Large corporations have long known the value of Business Intelligence, or BI technology, in providing key performance indicators (KPI) that can measure behaviors and provide answers to important business questions. Once the domain of mainframe and minicomputers, BI analysis can now be added to a much wider variety of enterprises because the increasing power of PC-based servers has made this much easier. Although Microsoft encourages companies to work with BI specialists, the company does provide a significant amount of information for those people who are interested in implementing a solution, as well as the SQL Server Accelerator for Business Intelligence tool that you can download and use to create custom solutions of your own.
The Accelerator for BI is meant for mid-sized to large organizations, but it uses a flexible data model that can be applied to many problems. You can apply an existing data model, modify it, or use the accelerator to create a new data model. The accelerator works by creating a staging database and a subject-matter database, and then deriving an OLAP cube (multidimensional database). You use a DTS package to do data load processing (both initial and incremental), and then you can use supplied views that will work in different tools to view the results. Proponents claim that the normal BI development process can be reduced from a matter of several months to a couple of weeks when you use this tool. The BI Accelerator is based on the Microsoft Data Warehousing Framework, which uses SQL Server and the Analysis Services to create your analytical application in a way that allows standard extensions and growth.
Documentation for this tool may be found at: www.microsoft.com/solutions/bi/ssabi/techinfo/solutiondocs/ch1overview.asp. You'll find both an overview and a developers guide at that site.
Barrie Sosinsky is president of consulting company Sosinsky and Associates (Medfield MA). He has written extensively on a variety of computer topics. His company specializes in custom software (database and Web related), training and technical documentation.