Further to my blog post about SQL server appliances Microsoft and HP also offer the very exciting Business Decision Appliance. This contains a preconfigured environment with:
- Microsoft Windows Server 2008 R2 Enterprise Edition
- Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2 Enterprise Edition with PowerPivot integration for SharePoint
- Microsoft SharePoint 2010 Enterprise EditionPrerequisites for SharePoint and PowerPivot
- Appliance Administration Console
- Appliance-specific SharePoint Home Page
- Up to 80 Concurrent Users
The aim of this appliance is to provide a safe and scalable environment for business users to quickly put a PowerPivot environment in place. This is isolated from existing systems and can be implemented by a business department with very limited IT involvement. Its isolated nature is important as many organisations don’t run SharePoint 2010 throughout their enterprise. PowerPivot authors also need Excel 2010 but once reports are built and deployed they can be shared throughout the business through SharePoint using any web browser. Anyone who has already tried to set up an integrated SharePoint and PowerPivot environment will know that the installation is not simple. This appliance takes that pain away with a one click installation from first start up that can have you up and running in under an hour.
The key point is that business users love PowerPivot and its ability to quickly use their data to answer any question. They can respond dynamically, collaborate and share insights throughout the organisation. Importantly PowerPivot allows the creation of reports that look great and are very fast. All this is done from within the familiar Excel interface and requiring little training to get started. Any team of business analysts would likely have a massive boost in productivity from the installation of the BDA in their department. IT can then monitor those reports that are heavily used and decide whether they need making more robust through transition to enterprise software such as Analysis Services. PowerPivot use is at its easiest in an environment where there is a clean data warehouse but where the business aren’t happy with the speed or responsiveness to change of their current front end. In an environment with more disparate and dirty data the end users need to be more SQL and data modelling skilled, but the payback can be even greater.
I see massive opportunity in this appliance for any team of data analysts to be able to deliver massive value to their business right now.