in SQL Server 2005 Launch

Panorama, too, has built a thriving BI practice on top of Microsoft’s Office and SQL Server technology stacks. Last month, for example, that company announced a new version of its Panorama Corporate Performance Management (CPM) product, which used to be called “Symphony.” Panorama’s CPM release was keyed to Microsoft’s BSM announcement; BSM itself is Redmond’s most overt-to-date foray into branded BI and BPM. But Panorama, like ProClarity, appears unfazed: In fact, officials talked up Panorama CPM’s integration with BSM and the rest of Microsoft’s Office suite, which (by the way) is expected to get a BI infusion in its next release.

Monday’s launch gala was a much more straightforward proposition for Panorama, ProClarity, and other Microsoft partners, however. After all, SQL Server 2005 ships with improved OLAP, data mining, ETL, and other highly complementary BI services.

To that end, Panorama officials were on hand to trumpet a new version 5.0 release of the company’s BI suite—tweaked for SQL Server 2005, of course. Like rival ProClarity, Panorama positions its BI technology as a complement to, and extension of, the base-level capabilities that Microsoft provides with SQL Server and Office.

Officials say the new Panorama 5.0 release has been tweaked to take advantage of UDM and SQL 2005’s revamped Analysis Services, along with the new SQL Server Integration Services. It taps SQL Server for reporting and dashboarding capabilities, ratchets up integration with Microsoft’s SharePoint collaborative technologies, and ships with a new .NET client.

Elsewhere, Microsoft partners Acorn Systems and Sonata Software announced new SQL 2005-ready versions of their flagship products, Enterprise Performance Suite 3.0 and SonnetBI Analyzer Suite. EPS 3.0 includes Acorn’s application server, Reporting Services Server, integration with Office SharePoint Portal Server 2003, and Acorn .NET Components, which are pre-defined templates for Reporting. Sonata says its new SonnetBI Analyzer is built on top of SQL Server 2005. It’s targeted for the analytics needs of Finance, Sales, Promotion, Procurement, Inventory & Production managers. Sonata also unveiled several SQL 2005-oriented migration services, collectively called SonnetSTARS. These services promise to help users migrate from other databases to SQL Server 2005.

About the Author


Stephen Swoyer is a technology writer with 20 years of experience. His writing has focused on business intelligence, data warehousing, and analytics for almost 15 years. Swoyer has an abiding interest in tech, but he’s particularly intrigued by the thorny people and process problems technology vendors never, ever want to talk about. You can contact him at evets@alwaysbedisrupting.com.

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