This year at the 2012 PASS Summit I was introduced to the next generation of data appliances from Microsoft. As I looked at what they were offering, I concluded that they were making it easier to implement Microsoft’s business intelligence (MSBI) solutions.
Microsoft introduced its first data appliance a few years back with the Parallel Data Warehouse, a massively parallel processing (MPP) data warehousing solution. This appliance provided Microsoft customers with a large (hundreds of terabytes), high volume data warehouse solution. However, the target audience for the solution was limited due to the size and cost of this solution.
Meanwhile, Microsoft continued to integrate its BI visualization tools more tightly with its SharePoint collaboration tools. This resulted in more hesitancy among customers who must evaluate where SharePoint fits into their current infrastructure. This is particularly true of customers who have never implemented SharePoint or are just starting down that path. I have worked with a number of customers who are in this position. Setting up a SharePoint farm can be a daunting task, especially for smaller customers.
As I mentioned earlier, Microsoft introduced a number of new appliances this past year in a strategic alliance with HP. Unlike the PDC appliance, these offerings covered a broader base of solutions and will make MSBI solutions more attainable by customers.
First, the HP Business Decision Appliance was shown to me. This is where I think the most significant breakthrough is. This appliance comes built out to support SQL Server 2008 R2 and SharePoint 2010, both in Enterprise Editions. Why is this a breakthrough? Much of the work involved in setting up a SharePoint farm, including hardware design and software installation, is done for you. Now you are able to take a 1U server component and bring a SharePoint MSBI solution up in hours rather than days.
This appliance alone reduces the IT impact of implementing your first MSBI solution with the best visualizations available in SharePoint.
If you are looking at hosting PowerPivot, this is set up as well. The Business Decision Appliance is truly a great way to get that first solution up and running. I am very excited about this product and look forward to helping customers get the most out of it. I really like that Microsoft and HP are working to help us deliver solutions to the business without the heavy focus on the servers.
Not only did they introduce the Business Decision Appliance, they also introduced the HP Business Data Warehouse Appliance. The target for this appliance is customers with data marts or data warehouses up to 5 terabyte. These appliances will help small to medium businesses build out their data warehousing solutions on SQL Server while again reducing the impact of hardware setup and software installation. This solution has been optimized for data warehouse workloads and includes a wizard to help deploy the DDL and data to the server. This appliance will help customers focus on the business problem more than the infrastructure once again.
Another feature that is appealing for both of these appliances is that the support is one call for both the software and the hardware.
I go back to the point I have made numerous times in the post. The real value of these appliances for me is that I can reduce or nearly eliminate the time spent on designing and setting up servers and get back to creating solutions for the business. Kudos to Microsoft and HP on reinforcing that it is all about the business, not the tools.