Beta Spec of XML for Analysis Woven into .NET

Microsoft’sbeta specification for XML for Analysis is another step that further extendsRedmond’s .NET strategy.

The newprotocol will enable developers to create analytic applications on any platformusing any programming language. “It uses XML, SOAP, and HTTP, and is anextension to OLE DB for OLAP and OLE DB for data mining,” says John Eng, leadproduct manager for SQL Server at Microsoft.

Microsoftexpects the new specification to make business intelligence more available tousers in remote locations. “It broadens out the number of people that canaccess it. We call it ‘BI for the masses,’” Eng says. “The data source is inthe enterprise, but now you open it up to all different users. That makes BI accessiblefor everyone.”

Since the.NET strategy is about using the Internet as a platform, this latest XMLspecification extends Microsoft’s .NET strategy. “The specification itselfallows users to write applications that leverage the Internet,” Eng says.

MikeSchiff, vice president of e-business and business intelligence at CurrentAnalysis, agrees that the specification bears great significance for .NET. “XMLfor Analysis represents a major piece of the enabling technology for theMicrosoft .NET framework and is of major importance to Microsoft as it movesthe software battlefield from the desktop to the Web,” he says. “XML forAnalysis serves to publicize the .NET initiative, open it to non-Windowsclients, and add to its momentum.”

SteveMurchie, group product manager of SQL Server at Microsoft, says, “A key part ofthe .NET strategy is enabling applications, and a key part of that is XML. TheXML for Analysis protocol is built upon the same technology.”

While XMLis important to Microsoft and its .NET strategy, the significance of it spanswell beyond. This is why Microsoft felt it was so vital to get other vendorsinvolved in the review of the new specification.

Afterdesigning a prebeta draft of the specification, Microsoft passed the draftaround to its partners and other vendors involved with the specification forinput. After the initial review, Microsoft used the input to clean up thespecification, and then it presented the protocol and sample applications toover 100 users at the design review. Those users then took the specificationback to their respective organizations for feedback. The result of this processis the beta specification for XML for Analysis.

Microsoftgoes through this process so it can offer customers more variety when choosinga business intelligence (BI) vendor. “Only with agreement between vendors canwe achieve any kind of goal. We work with key vendors, application vendors, andcustomers so that we know the ease of building applications is there,” Murchiesays. “Ultimately it makes the cost lower, availability ubiquitous. The benefitto customers is more choice, lower cost, and more features.”

Schiff saysthe specification will benefit customers, but it will benefit Microsoft and itspartners, as well. “We expect to see many industry vendors, especiallyMicrosoft partners, embrace XML for Analysis and incorporate it with their ownofferings. Many of the 50-plus vendors that were part of the prebeta reviewprocess fall into this product category. We expect many of them will gladlyjump into Microsoft .NET, and will be encouraged by Microsoft to do so.”

Thespecification is important to Microsoft in one more way, Schiff says. “Inaddition to supporting Microsoft’s .NET framework, the XML for Analysis APIrepresents Microsoft’s response to the Hyperion/Oracle/IBM/Sun Java OLAP APIand is continuation of the OLAP API war.”

Microsoftexpects to have the beta software development kit available during the firstquarter, and to have the final specification complete in the first half of thisyear. The beta specification is available for download at: .

Microsoft Corp., Redmond, Wash.,
Current Analysis, Sterling, Va.,