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PerformancePoint At Last: Q&A With Microsoft's Alex Payne and Michael Smith

After four years in development and more than a year in beta testing, Microsoft PerformancePoint is finally shipping. Intelligent Enterprise discusses what the platform delivers and what critics are saying with two key executives who helped guide development, packaging and pricing.
There's been some press that PerformancePoint won't really be complete until the release of SQL Server 2008. Any clarifications on that?

AP: There was some misinformation that PerformancePoint won't really shine without SQL Server 2008, but that's fundamentally wrong. The version of PerformancePoint announced this week was built for and requires SQL Server 2005. In SQL Server 2008, yes, there will be new BI and data warehousing functionality — a lot of functionality in the core engine itself and inside Analysis Services and Reporting Services. When that product is released next year, we'll come out with service packs that will allow PerformancePoint to take advantage of the new functionality.

What will be the biggest advances with the release of SQL Server 2008?

AP: I'd say that will be in the area of pure data warehousing, with features like intra-partition parallelism, higher data scales, indexing around partitions and other improvements for scalability, performance and data warehousing workloads. We're going after the 40- and 50-terabyte data warehouses.

Any other misconceptions you'd like to clear up?

AP: Some people misunderstand the functionality that comes with PerformancePoint. It's what we were talking about earlier — planning, budgeting, forecasting specifically for the finance office. We've published three case studies already, and Microsoft itself has been using PerformancePoint for forecasting and planning in house for more than two years. There's a lot more content there specifically for finance than the competition wants to give us credit for.

The other point I'd stress is that it's integrated from a monitoring, analysis and planning perspective. If you build your plans, your cubes are better, your scorecards are better your analysis is better because of the rich data model that comes from the planning exercise. Models are essentially rendered as underlying Analysis Services cubes. Our scorecards are built on top of those cubes. When you do analysis, either in Excel or in the browser, you're slicing, dicing and cross-drilling against those same cubes…

Finally, we have priced PerformancePoint for broad deployment at $20,000 per server and $195 per client access license, and we've included a lot in that license. You don't have to pay extra to do scorecarding. You don't have to pay extra to extend analysis capabilities out to line managers. With that one license, you can do planning, scorecarding, analysis, reporting — everything in PerformancePoint. As a result, customers like Energizer are giving it to more people, and we've priced it so customers can spread access to tens of thousands of users.