MS Partner Event: Application Platform University

This is a business intelligence “road show” funded by MS Europe, presented in the Dublin office.  The speaker is Tibbs Pereira, hosted by Barry McMahon.  Barry is a good guy; I’ve worked with him in a previous job and he was great at sharing info and helping us out.

They do something interesting to start out.  There’s around 20 visitors in the room.  The speakers have asked each visitor to introduce themselves, say what they want to get out of the day and list objections/fears from the field about MS BI technology.

The Business Imperatives

  • Business intelligence – usable information
  • The web – availability
  • Business applications – processing data to get information and using it to get results
  • Application lifecycle management – continuous development/improvement of functions and features

Traditional business solutions often include the user using multiple styles of non-integrated applications: green screen, installed and web.  We should try to have a unified application platform: one style of integrated interface, even if it’s multiple applications and systems at the back end.  That makes data easier to access and information easier to use.

Using an integrated backend, not a mix of all the platforms (SAP, Oracle, SQL, MySQL, etc) makes application development easier and data more reliable.  Otherwise you’re fudging data through translation services and hoping it stays consistent.  35% planning this convergence.  41% currently have this convergence underway.  24% aren’t going to converge.  According to Forrester Research in 2007.

Underlying this is the optimised infrastructure (well designed and managed).  Ideally it’ll be dynamic too, e.g. automation, and flexible, e.g. self service in VMM.

Benefits of the MS Platform

Innovation Benefits

  • Better time to value
  • Respond quickly to organisation change via flexibility
  • User experience is familiar
  • Largest partner ecosystem for packaged and customised solutions

Operations Benefits

  • High performance, scalability and reliability
  • Solutions have common management skills and tools, e.g. System Center, clustering, etc.
  • Technology investments work well with each other, MS integration, Active Directory for authorisation/authentication
  • Consistent security standards for increased compliance: take advantage of Configuration Manager to audit those policies.

An interesting point is brought up here.  Lots of MS customers already have the licensing for much of this.  For example, a desktop core CAL may include SharePoint CAL’s.  All that remains is the server licensing which is a comparatively small cost.

Customer Thinking

Customers have typically deployed lots of solutions with no standardisation.  “Legacy systems are forever”.  There’s some movement to standardisation.  Oracle, Microsoft and IBM are emerging as the 3 remaining pillars.  Customers now considering standardisation on one of these 3.  SME typically are standardised on Microsoft already because of price and availability.  Larger enterprises have the heterogeneous application platform.  The won’t ditch legacy stuff but they will integrate into a single application platform for data availability and information access and usage.

Business intelligence is the number one spend in IT.  It was in 2009 (4th year in a row, Gartner) and will be in 2010.  It’s “recession proof”, because information is more important now to understand the pains and losses.  Future compliance solutions, as a result of the recession causes, will continue this drive.

Microsoft SWOT

  • Strengths: Office, roadmap
  • Opportunity: CAL up-sell and deployment
  • Weaknesses: brand perceptions
  • Threats: Oracle


These are the motivations of customers in BI:

  • Application Led: (SAP and Oracle) point application approach.  I need XYZ and these vendors do this
  • Infrastructure led: (IBM, Microsoft) this is a broader, integrated approach.  The idea is a store of data and access systems are built and applications are built on it.

Business Productivity Infrastructure

  • Unified Communications and collaboration
  • Business intelligence
  • Enterprise content management

These sit on:

  • Worflow
  • Search
  • Business data catalog
  • Extensible UI
  • Open XML file formats
  • Website and secure framework

In other words, think of the big picture, not just the point application.  Reports are produced but how are they stored, shared, accessed, secured, used by other solutions, etc.

And all of this needs to run on a secure, reliable, flexible, scalable and well managed IT infrastructure.  If that foundation is week then the business productivity infrastructure is weak => the business is weak.


  • SQL is the data storage engine
  • SharePoint is the thin client access system
  • Office is the thick client access method.

The Next Wave of MS Products

Both SharePoint 2010 and SQL 2008 R2 are focused on business intelligence.  SP will be RTM before July.  SQL this year.  We get a demo of Excel pulling data from SQL, produces an application (a report based on pivot tables and slices) and publishes it to SharePoint so anyone can access it.  The lesson is that BI is something to sell to and use by the business, not IT. 

This is data access/sharing done by non-IT people using data managed by IT.  It’s ad-hoc self-service where the business doesn’t have to wait on IT, and IT doesn’t get distracted from engineering projects and maintenance.  IT can monitor this.  Then we go back to basic MIS and systems analysis classes from college.  IT should take over important or highly used applications to standardise them and to do QA on them.  Critical applications should be managed.

Excel 2007 can now load hundreds of millions of rows from SQL.  In the demo, the 110,000,000 rows consumed approximately 64KB of data, therefore not hammering the network.


RyanAir booking systems runs on SQL 2005.  It was SQL 2000 until recently.  It has 54,000,000 transactions per annum.  Permanent TSB online banking runs on SQL.  Department of family and social affairs runs on SQL.  NASDQ uses it, Citibank uses it, Hotmail, MSN, etc.  So the questions about SQL scalability from the typical 300 user CIO are laughable.  Gartner counts MS SQL as one of the big 3 enterprise database systems.

SQL Reporting Services

The sales phrase being used for SQL is “beyond relational”, i.e. there’s more to MS SQL than storing data: e.g. analysis, integration and reporting.

Competing Against Oracle

Don’t try to tell them to dump Oracle.  Say it’s fine for point applications but MS stack is data/information for the masses.  Chances are, most of the infrastructure and client access licensing are already in place for the MS stack.  You’re likely looking at hybrid solutions where you sell services to merge data into a data warehouse(s) for user access.

Selling SQL Server Advanced Solutions

In BI, MS never talks about the Standard or less editions of SQL.  They always talk about Enterprise.  The same goes when comparing against Oracle. 

There is a new things called the SQL Server 2008 R2 Parallel Data Warehouse.  It’ll be sold by hardware vendors exclusively.  The idea is that you can scale out a singe data warehouse database across cheaper hardware instead of buying some big gigantic pricey piece of equipment.

There is a new Datacenter SKU as well.  This will be per processor.  Supports up to 256 physical cores.  Unlimited free virtualization on a licesned host.  Unlimited RAM.  Unlimited managed instances. 

Standard price going up by 25%.  Enterprise is going up by 15%.  Now only 4 free VM’s on a licensed host.  Max 2TB RAM.  Up to 25 managed instances.

Standard: 64Gb RAM, 4 physical processors, 1 free VM license. 

Existing Enterprise covered by Software Assurance will be upgraded to Datacenter.

*Hmm, I’d be concerned that these higher costs will further swing SME’s on the online market to MySQL.  It’s probably got over 60% of that market.


This was briefly talked about.  It’s the application and business integration solution from MS, based on XML translation.  Often a possibility to sell with SharePoint.

If you are in Ireland then check out the SharePoint user group and the SQL user group.