In PerformancePoint Server 2007 Planning, you build centralised business rules in a new language called PerformancePoint Expression Language (PEL). PEL is very MDX-like and relatively straight-forward to pick up, if you are even a little familiar with MDX.
The beauty of PEL is that it can generate either MDX or T-SQL scripts from the same PEL Expression. This allows the developer/analyst to target either the cube itself, using MDX Script, or the fact table, using T-SQL, depending on which implementation approach is more suitable for the type of calculation and from a performance perspective.
Within the Business Rules Editor workspace you can easily select the implementation (SQL or MdxQuery) from the Rules Detail property list
With the Rule saved (it does not have to be deployed) you use the rule context menu to debug the rule.
If you come from a development background like me, you may expect a little more to happen than what actually does happen !
Depending on what implementation you have selected, and whether or not your PEL is valid, either the MDX or the T-SQL is generated from the PEL and displayed in a window. It's important to realise that the PEL expression has not been run. It is for information purposes only.
From this point you can eye-ball the resultant query to help determine your issue or, as I tend to do, cut and paste into a New Query window inside SQL Server Management Studio. The resultant T-SQL tends to be extremely verbose so actually debugging the problem using T-SQL will be rare !
If there is a problem with the actual PEL itself, the reason, in the form of a (normally) reasonably helpful error message is displayed in the window, instead of the resultant MDX/T-SQL.
I was initially a little disappointed with the built-in debugging facilities, but considering the target audience of the Planning Business Modeler, full integration with SSMS or Visual Studio was never going to be a consideration. But, to be fair, it is probably just enough; the debugger is primarily aimed at ensuring your PEL is correct, it stops somewhat short of helping you debug the actual business logic but this can be handled if you cut, paste and hack the resultant MDX or T-SQL into another tool and even that becomes less and less necessary as you develop your PEL writing skills.
Despite all the hype, the recent launch, several PPS related conferences, numerous articles and the pull-no-punches Olap Report Preview ,there is still some doubt about what the Planning element actually offers, well..
To quote directly from the marketing bumf:
Efficiently build budgets, forecasts, and plans in the interface everyone knows—Microsoft Office Excel. PerformancePoint Server 2007 offers auditing capability, centralized control, enhanced security, and the proven data platform of Microsoft SQL Server 2005
For a specific example, imagine, without PerformancePoint Server, trying to build an enterprise-wide solution to capture quarterly financial based budgets and/or forecasts from every budget-holding manager across the organisation, for consolidation and approval by the CFO. The issues you would face would revolve around data-capture, workflow, security, consolidation, business rules, performance, tracking etc. Even if you were successful, it's likely that you would eventually end up in Excel hell, or left with no confidence in the results and a huge team on full-time support.
Step forward PerformancePoint Server Planning. It removes much of the pain associated with all of the above and is not just limited to financial based scenarios. In addition, when integrated with PerformancePoint Monitoring you can track the actuals against the captured plans/targets from Planning to ensure the business stays on track. When the enevitable deviations occur, the Analytics element of PerformancePoint Server (Currently ProClarity) will help analyse why to allow corrective action to be taken.
For a little more detail..
I posted about the Planning Server Topology recently and to compliment this, the excellent deployment guide has been released. It covers all three elements of PerformancePoint Server 2007, not just planning.
It's already bailed me out a couple of times !
The PerformancePoint Server forums are now part of the official TechNet Forums and no longer limited to Microsoft Connect Beta Forums.
For those that didn't see the relatively active Beta forums on Connect, Microsoft separated the product into two groups and this is reflected in the official versions too.
Monitoring and Analytics:
At the time of writing the Planning forum was empty and the M&A forum had just the single topic. It will be interesting to see how the activity picks up through the launch period and into the New Year.