Software // Information Management
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1/15/2009
10:17 AM
Mark Smith
Mark Smith
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MicroStrategy 9 Brings Simplicity and Sophistication to BI

I attended MicroStrategy's 12th annual user conference in Las Vegas this week where the company unveiled version 9, the next major step for its BI platform. This release brings more than 8,000 enhancements and upgrades along with new products through advancements to the platform and suite of tools to support broad enterprise deployments as well as departmental and workgroup deployments no matter what size of business you operate...

I attended MicroStrategy's 12th annual user conference in Las Vegas this week where the company unveiled version 9, the next major step for its BI platform. This release brings more than 8,000 enhancements and upgrades along with new products through advancements to the platform and suite of tools to support broad enterprise deployments as well as departmental and workgroup deployments no matter what size of business you operate.

MicroStrategy is well known to support the most complex enterprise requirements, having some of the largest BI deployments in terms of data volumes and numbers of user. Now in this release they have simplified the implementation and integration of BI in many methods that will expand the realm of what is possible with BI. Most importantly it will make it simpler to deploy sophisticated and easy-to-use BI. I hope to see how MicroStrategy will also make lower-cost entry points for smaller teams of business and IT groups. But by addressing the need for business users and analysts to easily design and deploy BI on a robust platform, this release brings enterprise class capabilities with in-memory and multi-source ROLAP for accessing data and processing it efficiently to support any type of deployment.It's always important to highlight commitment from customers, and Target executives presented a keynote on its BI program and deployment of MicroStrategy. Target is focused on using a single version of information through BI, delivering results faster, and enabling better analytics and insights. Target has standardized on MicroStrategy and has deployed to thousands of users from ad-hoc and reporting needs, operating globally on IBM DB2. Target uses MicroStrategy for a wide range of business needs including guest relationship management, store management, financial services and vendor operations for business-to-business relationships. Target outlined best practices for a successful BI program that combine the people and process needs along with use of consistent information and a plan to establish further data governance processes.

Let's dive into the MicroStrategy 9 release for those of you who love BI and want to get to the technical details. For enterprise-class BI needs, this new version offers key technology advancements to improve query performance, including in-memory ROLAP for improving dynamic calculation and response without having to make multiple rounds to the database. To ensure the freshness of the data in memory, there is a new capability to extract and load data from a range of relational and multi-dimensional sources. By reducing the load on the database, this in-memory capability saves money on licensing of database infrastructure, but most importantly it delivers optimal response time to business users.

The new multi-source ROLAP capability in MicroStrategy 9 supports transparent querying of multiple databases and sources, including Microsoft Excel and OLAP sources, to ensure that all data assets in the enterprise are fully leveraged. To manage the optimization of these ROLAP cubes, MicroStrategy has introduced a Cube Advisor to help fine tune deployments. In addition, the company has made significant advancements in its SQL Optimization to ensure that interactions with the database are done in the most intelligent manner to leverage the horsepower of the database and hardware it operates on.

Improving performance across the server and Web browser is central to this new release. This is addressed by optimizing interaction and fast use of data with 64-bit support for J2EE and ASP.net servers to support larger-scale deployments. The release also uses Extreme AJAX technology that can manage interactions and transfer of data between the Web browser and server. This helps spreads the processing of BI across the computing power of local machines, which can dramatically improve the responsiveness of your BI deployments.

Now that organizations deploy BI across the Web around the world, it's important to be able to support people in any country or language. MicroStrategy 9 respondes with single- and double-byte languages support. MicroStrategy also has brought forward methods to improve integration and administration of global BI deployments. For example, version 9 automates LDAP integration through synchronization and single sign-on with CA SiteMinder, IBM Tivoli and advancements in security enforcements for identification and password access. In addition, distributed development and deployment are supported with change management through journaling, update packages and administration of users, projects and security from anywhere in the world. With a new product called Graphical Architect, MicroStrategy 9 can handle global, department and workgroup deployments with a centralized method to manage the metadata and interfaces to the development or production environment seamlessly.

Leveraging existing investments like enterprise portals, MicroStrategy offers Portal integration at no cost, with support as well as built-in integration with Microsoft SharePoint, SAP NetWeaver, Oracle WebLogic and IBM WebSphere, making it easier to deploy results from BI throughout the enterprise. Some more enticement to upgrade to version 9!

Making BI easily accessible to any class or group of business users demands less IT interaction and more business self-service. MicroStrategy has advanced self-service to reports and dashboards in Version 9 with templates and assistants that make it easier for business users to handle design and development needs. The product also enables drill anywhere on grids and charts and also brings Internet content dynamically into the dashboards to build mashups of relevant content outside your BI environment through passing context to feeds like RSS/XML. MicroStrategy has a new product called Distribution Services that gives business users the ability to subscribe, distribute, format, determine delivery forms and trigger information dynamically with personal or group level alerting. All of this is to address the pent-up demand within businesses to have greater control of their BI destiny, which is critical for decision making and performance management needs.

MicroStrategy has expanded its reporting robustness with statement printing, multi-layout documents, repeating sections and conditional formatting while making it simple to drag and drop to design simple or sophisticated reports and dashboards. The new Graphic Architect in MicroStrategy 9 gives business analysts a much easier way to design, source and build BI deployments. And with MicroStrategy Office support, blending personal productivity tools with enterprise BI without having to upgrade your infrastructure is a key point of this release.

I did not hear as much at the event as in recent years about integration and leverage of organization's existing investments into ERP, like SAP and Oracle. Nor did I hear about where they might be taking their platform in terms of using elements of location and geography, as they have in the past with MapInfo. There is also the question of more formally addressing planning and forecasting and potentially even where technology events are triggering business actions. But through partners and customization, a lot is possible with this release, as the APIs and mashup capabilities will continue to be a key component of the platform. I have also seen some demonstrations showing MicroStrategy on Apple iPhone and other devices, which will be critical to ensuring that MicroStrategy BI can be accessed anywhere business needs it.

Summarizing the product discussion, the business simplicity and technical sophistication of this new release is part of why organizations looking for serious BI should take a look at MicroStrategy. They have brought the full power of BI and OLAP to not just IT but to business users and analyst, reducing the need for IT involvement. Of course IT will find some dramatic new flexibility in designing BI to be part of the information architecture and in integrating existing investments while ensuring the right level of performance and scalability. For many of those that use MicroStrategy today, the new release due in March will not come fast enough. For those who have not looked at MicroStrategy for a while, get in line, as this will be a major industry milestone for BI in 2009.

Let me know your thoughts or come and collaborate with us on LinkedIn and Facebook.I attended MicroStrategy's 12th annual user conference in Las Vegas this week where the company unveiled version 9, the next major step for its BI platform. This release brings more than 8,000 enhancements and upgrades along with new products through advancements to the platform and suite of tools to support broad enterprise deployments as well as departmental and workgroup deployments no matter what size of business you operate...

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