Is PowerPivot the Future of Microsoft Business Intelligence?

by Paul Shread

If PowerPivot and the upcoming 'Denali' SQL Server are any indication, Microsoft sees in-memory analytics as the future of business intelligence.

Despite its dominance in the OLAP market, Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) could be joining the growing ranks of vendors who see in-memory analytics as the future of business intelligence, according to a company that has worked with the software giant on its BI efforts for much of the last two decades.

Panorama Software sold its OLAP technology to Microsoft in 1996, which was integrated into the SQL Server platform. Lately the longtime Microsoft partner has been working with the software giant on a different approach to business intelligence — in-memory analytics, in the form of Microsoft's PowerPivot platform for Excel and SharePoint and its next-generation SQL Server, codenamed 'Denali.'

PowerPivot may be aimed at small BI jobs, but 'Denali' promises to be much bigger, said Panorama CEO Eynav Azarya. "The in-memory approach is the future for Microsoft," he told eCRM Guide in a recent interview.

Denali contains two versions of business intelligence: the traditional OLAP approach, or UDM (Unified Dimensional Model), and the new Business Intelligence Semantic Model (BISM), an in-memory engine.

PowerPivot and BISM are based on the DAX expression language instead of OLAP's MDX query language, and they also feature the Vertipaq in-memory analytics engine. The strategic shift has Microsoft BI users wondering if the OLAP approach will be abandoned. Azarya thinks BISM will be the "long-run winner," but that UDM will hang around for another 10 to 15 years.

With Panorama's close relationship with Microsoft driving 50 percent growth at the company, Azarya is confident in the company's future and positioning, but Microsoft isn't the only business line for Panorama. The company also provides the analytical engine for Google Apps and offers a Salesforce.com connection.

Azarya said the business intelligence market is undergoing rapid transformation, led by self-service BI, social BI and rapid analytics.

"I've never seen so much innovation," said the long-time CEO.

In other Microsoft BI news, the software giant has unveiled the Dryad data management framework for Windows HPC clusters, similar to Hadoop and Google MapReduce.

  This article was originally published on Monday Dec 27th 2010
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