MicroStrategy Upgrade Promises Performance and Flexibility Breakthroughs

In-memory technology improves performance. Multi-source engine eases data access and incremental BI rollouts.
Bowing its most significant release since its 7.0 launch eight and a half years ago, business intelligence vendor MicroStrategy today announced MicroStrategy 9 at its annual user conference in Las Vegas. The release features in-memory technology, a recognized performance booster and IT work saver. More significant is a new multi-source engine that provides federated access to myriad data sources while easing departmental deployments and enterprise-level rollups as BI implementations grow.

The new multi-source engine is designed to provide "unified, multidimensional modeling supporting multiple databases." In other words, it's geared to typical scenarios in which organizations have multiple data sources they would like to include in BI analyses and reports.

"Companies can't always build an enterprise data warehouse, but with multi-source, if you have data in five different places, you can model it and start analyzing and reporting off it without moving the data," says Brian Brinkmann, MicroStrategy's Director of Product Marketing.

Enterprise information integration vendors including Composite Software, a current MicroStrategy partner, offer software that serves much the same federation role, but Brinkmann contends MicroStrategy's multi-source engine offers performance advantages.

"Rather than issue queries and bring all that data back to a mid-tier sever, as an EII product would, we can issue optimized queries to each data source and then push that data back to the database. It's an efficient approach because you're bringing together the smallest amounts of data and you leverage the power of the database, which is inherently built and optimized for those types of joins."

The multi-source engine will also support an evolutionary path from workgroup and departmental BI deployments to an enterprise-level approach, says MicroStrategy. As departmental data is moved into the warehouse, the multi-dimensional model can simply be pointed at the new source, and reports and dashboards will run without rebuilding the model itself.

Nobody would call the addition of in-memory technology a pioneering move for MicroStrategy, as companies including QlikTech, Spotfire (now a part of TIBCO) and Applix TM1 (now a part of IBM Cognos) have had it for years. In-memory technology takes advantage of hardware-based memory and multi-core processors to speed queries and ease data exploration while also eliminating IT data-prep work such as cube building. MicroStrategy is bringing the technology to market ahead of Microsoft, which plans to bow in-memory in 2010. And in another differentiator, MicroStrategy says in-memory is a standard feature of the core BI suite rather than a separate product (as is the case for IBM Cognos TM1 and the SAP Business Objects BI Accelerator appliance).

"In-memory technology will be built into our OLAP Services, so if you have that product, you'll get in-memory [with the 9.0 upgrade]," says Brinkmann. "We're not issuing a new product called 'In-Memory BI' that customers will have to buy separately."

Other upgrades in MicroStrategy 9 include a new Distribution Services component that offers self-service and personalized and control over dashboard and report distribution. Users will reportedly be able to specify distribution formats, scheduling and destinations as well as event- and alert-based triggers with minimal support from IT.

Incremental upgrades to MicroStrategy 9.0 are said to include improved interactivity and drill-down capabilities on OLAP-based data through dynamic dashboards as well as optimization of SQL generation for faster query times.

Despite all the upgrades, Version 9 is backward-compatible with Version 8, requiring no rebuilding of reports, metrics, or user/security profiles. Product pricing was not disclosed.