Demystified - BI in SharePoint 2010

Posted on 5/16/2010 @ 1:22 PM in #SharePoint by | Feedback | 528 views

Frequently, my clients ask me if there is a good guide on deciphering the seemingly daunting choice of products from Microsoft when it comes to business intelligence offerings in a SharePoint 2010 world. These are all described in detail in my book, but here is a one (well maybe two) page executive overview.

  1. Microsoft Excel: Yes, Microsoft Excel! Your favorite and most commonly used in the world database. No it isn’t a database in technical pure definitions, but this is the most commonly used ‘database’ in the world. You will find many business users craft up very compelling excel sheets with tonnes of logic inside them.
    1. Good for: Quick Ad-Hoc reports. Excel 64 bit allows the possibility of very large datasheets (Also see 32 bit vs 64 bit Office, and PowerPivot Add-In below).
    2. Audience: End business user can build such solutions.
    3. Related technologies: PowerPivot, Excel Services
  2. Microsoft Excel with PowerPivot Add-In: The powerpivot add-in is an extension to Excel that adds support for large-scale data. Think of this as Excel with the ability to deal with very large amounts of data. It has an in-memory data store as an option for Analysis services.
    1. Good for: Ad-hoc reporting and logic with very large amounts of data.
    2. Audience: End business user can build such solutions.
    3. Related technologies: Excel, and Excel Services
  3. Excel Services: Excel Services is a Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010 shared service that brings the power of Excel to SharePoint Server by providing server-side calculation and browser-based rendering of Excel workbooks. Thus, excel sheets can be created by end users, and published to SharePoint server – which are then rendered right through the browser in read-only or parameterized-read-only modes. They can also be accessed by other software via SOAP or REST based APIs.
    1. Good for: Sharing excel sheets with a larger number of people, while maintaining control/version control etc. Sharing logic embedded in excel sheets with other software across the organization via REST/SOAP interfaces
    2. Audience:
      1. End business users can build such solutions once your tech staff has setup excel services on a SharePoint server instance.
      2. Programmers can write software consuming functionality/complex formulae contained in your sheets.
    3. Related technologies: PerformancePoint Services, Excel, and PowerPivot.
  4. Visio Services: Visio Services is a shared service on the Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010 platform that allows users to share and view Visio diagrams that may or may not have data connected to them. Connected data can update these diagrams allowing a visual/graphical view into the data. The diagrams are viewable through the browser. They are rendered in silverlight, but will automatically down-convert to .png formats.
    1. Good for: Showing data as diagrams, live updating. Comes with a developer story.
    2. Audience:
      1. End business users can build such solutions once your tech staff has setup visio services on a SharePoint server instance.
      2. Developers can enhance the visualizations
    3. Related Technologies: Visio Services can be used to render workflow visualizations in SP2010
  5. Reporting Services: SQL Server reporting services can integrate with SharePoint, allowing you to store reports and data sources in SharePoint document libraries, and render these reports and associated functionality such as subscriptions through a SharePoint site. In SharePoint 2010, you can also write reports against SharePoint lists (access services uses this technique).
    1. Good for: Showing complex reports running in a industry standard data store, such as SQL server.
    2. Audience: This is definitely developer land. Don’t expect end users to craft up reports, unless a report model has previously been published.
    3. Related Technologies: PerformancePoint Services
  6. PerformancePoint Services: PerformancePoint Services in SharePoint 2010 is now fully integrated with SharePoint, and comes with features that can either be used in the BI center site definition, or on their own as activated features in existing site collections. PerformancePoint services allows you to build reports and dashboards that target a variety of back-end datasources including: SQL Server reporting services, SQL Server analysis services, SharePoint lists, excel services, simple tables, etc. Using these you have the ability to create dashboards, scorecards/kpis, and simple reports. You can also create reports targeting hierarchical multidimensional data sources. The visual decomposition tree is a new report type that lets you quickly breakdown multi-dimensional data.
    1. Good for: Mostly everything :), except your wallet – it’s not free! But this is the most comprehensive offering. If you have SharePoint server, forget everything and go with performance point.
    2. Audience: Developers need to setup the back-end sources, manageability story. DBAs need to setup datawarehouses with cubes. Moderately sophisticated business users, or developers can craft up reports using dashboard designer which is a click-once App that deploys with PerformancePoint
    3. Related Technologies: Excel services, reporting services, etc.

 

Other relevant technologies to know about:

  • Business Connectivity Services: Allows for consumption of external data in SharePoint as columns or external lists. This can be paired with one or more of the above BI offerings allowing insight into such data.
  • Access Services: Allows the representation/publishing of an access database as a SharePoint 2010 site, leveraging many SharePoint features. Reporting services is used by Access services.
  • Secure Store Service: The SP2010 Secure store service is a replacement for the SP2007 single sign on feature. This acts as a credential policeman providing credentials to various applications running with SharePoint. BCS, PerformancePoint Services, Excel Services, and many other apps use the SSS (Secure Store Service) for credential control.

Sound off but keep it civil:

Older comments..


On 5/16/2010 4:28:33 PM Dirk Loehn said ..
From our analysis the Business Connectivity Services will become a very important BI tool, because they can be deployed much easier compared to the historical Business Data Catalogs and because they not only allow reading of data but also writing of data into back-end data storages.


On 5/16/2010 8:26:21 PM Sahil Malik said ..
Dirk,

Thank you for your comment.


BCS indeed will become much more important than BDC ever was.

The reasons are:


1. Better presentation options


2. Better tooling support


3. Better connectivity options

That said, there are still some scenarios where it leaves things to be desired. I hope to talk more about BCS in blogposts, I also have a full chapter devoted to BCS in my book. Also see this article - http://www.code-magazine.com/Article.aspx?quickid=1006041

Sahil


On 7/14/2010 2:47:02 PM David said ..
Thank you for this executive overview Sahil! I have been looking and looking for something like this to help me explain the SharePoint 2010 BI technologies to my manager and was unable to find anything from Microsoft that is as practical as this. Thank you!


On 7/14/2010 2:53:31 PM David said ..
Thank you for this executive overview Sahil! I have been looking and looking for something like this to help me explain the SharePoint 2010 BI technologies to my manager and was unable to find anything from Microsoft that is as practical as this. Thank you!


On 7/19/2010 8:13:53 PM Haroon Rasheed said ..
Thanks Sahil, it was really good overview of new BI features in Sharepoint 2010.


Keep it up. Cheers.


On 11/8/2012 12:18:58 PM Dieluigu said ..
I think you forgot to talk about Power View...