If you call your flagship business intelligence product Performance Point then it might be a good idea to make sure it performs!
Because the product is essentially a suite of front end applications (which is why it's under the office umbrella) it is only going to be as good as what's behind it. At the back-end there is SQL Server, including analysis services, reporting services as well as the database engine which holds all of the dashboards via Sharepoint. There is plenty of information on how these perform by themselves such as the Project Real stuff, but how does all of that work in practice and what if some of you fancy virtualising some of this?
Well I found this white paper hidden away in TechNet on how Performance Point performs. It part of a whole TechCenter devoted to the Performance Point which covers off how to use the tool from both an end-user and an IT Pro perspective.
I would also recommend the IT showcase on Performance Point, which is where we share our experiences of using it internally.
If, like me, you didn't make the launch and you want to see it in action then come to one of these sessions at our next round of TechNet road shows:
As many of you know Whitehaven has gone digital today amongst quite a lot of confusion. I must admit I am struggling to to see the point of staying analog and quite what the fuss is about given that a freeview box costs as little as £20.
The story around Performance Point and ProClarity still seems to be causing similar confusion.
As I have mentioned before Microsoft Performance Point 2007 is a combination of Three Things
ProClarity is the analysis part of Performance Point. The confusion is around migration and upgrades. Essentially if you have the existing ProClarity Analytics Server and maintenance or software assurance you get an equivalent license of Performance Point.
If you aren't ready for Performance Point you can still continue to buy more ProClarity licenses. There is no immediate pressure to upgrade as the ProClarity will be supported for another ten years.
So a bit different from the digital switchover, and the monitoring and planning stuff you get with Performance Point are a lot more useful than the shopping channels on freeview.
Full details and FAQ's are on the performance point site. Failing that contact me and I will try my best to answer your questions.
Reporting Services can be a bit of a pain to configure so here's a top tip from Saleem Hakani who often sees this issue with his customers:
Did you know that when SQL Server service account is configured with a Windows NT account, SQL Server sets various Windows user rights and permissions on several files, folders, and several registry keys. However, when you use SERVICES from CONTROL PANEL to set SQL Server Service account these permissions are not set and you may run into serious issues due to lack of proper security on SQL Server files, folders, registry keys & Windows user rights.
Therefore, it’s strongly recommended that you use “SQL Server Configuration Manager” and not SERVICES from the CONTROL PANEL when changing SQL Server or SQL Server Agent service account.
However, if you’ve already made changes to the account using SERVICES from CONTROL PANEL then you may want to follow below steps to fix this:
Step1: Apply FULL Permissions on the following registry keys and its subkeys.
Step2: Set Full Control for the startup account for the MSSQLServer service and the SQLServerAgent service (either a local Windows NT account, or a domain Windows NT account) on these NTFS folders.
However, instead of making these manual changes it’s recommended that you use SQL Server Configuration Manager for making changes to SQL Server/Agent service accounts.
At the SQL Server community evening last week I was asked whether SQL Server is or is going to be SOX compliant. There are probably some of you thinking that we were discussing baseball so I should explain that Sarbannes Oxley (SOX) is a piece of financial compliance legislation introduced in the US following the Enron and Worldcom scandals.
SOX has no specific requirements regarding audit. Interpretation of SOX and applying that to the processes and people in a particular business typically result in the need to put access controls in place and demonstrate who can access what, and what access has been exercised. The existing audit capabilities in SQL 2005 are fully capable of supporting such usage.
Of course things get easier in SQL Server 2008 as there is a much more sophisticated audit capability to track changes to permissions and policies. Change data capture can be enabled to record changes to key tables. Finally it is very easy to develop reporting services reports on top of these to provide whatever the auditors and regulatory bodies need.
There is also an example you can reference about this here around Credit Suisse and SQL Server 2005.
James has now noticed I exist. I have also noticed he has a post about What You Measure is What You Get and this neatly links into to my post on balanced scorecard theory i.e. If you only focus on one outcome you will achieve that but it is often at the expense of other equally important things.
Applying this to another topical Microsoft offering, Halo 3, we get some interesting usage stats and no doubt there will be uproar that the kill count is a on there and more uproar that this is currently standing at over 1.6 billion!
Of course there isn't a lot else to do in Halo 3 but this is only one indicator of success and taken on it's own it could mean the game is too easy which mean that players get bored and go elsewhere. The other indicators show that people are still on line after the initial launch and this is good for continued success of the game.
Money is one of the most popular indicators. Much has been made in the press about how Halo 3 revenues compare to Spiderman3 or Harry Potter so that's good too.
It's also important that the X-Box is doing as well as this will underpin future success. The indicators here are the add-ons that are bought and the average number of games per console sold.
So by looking beyond the body count we can see that all looks well for the Master Chief.
Many of you will know that James is a keen photographer, and one of the many reasons for this is that he hates having his picture taken. In Technet for example his 300 x 300 image was probably shot from 2miles away by a freelance paparazzi from News of the World
This exclusive photograph shows James trying out o(wl)-mail at a recent event to ping Harry Potter about the recent success of Halo 3.
The big advantage of o-mail over e-mail
is that it's almost impossible to accidentally select "reply to all".
Microsoft will be turning off mainstream support for SQL server 2000 for most editions of the product in April 2008:
General Availability Date
Mainstream Support Retired
Extended Support Retired
SQL Server 2000 64-bit Edition
SQL Server 2000 Developer Edition
SQL Server 2000 Enterprise Edition
SQL Server 2000 Standard Edition
SQL Server 2000 Windows CE Edition 2.0
SQL Server 2000 Workgroup Edition
Details can be found here
That isn't very far away considering the work needed to test and migrate applications, and I know that some organisations aren't even aware that they may have some of these database lying around.
However if we forget the imperative that this deadline means to those who only want to have supported products in their infrastructure then there are loads of reasons for moving away from SQL server 2000. For me security would have to figure high on this list as SQL server was designed in an age where always on Internet connections were not prevalent as they are today. I wonder how many installations are still out there with no password for sa waiting for a little bit of SQL injection?
Of course SQL server 2000 can be locked down and applying all the patches and fixes is also essential but SQL server 2005 is secure by design and by deployment i.e. out of the box.
Cost is usually mentioned as the main reason for not upgrading, the majority of which is the work involved rather than any license costs. I would say that this is a lot easier now if only because any problem you might encounter has almost certainly been resolved elsewhere by other IT Professionals and this information is widely available not just on the TechNet SQL Server TechCenter SQL but on the SQL community site and in the numerous publications out there.
As ever I'm happy to dive into this in more detail if it's useful.
My colleague James has been hassling me for not posting anything of use to him...
A long time ago in a land far far away there was a cunning plan to develop a new file system around a database called WinFS. This created quite a lot of positive reaction and there was a lot of flak when the project was taken out of Windows server 2008. I am not going to argue the rights and wrongs of the approach or the decision to abandon it, but in my opinion that capability is alive and well and inside SQL server 2008.
One of the goals of SQL server 2008 is "beyond relational". This will show up in a number of the features:
Add to this the access privileges that work in much the same way and inter-operate with active directory and the the fact that SQL server is behind SharePoint.
So SQL Server 2008 - a file system within an operating system.
If you want to protect your data then the Bit Locker technology in Vista is a good way to go, and I would also recommend Vista backup as it's so simple to use .
Of course if you're in New Zealand and someone has broken into your office and swiped your laptop with your kiwi :-) data like Paul Croucher then you can also use the beer locker approach. This simply entails offering a reward of 12 bottles of beer a month for life - check the links if you don't believe me.
Bit locker is also built into Windows Server 2008 so that if someone lifts your branch server they haven't got your data.
If you are left handed like me you notice how much of our language is right minded or right thinking. The same thing happens all over Europe; it is good to be adroit from the french (droit) for right and sinister is from the Italian (sinestre) for left.
At this point any leftie reels out all the cool people from Leonardo to Einstein and Hendrix who were also left handed (& my boss Eileen).
You also get gadgets for left handed people from scissors to guitars and golf clubs, but these aren't always high quality so Hendrix simply bought a right handed stratocaster and played it left handed.
However this clock has to be one of the strangest ideas and this is hanging up in our office in Prague.I couldn't find a vista gadget like this so maybe some left handed developer could help me out.
Try it yourself - simply smash up your right hand like Steve and see how much fun it is to be left handed!
DTI Survey 1000 selected companies every year about a wide range of topics. One interesting statistic from this is that 44% have no plan for business continuity and only 14% consider they have a robust plan in place. The survey also found that the No 1 cause of business continuity failure is of course IT with 22% of those surveyed affected by this in 2006. The horsemen of the apocalypse; flood, famine, disease, war don't get a look and even fire comes in at no 24 in the list.
In response to this the British Standards Institute (BSI) have introduced a business continuity standard, BSI 25999. Part of this is a specification (BSI 25999-2) out in November which will be the basis for certification to the standard.
Major businesses are looking to adopt this standard quickly and will in turn mandate that their suppliers have this standard to ensure that their business doesn't fail because of a third party on whom they rely.
So before your organisation contributes to the worsening of these statistics, make sure you can recover from your backups be it from SQL Server, Exchange or indeed the file system. If you need help with this then check out Steve Lamb's presentation on Data Protection Manager at the next round of TechNet road-shows.
For general information about the standard you can also contact Julian Thrussell at BSI.
Into the Valley of Thames rode the three sixty ...
I get to see all the statistics on how popular SQL Server is but the SQL Bits event on Saturday bought it home to me.
Over 360 intrepid developers and IT Professionals had given up their Saturday to get the inside track on how to work with SQL Server from the SQL community leaders. One guy in my session had come up from Cornwall the night before and I'm sure there were others who could beat this.
Many people had to stand at some of the sessions which made all the effort put in by the MVP's worth while, especially as some of them seemed to be distracted by some rugby match during the afternoon.
For those that missed this do watch out for future events on the SQL community site as its real world stuff you won't find anywhere else. For those that were there thanks again to Tony Rogerson, Martin Bell, Chris Webb and Simon Sabin for organising it and to all the speakers and sponsors.
Microsoft has launched it's own SQL Community site, which will be a one stop shop for our product teams, premier field engineers etc. to share their knowledge with IT Professionals. There's shed loads of good stuff here from training, to forums, articles and scripts.
I should just mention that this is not to be confused with the equally excellent UK SQL Community site run by MVP Tony Rogerson. This is the place to go for all the UK community events like the recent SQL Bits day as well as all the experience the UK MVPs have.
My dad, Gordon, was in BI before me, it had a different name but it was definitely BI. I remember him telling me that in 1964 he had this English Electric mainframe with 2k RAM that took up the whole building and it didn't have a divide function. He was working on statistics for the Ministry of Works and needed to compute standard deviation which not only uses division but also square roots.
In the seventies he upgraded like we all do and was using COBOL on ICT (International Computers and Tabulators) hardware which became ICL which became Fujitsu which merged with Siemens etc. The hardware has long gone but I am sure he will be pleased that his beloved COBOL (COmmon Business-Oriented Language) is still alive in its .net guise.
For all you geeks out here here's hello world in COBOL:
DISPLAY 'Hello, world.'.
It did have critics .. "The use of COBOL cripples the mind; its teaching should, therefore, be regarded as a criminal offense". Edgar Dijkstra which kind of reminds of Socrates crticising the written word. However COBOL was the dominant BI language for twenty years and shows no sign of dying just yet.
As for my Dad, cancer beat him a couple of years ago. Hopefully he's laughing at this blog and telling me I'm a bl**dy fool!
If you are interested in more on what COBOL.Net does then check this.
If you want to get an insight of what's hot on the next version of Reporting Services, you can't really do better than get it straight from one of the product managers. So checkout Jason Carlson the Principal Product Manager for reporting services who is presenting a webcast on 1 November.
Of course if reporting isn't your thing then there are these upcoming webcasts out there as well:
I'm not sure if I'm free on the 12th June, but it's good to see we're planning ahead!
While we are all eagerly awaiting the latest CTP of SQL Server, it might be good to check out this clinic :
oh and it's free by the way!
In order to keep the spiraling costs of the education system to a minimum, parents seem to end up with more and more of the bill, and students also get hammered with massive loans. So how about a cheap copy of MS Office ultimate 2007 for £38.95 without any dodgy dealing on an auction site or at a car boot fair. If you only need it for a year then it's only £12.95.
Interested then check the ultimate steal.
Of course this has nothing to do with Business Intelligence but I suspect that if this offer applied to SQL Server or Performance Point then the take up might be bit lower!
Following the resounding success of Jame's and Steve's virtualisation road shows the IT Pro Evangelist's are now taking bookings for the next tour and the details are here.
Viral and I are also on tour, which means we can expand our repertoire to wow you with Enterprise Search, Performance Point and SQL Server 2008. Our aim is to keep it real (even when showing virtualisation) so demos are in and we are all competing to see who can get away with the fewest slides.
It was a sellout last time so book early to avoid disappointment.
Eileen has kitted us out with the new Tanjay IP phones and I have just made room on my desk at home for it! Annoyingly I had signed up for BT's home hub before joining Microsoft doh!
The good stuff is that we can see who's out there either on the display..
or from my mobile or PC. It's very 1984 but at least we don't spend all day looking for each other.
Only in Microsoft could you get a job in evangelism without being religious. So I suppose I shouldn't be surprised that there are Microsoft clinics without doctors. Clinics do provide help and I found one called what's new in SQL server 2008. It'll take a couple of hours to get the cure, but there isn't much on telly tonight and it'll stop you having a heart attack at the gymn
For those that don't like hospitals I shall continue to spread the word.
I have noticed that there are a lot of IT People are guitarists out there. It might even be a British standard as this shot was taken at a user group conference run by Entropy, a part of the British Standards Institute. Entropy is a suite of software built around health and safety compliance, risk management, environmental protection etc. and these guys are two of the developers. One of the management team had a hit with Neanderthal Man with the Hotlegs (forerunners of 10cc).
They are not alone. My mate Michael embarrassed me a couple of years ago in Selfridges by picking up a guitar I was looking to buy and laying into an impromptu "I saw her standing there". The staff and customers were clapping and cheering which was a lot different than the thanks he got from all the support calls he used to resolve.
So if you want to make a name as an IT Pro maybe it's time to work on those riffs.