Datazen – First Impressions

April 14th saw Microsoft announce their latest acquisition – Datazen Software.  Excited with the possibilities this meant for our Enterprise BI Portal, and Microsoft’s BI suite in general I immediately downloaded Datazen and decided to lift the lid.  Here are my findings.

What  Datazen brings to Microsoft

There’s a lot that can be mentioned here, so i’m just going to break it down to the key points I’ve noticed.

Rich authoring experience:

There are multitude of dashboard creation options that dashboard authors can select from and build.  By a simple drag and resize, you can stand up an executive dashboard in minutes, with a good variety of visualisations available.  Snap to grid is nifty, and lets you align KPIs with ease.

Cross device compatible:

Out of the box compatibility with Windows, Android and Apple.  Pretty straight forward and a welcome addition to Microsoft’s BI offering.  As a designer you also have the choice to design dashboards for tablet and / or phone use.

kpi-repository

Visually Appealing and interactive:

The front end of Datazen is pretty impressive.  Nice clean design and attractive use of colours.  Dashboards are highly interactive with drill throughs, filters and time sliders.  Touch enabled, immediate insight to key metrics are possible directly from your tablet / phone.

drill

Separation of Roles:

The role of the business user and the developer are clearly separated in Datazen. Developers can author data views via the management interface, handling the complexities of query writing and authentication settings, which allows the business user to focus on building dashboards that best represent what they want to convey to the business via the friendly authoring application.

Speed to setup:

Easy to install, the speed and simplicity in standing up a new environment is assisted with well defined documentation provided by Datazen

Integration

Published dashboards are pretty easily integrated to sharepoint via wiki pages with embedded code provided by Datazen

Potential Points of Improvement

  • Unfortunately User Management demands considerable administrative overhead at the moment.  Thankfully this is something Microsoft excel in so bringing their expertise in User Management via Active Directory groups to reduce the overhead of user management will be a welcome improvement.
  • Future security integration with SharePoint to provide a seamless user experience will also be welcome

Technical Requirements

  • Windows Server, IIS (Internet Information Services) and optional integration with Active Directory for User Management
  • Consumption across all mobile devices including Microsoft, Android and Apple
  • In browser consumption requires HTML5 (sorry IE8 users it may be time to upgrade!)
  • Authoring dashboards requires a Windows 8 App which you can download from the store
  • System Management is performed in browser, along with authoring of data views and KPI’s

Licencing Requirements

Current SQL Server Enterprise License Holders with Software Assurance can use Datazen for no additional cost, while those who don’t meet these requirements can licence Datazen through existing sales channels via the Datazen website.

Sourcing Data

Data can be sourced from a number of locations, including;

  • SQL Server Analysis Services
  • SQL Server Database Engine
  • SharePoint Lists
  • Azure
  • ODBC and OLE DB providers such as Oracle
  • OData and XML web services

Datazen and the Enterprise BI Portal

We are busy integrating Datazen into the Enterprise BI Portal Architecture and look forward to providing integrated management capabilities Datazen dashboarding in the next release.  What is also means is Enterprise BI Portal customers will experience the same discoverability functions with Datazen dashboards as they currently do with reports and artefacts on the Portal today.

All in all a wonderful product providing extensive, feature rich visualisations across all devices.  An indication of Microsoft’s ongoing commitment to improve and expand its Business Intelligence capabilities and both on premise and in the cloud.

Microsoft SQL Server 2014 released – What does it mean for BI?

Microsoft SQL Server 2014 was released for General Availability on April the 1st and brought with it a host of new features including integration with Azure, in-memory OLTP, security enhancements and improvements to AlwaysOn. (you can go here for more details)

The most compelling change for Business Intelligence workloads from SQL Server 2012 is the introduction of Updatable Columnstore indexes.

Columnstore indexes introduced in SQL Server 2012 increased throughput and improved common data warehouse query execution times significantly.    However, the read-only nature of the indexes proved to be a limitation.  This meant they had to be dropped and recreated when updating the underlying table causing additional processing overhead which proved difficult to accommodate near real-time BI.  Another drawback encountered was the extra space the columnstore index required as the indexes had to be stored in addition to the existing row-based tables as they were built on top of the unpinning tables.

In comes SQL Server 2014 with its updateable Columnstore indexes.  This development will change the way in which traditional SQL Server data warehouses have been implemented.  Immediate improvements include:

  • Columnstore indexes are created without reliance on row based storage which reduces space and processing requirements
  • As they are now updateable, there is no need to drop indexes and rebuild hence supporting near real-time data provisioning

In short, this is a key improvement to SQL Server 2012, which will change the way in which we think about data warehousing in the future.

You can download the Evaluation for SQL Server 2014:

On Premise

Cloud

 

 

SQL Server 2012 released

​It’s out, and its delivering more reliable data, faster than ever before!

We at BizData like how SQL Server 2012 is making the business of delivering business intelligence much faster, whilst providing a strong data governance foundation.

N.B. The editions have changed, so make sure you have software assurance in place before April 1st!
Contact your licensing partner or get in contact with us to find out more.

A snapshot of what’s new:

Data Quality Services – a whole new suite that will allow you to manage a knowledge base of data cleansing rules, as well as connect to third party data cleansing services through Windows Azure

Master Data Services – an improved set of features to manage a reference data hub and provide platform for data stewardship. Including performance improvements (we’ve looked under the hood to make sure), and a new ad-in for excel which is available for download.

Column Store Index – the ability to create indexes on an existing data warehouse to improve query performance by 10 – 100 times.

In-Memory, Compressed, Column-based Storage – quite simply: instant retrieval and aggregation of data for large data sets. The underlying technology that will provide a user experience of “train-of-thought” data analysis.

Tabular Projects – a design environment that makes building a semantic model for reporting and analysis easier and accessible to a wider audience.
This will appeal to advanced analytics/data mining practitioners as a much faster data preparation workbench alternative.

Power View – self-service, ad-hoc data discovery and visualisation that anyone can drive. And yes, it can be interactive in a PowerPoint slide deck using live data. Expect a lot more mouse clicking in executive leadership meetings!

PowerPivot – available for download now, a new version of the desktop data mashup environment for Excel. Ideal for quick analytical and reporting prototypes by power users.

Also Microsoft continues with its compelling alternative to expensive data warehouse appliance renewals.

Fast Track for SQL Server 2012 – a reference architecture that will reduce the costs of performance tuning and deliver massive throughput for your data warehouse queries for up to about 20Tb.

SQL Server Parallel Data Warehouse Appliance Update 3 (AU3) – The Tier 1 large scale data warehouse appliance provides scalability to 100’s of terabytes at a fraction of the cost of the usual suspects, which is expected to deliver 10x performance improvements with this release.

infographic_sqlServer2012_print