Microsoft BI in the Cloud

This post by Jamie Thompsonabout discovering the existence of a person in a manager role at Microsoft of “Cloudscale Predictive Analytics (SQL Azure Cloud Data Services Platform)” causing him to speculate about the existence of an analytics platform on Azure, caused my speculative brain to tick over in turn.

What is the possible roadmap for Microsoft BI? At a very high level, I think we will see Cloud BI play catch-up with Server BI and eventually converge to the point where there is no difference betweeen the two – though that will take a few years. I won’t be surprised if in ten years time there won’t be a distinction between the two streams of delivery.

In the short term I think we will see components of the current BI stack pop up in a loose order. Reporting is I suspect, the first thing we will see – after all flat reporting is where BI started many years ago (waaay back when it was Decision Support) and technically is the easiest to deliver; just run a query and format the results. Then I’d expect to see Cubes appear – they are a very cloud friendly concept – big bursts of processing followed by lots of relative idleness mean you can leverage the clouds ability to deliver on-demand computing power. Cubes are the sort of app that also sit well in the cloud – if the data is in the cloud too, there’s no big network data transfer going on, it all just happens in the datacenter. Hot on the heels of Cubes i’d expect PerformancePoint to rear its head to leverage those capabilities. Integration Services will be last off the rank – I think it’s the least cloud friendly app – it often means moving huge amounts of data across global networks and may not be terribly efficient. Maybe a simpler form may appear earlier, but I wouldn’t bet on it.

There are a few other bits which may crop up unexpectedly along this path – StreamInsight is another cloud friendly app, as is Master Data Services. Much further down the line is the stuff Jamie has read the tea leaves on – predictive analytics, grid computing and so forth. There’s a few interesting things coming in the stack which I have got wind of that belong in the cloud quite comfortably, but are too deep under NDA to even think of too loudly :)

I will of course reiterate that this is of course pure speculation, based on my understanding of the technical complexity of the solutions and how well they fit in the cloud. But expect BI to shift cloudwards, and be ready for it!

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