Exploring Big Data Analytics on Microsoft SharePoint

June 9, 2014
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Business intelligence is a critical part of the modern day decision making process. But with thousands of data points to analyze and hundreds of metrics to choose from, the prevalent clutter and information overload has never been higher. Late last year, Microsoft announced a slew of business intelligence features to their popular SharePoint 2013 enterprise server platform that integrates across the Office suite and other MS technologies. Here’s a brief rundown on all that is available for your business intelligence requirements with SharePoint 2013.

Business intelligence is a critical part of the modern day decision making process. But with thousands of data points to analyze and hundreds of metrics to choose from, the prevalent clutter and information overload has never been higher. Late last year, Microsoft announced a slew of business intelligence features to their popular SharePoint 2013 enterprise server platform that integrates across the Office suite and other MS technologies. Here’s a brief rundown on all that is available for your business intelligence requirements with SharePoint 2013.

Bringing SQL Server BI To Excel – Microsoft’s competency in the business intelligence domain has never been in question. However, until now, access to this technology was restricted to SQL Server. As a result, teams that did not have the tech know-how were unable to make maximum use of the valuable big data based business intelligence offered by Microsoft. With the latest update, ad-hoc analytics reports can be generated via MS Excel; a tool that is ubiquitous and is easy to use even to those who are not tech-savvy. This has brought big data analytics into the hands of the strategic decision makers of the organizations who hitherto had to depend on third party analytics tools.

Third Party Data Retrieval – Businesses do not always have all their technology solutions provided by a single provider like Microsoft. Retrieving data points from multiple sources and interpreting them for useful information is not only technologically cumbersome, but also impossible in some cases because of the proprietary data storage systems used. With SharePoint 2013, data is now stored and retreived through OData, the open source data transport protocol. This makes it easy for users to pull data from multiple tools and services and run analytics through them for strategic insights.

Improved Performance & Governance – Traditionally, accessing various servers for SharePoint management was done through Kerberos delegation, which is basically reusing user credentials while accessing different servers. This has a huge impact on speed and performance. Although SharePoint Governance tools give users the ability to define site requests and template structures with one click, the access of back-end data for big data analytics purposes was handled independently thus slowing down the process. SharePoint 2013 comes implemented with PerformancePoint which does away with Kerberos delegation and instead relies on an independent primary source of data that improves data analytics performance without impacting regular non-analytical queries.

In-Memory Engine – In addition to PerformancePoint, another significant addition to SharePoint 2013 is the deployment of In-Memory BI Engine. This offers a great boost to the processing infrastructure thus drastically bringing down the time required to analyze the millions of data points that are regularly required for big data analytics systems. Thanks to OData and PowerPivot, the aggregation and processing of data from multiple servers and back-end systems is blazingly fast and a lot more efficient.

SharePoint 2013 has brought big data to the fore and into the hands of the non-tech-savvy decision maker. This can democratize the way various businesses gain insights about their customer trends. The interpretation and execution of strategies is still in the hands of the competent CXO and it is this that will differentiate the successful enterprises from the not-so-successful ones. 

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