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Archive for August, 2011

The much anticipated release of CTP 3 occurred on 11 July this year: http://blogs.technet.com/b/dataplatforminsider/archive/2011/07/11/sql-server-code-name-denali-ctp3-is-here.aspx

The past month has seen me building a virtual machine containing all the new features in the next version of SQL Server, specifically the BI ones. Top of my list was Project Crescent along with the new version of PowerPivot. I’ve also been delving into the new version of Master Data Services and started taking a look at Data Quality Services today. Here is my impression on what I’ve seen so far:

PowerPivot

The new release of PowerPivot is really great and I am impressed with a lot of the new capabilities including: KPIs, hierarchies, diagram view, multiple relationships on the same field, meta data, advanced column sorting, perspectives, measure formatting and the ability to show details by right-clicking on the PivotTable. I also like the fact that you can change a field property to ImageURL (Advanced Properties) and then have these images appear in your Crescent reports.

To get a full list of the new features, open the PowerPivot window, click on the Help icon and then select the What’s New menu item.

Project Crescent

Wow, I really like Crescent! Crescent reports are pretty much Silverlight PivotTables based on PowerPivot models (uploaded to SharePoint 2010) or the new Tabular version of Analysis Services. The reports are very dynamic and filtering in one area automatically filters data in the other PivotTables and graphs (called Highlighting). The scatter chart also has an option for a Play Axis which is great for comparing data over time. Some of you may remember this report in the PowerPivot Management Dashboard in SharePoint’s Central Administration. Below is a screen grab of the report I created from my rugby PowerPivot data.

The only downside I see to Crescent is the fact that you need SharePoint 2010 Enterprise Edition in order to get access to any of the cool BI features. This is going to prevent a lot of customers leveraging the new technology. And currently, I’m unaware of any applications which will be able to render these reports on a mobile device.

Microsoft Visual Studio 2010

So far I’ve explored the Tabular version of Analysis Services. It’s PowerPivot in Visual Studio (in blue instead of green) with a whole bunch of over advanced features e.g. Partitions and Roles. All up it looks decent. When embarking on a new project, architects will now need to decide as to whether they go the classic Analysis Services route (as we know it) or if they go the Tabular route.

Only thing I couldn’t see was how to add calculated DAX measures in my Tabular project…

Master Data Services

I must say that I was looking forward to an upgraded version of MDS but was disappointed to see that the majority of the application was unchanged. There are some Silverlight screens now embedded in the UI to improve the experience and performance but that was about it. There is also an Excel 2010 MDS add-in that allows you to connect to an MDS instance. This add-in will enable you to manage your master data in a very familiar environment to all of us. I’ll need to explore this feature in more detail to see how robust it is.

Data Quality Services

As I mentioned earlier, I only started looking at this new addition earlier today and my first impressions are good. I setup a Knowledge Base with some Domain Rules and Term-based Relations and it worked well. The UI also looks decent – a lot better than MDS. Below is another screen grab.

What will be interesting to validate is the matching capabilities as one really wants to be able to easily de-duplicate datasets.

Stay tuned for more…

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