Microsoft Makes the Cut With Data Analyzer

Enterprises Manage information assets on the back-end, but the front-end is sometimes neglected. To help quickly ramp up front-ends, Microsoft Corp. introduced Data Analyzer.

Data Analyzer is a data visualization and analysis tool that uses a graphical user interface (GUI) to allow end users to easily create charts and graphs from corporate data. It interfaces with Microsoft's SQL Server 2000 Analysis Services to pull data out of databases and into the desktop application.

"We're trying to bring business intelligence [BI] to the masses," says Francois Ajenstat, technical product manager for Data Analyzer at Microsoft. While many BI products are focused on specific applications—and require intensive integration efforts—Data Analyzer can be seen as a one-size-fits-all solution.

Microsoft chose to focus on the "information explorers," who need to analyze data on a casual basis. Although rarely upper managers, Information explorers are increasingly called on to shape the direction of the enterprise.

Data Analyzer integrates with other Microsoft packages. Views from Data Analyzer can be used in PowerPoint, Excel and other Office components. Views can easily be posted as Web Parts to the SharePoint Portal server.

Data Analyzer depends on SQL Server Analysis Services, a Microsoft layer for advanced data analysis services. Enterprises who don't use SQL Server 2000 can still purchase SQL Server 2000 and integrate the tools with their database. Data Analyzer can connect to DB2 and Oracle. Ajenstat says, "Theoretically, any OLTP for ODBC would work, but we only patch and support Microsoft Analysis services."

Data Analyzer retails for $179, but Microsoft expects that most customers will take advantage of its Volume Licensing Program.