Following a suggestion of Rui Santos (master colleague), I'll try to write a draft about Microsoft BI Tools using my current BI project.
As you probably know, the current version of SQL Server 2005 has two separate environments, one for management and one for development.
The development environment is called Business Intelligence Development Studio (BIDS) and is focused mainly in business intelligence area. Includes a module for Data Integration (SSIS), another for Data Analysis (SSAS) and another for Report (SSRS). The management environment is called SQL Server Management Studio (SSMS) and it’s here that you do all the work managing your databases.
I don’t know yet the other BI tools, but what I heard from community is that Microsoft tools are more “user-friendly” than others. But in my master I will try SAS tools and I will know if it’s true or not.
I’m very satisfied with Microsoft, and If today BI is more popular is because Microsoft is investing a lot in BI technologies. Why I am say this? Well… is my opinion, but there was big improvements particularly in SQL 2005, SharePoint 2007 (usually used to file share in 2003 version), the acquisition of ProClarity (tools to analyze BI data), the acquisition of Dundas software (Report tools), Office 2007… and others…
For these reasons, I think BI is the right path to our careers, particularly Microsoft! But I think if we know the BI concepts, with some extra work we can use other tools like SAS, WebFocus, SAP and others without problems.
My current BI project is very complex and the old system was too difficult to understand (http://pedrocgd.blogspot.com/2007/06/ssis-temporary-image-to-msdn-forum.html) because it seemed like a data warehouse inside excel and access files… could you imagine that?!
In overall, the big difficulties was understanding the old system and define the best architecture.
Below I will show you some screenshots of Microsoft BI tools in my project.
SSIS - SQL Integration Services
As I wrote in a previous post, the goal of BI is provide the business with high data quality using intelligence! This module provides the right tools to transform, clean and audit data from several data sources and unsure that this data will be inserted correctly and compatible with destination structure – Is my concept of ETL.
Control Flow (Sequence container expanded)
SSAS - SQL Analysis Services
This module consisted of two major, and complementary, pieces of functionality: OLAP and Data Mining.
In this module you can add KPI (corporate measures), perspectives, translations and you must know the language of querying multi dimensional databases, MDX.
MDX is similar to SQL but while in SQL we query data from OLTP databases, with MDX we query data from OLTP databases.
Data Source View
Calculations Designer (MDX Sintax)
Cube Browser with some data
SSRS - SQL Reporting Services
Using the MDX, it's possible to create queries to an OLAP database and display here inside a table, matrix or in a chart.
Data designer (wizard)
MDX Data Designer
Don’t forget, this is a draft about each SQL BI module. If you think a more specific description of this subject could be useful, I will describe it better. (In the right panel you could see links of my preferred books)