Microsoft Business Intelligence Now and Into The Future

10 years ago, it was SSIS/SSAS/SSRS

Then in 2007 SharePoint, PerformancePoint/SSRS

Then in 2010 Power Pivot in Excel/SharePoint, then Power View in SharePoint

Then in 2013 Power BI … Power Pivot, Power View, Power Query, Power Map.. In Excel and Office 365.

Now in 2015 Power BI Version 2. Not in Office 365, separate. Power BI Designer, or use the Power BI web site to set up your dashboards, mobile, etc.

All the while, the existing solutions that have been available previously are still there and available, making things… well, confusing to say the least.

Most shops .. It all depends on when they started going heavy BI with the Microsoft tools, on where they land. Also, how well they could move when things change, as well as how much they want to stay up to date with the tools.

If you started 10+ years ago, you probably have a good base of ETLs written in SSIS, as well as many multi-dimensional (MD) OLAP cubes in SSAS, and SSRS reports off your cubes and data warehouse, running in SSRS Native Mode. You started with SQL 2000 if you were lucky, with cubes and dts packages, but then SQL 2005, then 2008, 2008 R2, 2012, 2012 R2 and now are on 2014. You really liked 2005 SP2 and 2008 R2 for the BI features :). This setup is like the VB6 or .NET Winforms of BI. It will probably be around forever in some way shape or form but not a ton of updates and Microsoft has moved on.

If you started a little later you might have SSRS in SharePoint mode, and some Performance Point dashboards. You might have even used Performance Point for planning/budgeting (and loved it?) until Microsoft killed it. Then you had to look for alternatives for that, or use OLAP Cube Writeback. In my opinion, SSRS in SharePoint and Performance Point are dead. Not dead as in they don’t work or won’t be supported, but I see them as the wrong path, life supported direction. If you are still using these heavy I would look for alternatives.

Now it gets interesting. You started with Excel 2010 and PowerPivot (no space!) and had SharePoint 2010 setup and Power View in SharePoint. You created V1 Power Pivot models, they were limited, you could do some things, but still it was limited. You still needed to get data somewhere so SSIS ETL’s or something to get data in tables you can use. If you are using Power View in SharePoint, I would hurry up and look for alternatives, it is dead (my definition of dead like SSRS/PP in SharePoint). Excel 2010 is long past and V1 PowerPivot is dead too. Seems like this era was short lived and just a stepping stone.

Then, in 2013, Power BI. So they added a space to Power Pivot :) .. And made it better, v2. Added missing features, Tabular SSAS cubes even! And Power View could be used in Excel. They both came by default in Excel (depends on version) but turned off. Power Query came out of nowhere and is awesome and Power Map, while buggy, was better than nothing. But what do you do with all these solutions you build? Where to publish? Not SharePoint on prem? But Power BI in SharePoint Online.. So you need Office 365 and Power BI subscription. You set up Data Management Gateway so you can get to your on prem data sources. You can refresh once a day or manually. You can do some pretty cool things, create workbooks with pivots and Power Views.

But you are missing things. Missing things like the ability to schedule a report to run and email someone, like SSRS. You are missing awesome formatting abilities for every pixel like SSRS. You wonder when SSRS is going to come to Power BI or what your options are… you hope you see iterations and features released to Power BI as that is the path, but then..

New Power BI Preview comes out in 2015. It has a standalone Power BI Designer (reminiscent of the Performance Point designer) that lets you create reports, dashboards and save a file to publish to the NEW Power BI portal. So you have two Power BI portals.. New and old. They don’t overlap or talk to each other, the licensing is different, etc. The old Power BI lets you connect to SQL on prem with refresh with the DMG and other data sources, etc. The new one does not. The new one lets you connect to GitHub and SalesForce and Marketo, but not other data sources that the old Power BI did. The new Power BI lets you connect to on-prem TABULAR SSAS cubes with refresh, but not MD ones (yet). The new Power BI lets you connect to excel data in OneDrive/OneDrive for Business. So could one publish a data file out to ODFB to faux refresh? I have yet to try. The new Power BI lets you publish dashboards to the iOS Mobile apps and also  embed (up to 10 MB – which needs change to be bigger) on websites. New Power BI has an API that lets you create your own connectors / REST API for things. And the list goes on and on.

So where does that leave us? Well, of you invested time and money in BI the last 10 years, you might feel like Microsoft is abandoning you. It kind of seems that way. You need to change or get left behind. But what do you change to? Change your MD cubes to Tabular? Rethink your architecture? Sync data to Azure?  Power Pivot/Power Query? Abandon SharePoint as a BI tool? Move your reports from SSRS to something else or Power BI (if you can?) I am unsure. Still trying to figure it all out.

One thing for sure is, it will always keep evolving. Me, I would say, tabular first if you are on prem. Try to use Power BI where you can. Minimize SSRS reports. Use SSRS native instead of SharePoint. Stop using PerformancePoint if you are still using it or thinking about it. I bet at some point SSRS comes to the new Power BI – there is an item on the UserVoice forum already asking for it. Try the Power BI Designer and Website and see what you can do. Always be trying to get something going in the newest and latest technology/tools available.

Have Fun with Microsoft BI now and what is yet to come!

 

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8 thoughts on “Microsoft Business Intelligence Now and Into The Future”

  1. The eternal question though: What if you will not put any data into the Cloud?
    There is no answer to this from MS, and it means we will be looking around at alternatives due to the non-existent on-prem strategy.

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  2. You are spot on! I can handle the change in technology and the need to advance, but when new features and solutions make previous work unusable, there comes a point where we need to let Microsoft know they are doing a very large unjustice to the people who spent a great deal of time and energy in learning tools sets that can no longer communicate with the “Bi tool” de jour. The fact that they have had TWO Power BI releases is even more absurd. I hope more people start pointing this out in the near future.

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  3. Really helpful info Steve. Would it be safe to say that it might not make a ton of sense to migrate from Cognos to SSRS right now? What’s the worst case? I’d need to rebuild these reports from scratch in Power BI?

    Thanks!

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    1. this week at Microsoft Ignite conference it was demo’d pinning SSRS reports in Power BI so that seems to be the path going forward. Lots yet remains to be seen, like data sources, how it would connect on prem, subscriptions, security, etc. Probably more to come in 3-6 months.

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