Microsoft to bring BI to the cloud

No-show for Office 2010, 'but the one after that,' BI director says

Microsoft Corp. will bring BI and analytic services to its Windows Azure cloud computing platform, though it is unlikely to arrive before 2013, an executive said Thursday.

Microsoft BI software hosted on Windows Azure is "clearly on our road map," Guy Weismantel, Microsoft's director of BI, told Computerworld. However, it's "not a fully fleshed-out story. So it won't be the next release of Office 2010, but the one after that, that you'll see us get into cloud-based BI."

Microsoft releases a new major version of Office every three years.

Some competitors have already launched BI as a cloud-based service. Pentaho and launched a service in March, as did start-up Good Data Corp.

Weismantel said that unlike those targeted solutions, Microsoft's future cloud BI offerings will be part of broader products that can help large enterprises move multiple pieces of infrastructure to the cloud one at a time.

In the meantime, Microsoft's BI software efforts continue to chug along, said Weismantel.

Project Gemini is Microsoft's attempt to hop onto the "self-service BI" trend by enabling users of Office, especially Excel, to do their own BI analyses without IT's hand-holding. It is still targeted for release in the first half of 2010, with public betas coming in the second half of this year, Weismantel said.

PerformancePoint Server, which Microsoft folded into SharePoint Server in January after just 15 months, is doing better since the move.

Microsoft has recently signed up three major corporations to use PerformancePoint, considered part of the subgenre of business performance management (BPM) software.

Customers include cosmetics vendor L'Oreal, Twinkies maker Interstate Bakeries, and a Fortune 25 manufacturer that Weismantel declined to name.

Tying PerformancePoint to SharePoint by making the former free to enterprise customers of the latter is an "obvious vehicle" to boost PerformancePoint's usage, he said. SharePoint has more than 100 million licensed users.

Weismantel admitted that PerformancePoint's belated September 2007 launch made it hard to sell.

"A lot of companies already had established BI standards," he said.

Earlier this month, Microsoft canceled its BI conference set for this October. Weismantel blamed shrunken corporate travel budgets due to the recession. The conference will take place in 2010 instead, and every other year afterward.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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