What’s new in SQL Server 2008 Analysis Services

Lynn Langit is presenting this one.  Her main career focus is Business Intelligence and has a book coming out.  I’ll have to pick this up.

This is an area that has always been of fascination to me yet I don’t know anything about it other than simple data reporting.  Working at the Val Verde Unified School District we have vast amounts of data and could really take advantage of BI.  Hopefully I’ll be able to use some of this with our new SQL 2008 install and start introducing it to various departments.  Maybe we could even use it in IT to analyze our support trends.  That would be sweet!

Excel has a great add-in to act as a client to BI data.  Excel is one of the primary tools used at our organization, especially by our business office, so this would be a great sell.

Wow!  Lynn just showed how she took her Excel spreadsheet of local data and analyzed it using Microsoft’s own services.  She asked Excel to analyze it, it reported she wasn’t connected to SSAS, she said she wanted to use Microsoft’s data services in the Cloud, and then it sent the results back.  This took only a few seconds.  Yes you are sending your data to Microsoft and yes this service is only free during beta testing, but this is amazing.  Could really open doors for cheap introduction to SSAS and BI in general.

Check out SQL Server Data Mining in the Cloud for details on how to do this.

At VVUSD we have the mentality that we’d rather pay up front had host our own services, but using this might be a great way to sell research in this area in the beginning.

Lynn gave a great explanation of SQL Data Services.  It is SQL Server that has been optimized for performance and high-availability.  Thus many features have been removed and interaction has been restricted.  There are schemaless containers via Authorities, Containers and Entities (think property bags).  Also, the only query language currently is LINQ.  This all may change but that’s the current state.

Wow!  Once you have a validated and fairly good model Lynn showed how this can be used real-time.  You can hit your model real-time, such as from a form your sales guy is using, and get instant prediction about your current state.  For instance, if you’re selling bikes, and in the first 3 questions your sales guy finds that this potential customer is in the bottom 10% of likelihood to buy a bike, they can thank the customer and hang up right there.  Instantly, in real time, they have found out the likely results of their work.  We could use this in our school and, based on grades, get instant feedback as to how successful a student might be.  Education organizations spend millions in this area so I think our work would be cut out for us! :)  In the IT dept, for example, we could possibly instantly predict the support costs we’ll incur from a department (or specific user) and hardware (laptops, phones, etc) based off of previous support calls.  So if a user who travels a lot and is particularly rough with their equipment asks for a new laptop we may find that it’s more cost effective to buy a better warranty or a tougher laptop (or deny the request all together).

This is definitely a large area (full careers in themselves) but something that would definitely be worth spending some time on if possible. 

OK, I’m definitely going to have to pick up a book.  This is all so new to me that most of this is over my head, but the demos are absolutely amazing.

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Matt Penner

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