Catching-up: Updated Goings-on in October

Sorry that I’ve been so busy lately, I have not yet had time to complete part 1 of my System Center series for SQL Server DBAs. I promise to have the SCOM section out this weekend.

I do want to point you all to 2 updating “goings-on” in my world:

  1. We are running a free 4 hour SQL Server 2008 R2 performance monitoring and tuning seminar sponsored by Sebastian Meine of SQLITY.NET on October 20 in our Malvern Microsoft Technology Center (MTC) here in the Philly burbs. You can register for that free event here.
  2. And I finally got around to complete a new SQL Server Magazine BI Blog post today focused on the SQL Server Denali CTP3 release of SSIS, demonstrating the new version control features here.
  3. I am finalizing my demos and presentations for Philly Code Camp on October 15. You can register here, it is FREE and lots & lots of training on .NET technologies and we have BI & SQL Server tracks. This is the 3rd update to my series on leveraging Silverlight in Microsoft BI to make cool visualizations and dashboards. Code Camp is one of my favorite events of all-time, I always have a great time at these events. I also will update my presentation and demos and post those next week, just prior to the event.


Microsoft BI with Silverlight UPDATED

I wanted to follow-up on my postings and occasional delivery of my Silverlight with Microsoft BI session where one of my demos is showing custom Silverlight controls on a Web page in a dashboard that are based on the original Silverlight 1.0 files that we used when I was in the Microsoft BI solutions team in Redmond. The project was called Microsoft Enterprise Cube (MEC) and is a wonderful example of leveraging dynamic, exciting data visualization to make for compelling BI solutions.

I mentioned at the last presentation at SQL Saturday in Philly, that you can have the original XAML but that you will want to put it into a tool like Expression Blend, modify and update it for your own solution. I finally got around to opening it up again (first time in 3 years!) and it loads just fine in Expression Blend and you can then do what you would like to use this as a good Silverlight starting point and make it your own:


The original XAML is here.

BTW, I am going to be presenting the next generation of my Microsoft BI with Silverlight presentation on April 9 @ Philly Code Camp in Ft. Washington: I am going to walk through the steps of using cool data visualizations with SQL Server for Microsoft BI by using easy tools (Report Builder, PerformancePoint), moderate complexity (3rd party components) and the more difficult method like using custom components in Silverlight such as this one.

SQL Saturday Philly: Silverlight BI

Thanks for to who were able to attend my talk this past Saturday at SQL Saturday Philadelphia on Microsoft BI Silverlight Dashboards. I had a great time and hope that you did, too.

If I missed anything here in this blog or post-session follow-up, please use this thread to ask your questions and we can discuss openly here. Or you can always reach out to me directly.

You can grab the presentation that I used here. And if you would like copies of the Silverlight code for the 1.0 MEC controls from the Microsoft Enteprise Cube project, I made a few of them available here previously. I am working on also making available the Silverlight map and pie chart, too. So keep checking back here to my MSSQLDUDE blog for those updates.

BTW, I promised a link to Silverlight support on the MAC, so here it is

And whenever I give this talk, I like to point you to Bart Czernicki’s book Silverlight BI. My opinion is that for using Silverlight with Microsoft BI, it is the definitive guide out there.

Best wishes, Mark

More on Microsoft Silverlight Business Intelligence

I have highlighted Bart Czernicki’s book on using Silverlight for Microsoft BI in a few of my blogs and presentations in the past. He is out with a Silverlight 4.0 version for Microsoft  Business Intelligence. You can go to his site here. It is an excellent book that I used recently in building out some next-gen dashboard prototypes for customers. I used some of the techniques in a presentation that I did for the NYC SQL Saturday in November.

Those that follow my blogging here and at the SQL Magazine BI blog will know that I lead a solution product at Microsoft a few years ago called Microsoft Enterprise Cube (MEC) where we highlighted RIA UIs, Silverlight, pre-built analytics and ETL and other areas necessary to have a “packaged BI” offering. When I left for Oracle after that project dried up, many of those same concepts were put into Oracle’s “BI Applications” like Project Analytics and P6 Analytics.

But it is heartening to see some of the assets and concepts still interest people and still exist today. I previously posted some of the original Silverlight 1.0 XAML from MEC concept screens and other concepts like the ETL Toolkit expanded over the years. Bart’s book had this to say about those efforts:

Microsoft Enterprise Cube (MEC), which is the epitome of BI 2.0

I think that’s true, although I think that generic Microsoft SharePoint 2010 with SQL Server utilize Fast Search and SharePoint’s messaging capabilities with PerformancePoint Services 2010 probably gets you close to that same point now today. There are Microsoft partners that can do a lot of the same things that MEC was intended to do. Having a pre-built set of ETL, analytics, data models, dashboards and cool RIA UIs can help accelerate time to market and quicken ROI, but it is not necessary, which is probably one of the reasons that products like MEC did not survive as a Microsoft SKU.

Sample Cool Silverlight BI Controls

Sorry about this being a few weeks late, but I finally had the time today to grab copies of the JScript and XAML from the old Silverlight BI controls from a project that I worked on when I was with Microsoft Services a few years back. I demo’d this at the NYC SQL Saturday last month as part of my demonstration of some cool ways that BI developers can add Silverlight to your dashboard to spruce up your Microsoft BI solutions.

I am including the bar chart example with time sliders and smooth transitions. Keep in mind that these are only examples of what a Silverlight BI control would look like on your dashboard and that you would need to host it via a Web page to incorporate into a solution or into SharePoint / PerformancePoint. Also, I do not have code samples for data binding to this control. Also, it is Silverlight 1.0 (I think, I don’t remember, it was a while back) and so you should use this as a guide to recreate it in Silverlight 4.0. Maybe I’ll get some time to do that over the next couple of weeks.

The XAML is the Silverlight code and the JScript adds the values to the control so that you can demonstrate how it look, feels and works. Click on this link here to go to my Live SkyDrive and download the files.

NYC SQL Saturday BI Visualization Follow-up Info

Thanks for joining my session @ NYC SQL Saturday on Microsoft BI cool visualizations!

Let me start you off with a list of important links that I mentioned today and how to get access to the demos and cool Silverlight BI dashboard controls that I demo’d.


This is the super-cool Silverlight-based control from Live Labs in Microsoft that is now available as a CTP for Sharepoint. Here is the link for the online live demo with Netflix data. This is the PivotViewer blog and here is the PivotViewer download for SharePoint. I was demoing the version from laptop using the JIT PivotViewer which you get here.


Remember, most of what I demo’d in terms of spatial, GIS and maps are all available natively in SQL Server 2008 / R2, SSRS and Report Builder. The Silverlight advanced map that uses Bing Maps API is available on Codeplex in a project called Data Connector. Go there to download and try out the sample. It is very easy to set-up and get working against your database.


The Silverlight 1.0/2.0 graphs that I showed at the beginning were from my project @ Microsoft prior to SQL Server 2008 and I will post the code for those controls in a subsequent follow-up posting here on my MSSQLDUDE blog. But the current up-to-date Silverlight style graphs that I demo’d with transitions and smooth graphics were from Visifire. Go to their site here to get the XAML and try it out. You can use the free version that I showed with the disclaimer on the web part. But I don’t want to recommend one Silverlight control vendor over another. There are plenty out there that you should examine before purhcasing. Thanks to Russell Christopher, a fellow Microsoft Technology Specialist, for turning me on to Visifre, though. Their demo is very cool. And if you would like to get your hands on some spatial data and location data like lat/long try out geocoder, CodePlex SQL Spatial tools for loading shape files and viewing maps here and Sharp GIS has some good tools and samples to work with.


Let us not forget the old standby tools that are the bread-and-butter of the Microsoft BI stack for us SQL Server pros. The capabilities in the enterprise edition of these tools is outstanding as you saw at the SQL Saturday this week. The out-of-the-box mapping capabilities with Bing Maps is phenomenal and you can make very, very good dashboards like these below with the base tools.


We had so much fun talking and demoing these technologies and so liitle time on Saturday that we never made it to mobile BI! Below is a screenshot of a mobile BI screen on Windows Phone. You can use tools like that one from PushBI or another good online tool is RoamBI. A parnter of ours that I work with alot is BI Voyage. Check out Derek Comingore’s demo of RoamBI which allows you to quickly build an iPhone based Microsoft BI solution using your data from their website.

Thanks again and here is a link to the presentation that I used. Best, Mark

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.