Tim Kent's Blog

PerformancePoint CTP4 out

From Ben Tamblyn - The CTP4 for PerformancePoint is now on the connect site.  Couple of things to note from the read-mes and doco:

  • This is just the 32-bit release - 64-bit will be out next week due to a performance issue being resolved.
  • If you're still on CTP1 or CTP2 you'll need to uninstall before you install CTP4.  You can upgrade from CTP3 but make sure backup anything important

Lots of new functionality in both Planning and Monitoring.  Some key ones:

  • Sorting in Analytic Charts and Grids
  • Formatting on charts and grids
  • Lots of new chart types
  • Export dashboards to Powerpoint (Not sure if this will be live data like you can do in Proclarity)
  • PAS integration
  • Planning server performance improvements
  • migration between environments

This is the last CTP release before product launch next month.  The US launch looks like it will be a big do, with lots of super-excitement! So what's in store for us?


Analysis Services Stored Procedures - Views

Whilst not changing nappies and singing lullabies, Sacha is developing a .Net mdx helper class that behaves very much like an ADOMD command and runs an mdx query that returns a data table.   "Why not just use ADOMD?" I hear you ask - as Sacha mentions there are a number of reasons such as the fact that the data types are not returned (needed by .Net controls like Chartfx) and top level hierarchies ("All Time" etc ) are not always returned dependant on your query layout.  And in fact Sacha's little helper (ho ho ho) does use ADOMD but rather than use the returned table it parses the XML file that is generated.  This XML is actually quite simple once you get your head around the layout and is in fact very rich containing all sorts of metadata that is not returned in by ADOMD

Other nice functionality includes the ability to return a number of cube and database properties (Description etc, last update, last processed);

But the functionality I really like is that the class uses a stored query definition which can contain parameters much like a SQL stored procedure.    Sach and I have had a number of conversations over the past few days about why there is no concept of this in AS2005 (or 2008?) and haven't come up with a valid reason.  Surely people out there want to be able to re-use the same mdx queries (with different parameters).  How cool would it be to be able to use "exec mdxsp_GetResults(Param1, Param2)" in various mdx editors.  At current the query defs are stored in text files but we're looking at alternatives such as using msdb or the even the xmla cube def itself.

In fact I'm surprised that no-one has done this already - or have they?? Very interested to know if people think this is something worthwhile?

NB - if you found this blog looking for the excellent AS Stored procedures project it's here

Dates for the diary

As reported by David Francis PerformancePoint has a target release to market date of September - seems a little ambitious with CTP4 only coming out a month earlier 

Ben Tamblyn has also tickled our tastebuds with talk of a UK Business Intelligence Conference later this year.

As Sach has reported SQL 2008 and VS 2008 get released early next year.

And lastly and most definitely most importantly is the 7th July 2007 which is the date that Sacha and Julia's daughter Rosie Tomey was born!! Huge congrats mate :) 

Who will buy PerformancePoint?

An interesting article published by Stephen Swoyer on the TDWI website suggests that PerformancePoint might not appeal to the audience that MS intends it to and it's biggest competitor will be itself in the form of Office, Excel and the existing MS BI stack.  It's a little sensationalist and not particularly well researched (no mention of planning or ProClarity!) but it did get me thinking about who actually will buy the product and what they will do with it.

The article suggests that the price tag will put off small to medium businesses and indeed if it were only a reporting product (as the article seems to suggest) the price tag may be a little high - though hardly out of the league of other third party reporting products on the market.  In my opinion it is the unmentioned planning component that will be one of the main selling points for those small to medium businesses that the article suggests will be put off by the price tag;  The ones who currently plan and forecast using a monstrous spreadsheets and outrageous pivot tables. You know the ones - where some clever accountant has re-written a relational db engine using most of the Excel functions ;)

Edit:  As my colleague Sacha has just reminded me, you also have to take into consideration that the planning component requires the writeback functionality of SQL Enterprise Edition which of course adds a fairly hefty chunk to the price tag.  However I still feel that the pricing for a fully fledged BPM suite is very competitive.

Once you throw the ProClarity functionality and Sharepoint integration into the mix as well then the costs become really hard to argue against even if you're not going to use all the components.  In reality I think that most of the potential clients will already favour MS and are likely to have some element of the BI stack in place already.  However as Chris Webb suggests, the concept of a business user being able to carry out most of the tasks required to put a PerformancePoint implementation live may be a little unrealistic.  I think us techies may not be out of a job just yet!

What the article does get across is that PerformancePoint isn't really very well understood yet by those who have actually heard of it.  September release dates are still being bandied around and it seems MS has some work to do .  Of course, as with most major MS products, the take-up on version 1.0 is not likely to be huge but the marketing department needs to get started now to be ready for V2.0 (or maybe V1 SP1!)

PerformancePoint Resources

There's still (understandably) relatively little information out there about PerformancePoint and what to do if you have an issue but one that I'm guessing gets overlooked is the Connect site itself.  There's a lot of feedback starting to build up so there is a good chance that the issue you've come across has been logged by someone else already and may have a solution.

And of course don't forget to give feedback of your own if you find something that doesn't work or you don't like.

Update: as Nick Barclay has spotted, the official PPS team blog seems to have fired up again after a period of inactivity.  Well worth keeping an eye on.

CTP3 PerformancePoint Now available

In what will no doubt be a huge cross post of blogs, Ben Tamblyn got there first with the news that the CTP3 of PerformancePoint is now available from the Connect web site.

This release is only for the monitoring component - CTP4 will be a Planning release.  There are a couple of hot fixes available for Planning

DO make sure you read the upgrade guide in the Documentation download - it's not as simple as just installing the new release over the top.

Best BI Blogs

These days if you want to keep up with all the latest news and developments (especially in our small little BI world) you need to follow the blogs of those who are in the know.

Here are some of our favourites:

An idea or two... SSIS expert Colin Kirkby (and top guy) Cutting edge!
Chris Webb's BI Blog MDX Guru! (Thanks for the link Chris :)
Christian Wade's Blog A bit quiet recently but still a great archive of posts
Darren Gosbell [MVP] - Random Procrastination Australian BI guru and mastermind behind the excellent BIDS Helper
Donald Farmer: Doing Data Integration Soft spoken Scot and MS Group program Manager (and fish farmer) some great posts.  Leading the data mining push at MS
Establish. Execute. Evolve. Adrian Downes MS BI blog with some great PerformancePoint posts - Adrian co-wrote an excellent BSM book  with Nick Barclay (see below)
Hitachi Consulting BI Blog A combined blog from the folks at Hitachi (though mostly Reed Jacobson)
Intelligent Insight on PerformancePoint Ben Tamblyn is Solution Channel Development Manager for MS in the UK and has some great insight on what MS are up to in the BPM world
JamieMac's Weblog Jamie MacLennan is AS Dev Manager at Microsoft - excellent data mining resource
Microsoft Analysis Services Edward Melomed's Blog - The AS Program Manager and one of the original members of the AS team
Microsoft Business Intelligence Blog Patrick Husting's blog - some good PerformancePoint posts here. Patrick is another BSM expert
Microsoft OLAP by Mosha Pasumansky The one and only....
Molding the Microsoft BI Stack Shameless plug for my business partner Sacha Tomey's excellent BI and .Net Blog
Nick Barclay's BI Blog Nick is BSM expert and co author with Adrian Downes (see above)
PerformancePoint Server 2007 Troy Scott is posting some of the best PPS blogs at the moment
Random thoughts on Microsoft Business Intelligence products Patrice Truong's great SQL BI blog
SimonS SQL Server Stuff More general SQL than BI but still a good read
SQL BI Marco Russo - his bio is in Italian (but his excellent blog is in English)
SQL Server 2005 Business Intelligence Mr Sutha Thiru - he never sleeps!
SSIS Junkie Conchango's Jamie Thomson SSIS - if you haven't heard of him you should give up now!
Thoughts of a Freelance Dolphin Trainer Steve Mchugh - A bit different but always entertaining and very knowledgeable ;)
The Kirkopedia Kirk Hasselden - Kirk was development manager for SSIS and now focuses on Microsoft's MDM outlook

Of course there's plenty more so apologies if I've missed anyone - please let me know and I'll add them.

When I have a bit more time I'll add these to a link section on the site