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Issue Date: September 2007

Microsoft and Dell ship 'BI appliance', of sorts

September 2007
Madan Sheina

Microsoft and Dell have joined forces to offer integrated hardware-software business intelligence and data warehousing configurations which they claim can save customers hundreds of thousands of dollars versus datawarehousing appliances.

The collaboration, announced at Microsoft's PASS (Professional Association for SQL Server) conference in Denver, Colorado last week, sounds suspiciously like a first stab at delivering a bundled hardware-software appliance platform. That is because each of the three configurations effectively stacks up a balanced combination of server hardware, storage arrays, operating system, database, analytics and reporting software (included in SQL Server), and management tools.
In all three reference configurations have been devised for one, two and four-terabyte deployments using Microsoft SQL Server.
The configurations come with support for warehouse sizing, installation and hardware-software support all thrown into a single offering.
A one-terabyte configuration consists of two Dell PowerEdge 6950 servers to run the SQL Server database and analysis (SQL Server Analysis Services) servers, and a PowerEdge 2970 server to host Microsoft's reporting server (SQL Server Reporting Services).
The configuration also includes three Dell PowerVault 1000 storage arrays.
The two- and four-terabyte configurations include the same hardware and software but include more Dell storage arrays.
Microsoft and Dell said they have jointly tested and analysed the performance stability of each configuration against a variety of sample BI and data warehousing data load and analysis scenarios.
Microsoft and Dell claim the configurations, which enable decision-makers at all levels of the enterprise to make more informed decisions and improve performance, 'can in many cases' outperform many other data warehousing solutions or even pre-built appliance on the market. Why? Microsoft and Dell claim, because the configurations are largely based on 'industry-standard' hardware and software that many customers are assumed to be using right now.
Microsoft and Dell assert their configurations can save customers as much as $300 000 per terabyte in their BI and data warehouse implementations.
Microsoft and Dell said that is made possible due to a rapid implementation scheme that pulls together standard x86-based hardware and software components from the two firms. Management is also simplified using connectors and plug-ins for Dell's own tools and Microsoft's Systems Management Server and Microsoft Operations Manager software.
Microsoft has of course BI tools and capabilities included as part of its SQL Server, SharePoint and Office suite of products that can be weaved into the configurations. Microsoft also plans to reconfigure the three offerings to introduce its new Office PerformancePoint Server 2007 performance application into the configuration mix as well. PerformancePoint helps companies to monitor, analyse and plan their business through dashboards and scorecards.
The three configurations are listed on the Dell website.
Over 2300 SQL Server professionals attended PASS last week.
Ted Kummert, corporate vice president for Microsoft's data and storage platform division, said during his PASS keynote that the next version of the SQL Server database, SQL Server 2008, will be available in the second quarter of next year. He said there will be no price increase for the enhanced system. The Community Technology Preview, Microsoft's term for beta phase, will be production-ready in around six weeks time.
Our view
Microsoft and Dell are trying to give their joint customers a data warehousing option that is simple to buy and implement and less expensive than traditional data warehousing appliances or other pre-configured BI systems. The aggressive configurations they tout are based largely on two assumptions: that Dell and Microsoft hardware and software are industry-standard components; and that customers already have them in place and are using them today.
But what is most interesting about the three configurations is that it answers the tricky question of how much hardware do I need to run my BI and data warehousing system? From what we can gather customers pick one of the three configurations and then have the option of buying just enough server, disk drives and software to go with the database system; all made as a single, simplified decision.
Source: Computergram


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