Entering into the world of SQL Server around the same time as the 2008 release has meant that until the past couple of years, change in the Microsoft BI world only happened in dribs and drabs for me. SQL Server and it’s BI components were stable server products and the focus was on getting data and optimising “central reporting”. Recently though things have started to massively change due to Azure and Office 365.
No longer part of Server & Tools where products were considered in silos, SQL Server and BI are now part of the Cloud Platform. It’s now a means of delivering the Cloud-first vision that Microsoft have aligned themselves to.
But what does this mean for me? Well, from a purely selfish note Azure has taken away a huge amount of infrastructure hassle for me. I’m able to spin up VMs and websites easily.
But with the focus on Azure and end-user reporting in Excel, my BI stuff has been left behind for the past few years. Minimal SSRS & SSIS enhancements have meant the central platform had slumped. Power BI was always way too expensive and involved putting too much data out there with low levels of control. PowerPivot was buggy and would crash all the time, infuriating me more than having to convert strings in SSIS. Simply put; the Microsoft stack no longer cut the mustard, and looked like it wouldn’t unless I drank the big-data cloud kool-aid and coughed up thousands of pounds in monthly subscriptions.
I’ve since moved towards open source technologies and I was starting to despair that the new Microsoft vision for BI of cloud Excel would always preclude me and my use cases. With the news that PowerBI will soon be available standalone with a free tier, Machine Learning, Data Factory and the acquisition of Revolution Analytics, it’s looking like Microsoft might be moving with me now.
That’s pretty great — I think it’s where they need to go — but I think they also need to overhaul their central reporting and integration functionality. If they have to ditch SSRS and bring in an entirely new product then so be it, but SSRS (as a concept) can’t keep falling further and further behind. I moved away because I had to. I want to be able to go back to a world where we can have high quality central reports, support for most operational requirements and a strong software development lifecycle.
Still, I’m very excited by where they’re going and hopefully we’ll see some more awesome announcements at conferences like SQLBits this year. And I’m hoping that this Cloud Platform road-map gets some on-premises components.