If you had flown AirAsia, you would probably know where I stole the title to this post from. Microsoft did the same thing too. Heh heh! No, not the stealing bit, but providing for (almost) every small organization to use BI – Something which only the big bucks could afford.
I do not know if it was Microsoft who actually pioneered the whole thing, but what I do know is that they actually do bring business intelligence (BI) to the masses. It all started with SQL Server 2005 (still growing stronger with the later releases).
SQL Server 2005 introduced a remade Analysis Services component which at its center had something called the Unified Dimensional Model (UDM). At that time and even now, there is still confusion as to what it actually is; with some thinking that it is something conceptual, while others think that it is something more physical, while still others like myself think it is something of both. Regardless of what each person thinks, the UDM is that wonderful tool which allows (almost) anyone to enjoy BI.
Say for instance, you are that retail outlet with only a sales database. Well, you could turn that into a BI platform without creating a data load (ETL) process or even a data mart. The UDM can turn your transactional database into a BI platform, and you can have real-time data too. How about that!
Or say for instance, you are that frustrated department head with your department-centric database and Excel accounts workbooks, but no proper decision support systems in the organization for you to do your superstar analysis. Get your data sources together, catch hold of a programmer and build your department’s very own BI source.
Heck, you can even get the UDM to build on top of XML files!
The allure of it is that it can all be done with your existing SQL Server Standard Edition. You do not need to buy anything additional. Most of the times you will not even have to build a data mart and a data loading process to go with it. Then, once you’ve got your UDM built, you can choose Reporting Services and/or Excel to do the reporting and analysis.
Did I hear you say; what about performance then? using the same source as the BI platform is bad on performance… Sweat not. The UDM has different options where performance can be tweaked according to your preferences.
One thing to keep in mind though is that; this does not mean that data warehouses/data marts and ETL are on their way out. They are still very much part and parcel of BI, but in the context of corporate BI or in the case where data is too disparate and too unstructured to get sense out of easily and directly.