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Microsoft Reveals Plans For 'Kilimanjaro' SQL Server

The next version of SQL Server, due out in 2010, will underpin Microsoft's first data warehouse appliance.
PerformancePoint is considered Microsoft's primary business intelligence software product, but the company's BI strategy goes much deeper than that. In the coming months, it'll be working to develop more technologies and products that heavily rely on SQL Server, with particular focus on the next release of the database.

At its second annual BI conference, starting this week in Seattle, Microsoft will for the first time publicly talk about its next major SQL Server upgrade. Code-named Kilimanjaro, the upgrade is scheduled for delivery in 2010, Microsoft executives said in an interview last week.

Kilimanjaro will provide the foundation for Microsoft's first data warehouse appliance, code-named Madison, and a BI tool called Gemini that's being designed to bring a broader range of employees into the BI fold.

The primary message of this week's conference will be to "think bigger about business intelligence," said Microsoft BI general manager Bob Lokken, who was previously CEO at ProClarity, a BI company Microsoft acquired in 2006.

To create Madison, Microsoft will use data warehouse technology from its recent acquisition of DATAllegro, replacing the underlying open source Ingres database with SQL Server and offering the appliance on standard Dell and Hewlett-Packard servers. Customers will be able to grow their Madison data warehouses by using a "scale out" approach of adding on standard server boxes as they need them. Microsoft also is folding data-quality technology it got from its Zoomix acquisition into SQL Server Integration Services for building data warehouses. With Madison, Microsoft will join Oracle, Netezza, Teradata, and others in scrambling for share of the solid and growing data warehouse appliance market.

Microsoft's Gemini project, meanwhile, will let users build their own reports by pulling large amounts of data from corporate databases -- including those from competitors such as Oracle and Teradata -- and other data sources, such as those on the public Internet. Gemini will present the data in an Excel spreadsheet, using a "slicer" feature that lets users select some of the data for comparison with other parts. Users can then share reports with other employees via SharePoint.

Microsoft has made large gains in BI market share through the success of PerformancePoint, but some BI experts still consider its technologies as lightweight compared with more powerful databases and BI tools from some competitors. This week's announcements show Microsoft's continuing effort to make BI more accessible to other types of employees, while strengthening the underlying technologies of those BI tools.