Light-up Your BI Dashboard with Silverlight

Silverlight is Microsoft’s ubber-cool developer technology for creating exciting interactive Web applications like RIAs and mobile apps. I often hear a strong desire from sophisticated customers who have existing BI centers of excellent or BI practices, that their users really desire and being to require engaging, interactive applications from the Web for their business intelligence applications.

What I wanted to do here was to point you to a few examples of BI dashboards built on Microsoft technology where Silverlight was used for the controls or parts of the dashboard.

Let’s begin with a presentation that I did a few years back for a Microsoft Services offering called MEC or Microsoft Enterprise Cube here. Since this is a few years old, you will see examples in that presentation of our UI for surfacing Microsoft SSAS cube KPIs and analytics via Silverlight 1.0. It was a big of a bear to do this back then because data binding was more difficult and we had to know how to write much more XAML than you do today with Visual Studio 2010. In that presentation, you will also see examples of Silverlight-based Web pages scaled to fit mobile device screens.

Now, the way that we built these was to build custom Silverlight controls, bind them via ADOMD to SQL Server Analysis Services and then expose the controls through ASP.NET and SharePoint. We had to build the dashboard outside of PerformancePoint Server, so keep this in mind if you wish to go this route with SharePoint 2010. This will be the same case in PerformancePoint Services, as you will need to use the charting controls included with SharePoint or include an Excel or SSRS report.

My man Derek Comingore of BI Voyage wrote about MEC and BI data visualizations for SQL Mag here. Look at the bottom of his posting for links to some very cool visualizations from Telerik, who has some great examples of pushing the envelope with Silverlight for BI apps.

I will also point you over to Infragistics and their awesome line of developer components, tools and consulting. There is a sample BI dashboard built using their Silverlight controls here. You can click there and play with the app and check it out. The experience of visually-compelling data, transitions and vector graphics is what Silverlight and RIAs are all about.

In my opinion, these examples of ISVs and organizations that focus on developers tools really illustrate the power of Silverlight in a true business-value added sense. For me, living in the data platform world these days, those example beat putting up a soccer game video using Silverlight any day.


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