Transforming and Visualizing Data

Microsoft today is an acknowledged enterprise software company and considered one of the four major database vendors with SQL Server. At its beginning SQL Server had its work cutout to convince large organizations to change to a new DBMS vendor.

Besides tackling the SMB markets, targeting green field accounts and offering better TCO (Total Cost of Ownership) than competitors we devised a strategy to use business intelligence to get a foot into the door.

By offering analytics (OLAP), reporting, data transformation and data warehousing services right out of the box Microsoft could get its database into shops that historically had been deeply committed to Oracle or IBM. Each installation penetrated the wall and potentially opened the door to a broader deployment.

Integration of all these services required the exchange of meta-data and the repository team joined SQL Server to become Meta Data Services – a native store for data warehouse object definitions. Over time the team did grow to include teams such as Data Transformation Services and “English Query” the natural language query interface to SQL Server.

We discontinued English Query because of low usage but it was a clever technology far ahead of its time considering the popularity of the natural language user interface Siri, acquired by Apple for $200 million recently.

Besides the integration of all this services the next challenges that needed to be tackled was the completion of the data-warehousing stack with reporting and decision portal capabilities. Microsoft Reporting Services and Microsoft Integration Services were spawned as part of these product efforts as well as the Digital Dashboard Resource Kit (DDRK).

Digital Dashboard Resource Kit (DDRK) was a server-based application that allowed creating a portal experience in the web browser made up of distinct units called web parts. Combined with SQL Server it provided single-click access to analytical data and business intelligence.

The forward-looking Digital Dashboard technology developed together with Office has become a product in form of SharePoint Server. DDRK was a highly controversial technology in Microsoft since it showcased what later became a common thread – the abstraction of the Windows desktop experience through content and services rendered in a Web Browser.