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Doug Henschen
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Microsoft Tops 2010 BI Survey

In a finding that bodes well for Microsoft SQL Server, a new InformationWeek report shows 49% of firms are using the vendor's business intelligence tools.

"If SQL Server is something that only Microsoft shops would be interested in, then MS has big problems."

This comment, made in response to last week's coverage of Microsoft's Parallel Data Warehouse (PDW) and "Denali" SQL Server release, is a glass-half-empty take on what could just as easily be viewed as a juggernaut scenario for Microsoft BI, Microsoft PDW and Microsoft SQL Server.

BI Vendors Survey Results
(click image for larger view)
BI Vendors Survey Result
It all depends on how you define "Microsoft shop" and "BI market share." Let me explain.

If you want a rosy perspective on Microsoft's position in the BI market, click on the thumbnail image at right and you'll find the company's BI products at the top of the list in terms of use, planned use and evaluation. This chart, from our recent InformationWeek Analytics 2010 BI and Information Management Survey, is based on feedback from 410 respondents currently using or planning to deploy business intelligence technologies.

(The larger report, which you can download here, is based on September 2010 survey responses from 484 qualified business technology professionals. The chart presented here is included in the Appendix of the report.)

As you can see, Microsoft is in a dominant position, with tools currently in use by half (49%) of respondents and planned use by 6% of respondents, roughly 50% higher than the next-closest competitors (those being Oracle, IBM and SAS, each with 4% planned use).

As impressive as these stats may be, you have to keep in mind that Microsoft BI is not like any other BI suite out there in that it's free. If you license Microsoft SQL Server, SharePoint (Enterprise) and Microsoft Office, you own all the components of Microsoft BI.

Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2 provides built-in Reporting Services, Analysis Services, Integration Services and the PowerPivot in-memory-analysis plug-in for Excel. SharePoint Enterprise Edition gives you PerformancePoint Services for dashboarding, scorecarding and analytic capabilities. And Microsoft Office gives you Excel, which is the number-one BI interface in the industry, exploited by Microsoft as well as other vendors as a ubiquitous data-consumption tool.

The complication is that you may buy and use SQL Server, SharePoint and Office for purposes having nothing to do with BI. So the question is, how do you define "Microsoft shop" when it comes to BI? There are plenty of firms out there that might use Microsoft SQL Server and even various services yet still identify their enterprise as an SAP BusinessObjects, MicroStrategy or (insert rival BI vendor name here) shop.

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