Datazen – First Impressions

April 14th saw Microsoft announce their latest acquisition – Datazen Software.  Excited with the possibilities this meant for our Enterprise BI Portal, and Microsoft’s BI suite in general I immediately downloaded Datazen and decided to lift the lid.  Here are my findings.

What  Datazen brings to Microsoft

There’s a lot that can be mentioned here, so i’m just going to break it down to the key points I’ve noticed.

Rich authoring experience:

There are multitude of dashboard creation options that dashboard authors can select from and build.  By a simple drag and resize, you can stand up an executive dashboard in minutes, with a good variety of visualisations available.  Snap to grid is nifty, and lets you align KPIs with ease.

Cross device compatible:

Out of the box compatibility with Windows, Android and Apple.  Pretty straight forward and a welcome addition to Microsoft’s BI offering.  As a designer you also have the choice to design dashboards for tablet and / or phone use.

kpi-repository

Visually Appealing and interactive:

The front end of Datazen is pretty impressive.  Nice clean design and attractive use of colours.  Dashboards are highly interactive with drill throughs, filters and time sliders.  Touch enabled, immediate insight to key metrics are possible directly from your tablet / phone.

drill

Separation of Roles:

The role of the business user and the developer are clearly separated in Datazen. Developers can author data views via the management interface, handling the complexities of query writing and authentication settings, which allows the business user to focus on building dashboards that best represent what they want to convey to the business via the friendly authoring application.

Speed to setup:

Easy to install, the speed and simplicity in standing up a new environment is assisted with well defined documentation provided by Datazen

Integration

Published dashboards are pretty easily integrated to sharepoint via wiki pages with embedded code provided by Datazen

Potential Points of Improvement

  • Unfortunately User Management demands considerable administrative overhead at the moment.  Thankfully this is something Microsoft excel in so bringing their expertise in User Management via Active Directory groups to reduce the overhead of user management will be a welcome improvement.
  • Future security integration with SharePoint to provide a seamless user experience will also be welcome

Technical Requirements

  • Windows Server, IIS (Internet Information Services) and optional integration with Active Directory for User Management
  • Consumption across all mobile devices including Microsoft, Android and Apple
  • In browser consumption requires HTML5 (sorry IE8 users it may be time to upgrade!)
  • Authoring dashboards requires a Windows 8 App which you can download from the store
  • System Management is performed in browser, along with authoring of data views and KPI’s

Licencing Requirements

Current SQL Server Enterprise License Holders with Software Assurance can use Datazen for no additional cost, while those who don’t meet these requirements can licence Datazen through existing sales channels via the Datazen website.

Sourcing Data

Data can be sourced from a number of locations, including;

  • SQL Server Analysis Services
  • SQL Server Database Engine
  • SharePoint Lists
  • Azure
  • ODBC and OLE DB providers such as Oracle
  • OData and XML web services

Datazen and the Enterprise BI Portal

We are busy integrating Datazen into the Enterprise BI Portal Architecture and look forward to providing integrated management capabilities Datazen dashboarding in the next release.  What is also means is Enterprise BI Portal customers will experience the same discoverability functions with Datazen dashboards as they currently do with reports and artefacts on the Portal today.

All in all a wonderful product providing extensive, feature rich visualisations across all devices.  An indication of Microsoft’s ongoing commitment to improve and expand its Business Intelligence capabilities and both on premise and in the cloud.