Business Intelligence

Business intelligence refers to computer based techniques used in identifying, extracting and analyzing business data that helps business people make more informed decisions by providing timely, data-driven answers to their business questions. It delivers relevant information to the right people at the right time.

BI software runs against data stored in data warehouses, operational databases, ERP systems and transforms the data into attractive and easy-to-understand dashboards and reports.

Gartner defines a BI platform as a software platform that delivers few capabilities listed below:

Integration:

  1. BI infrastructure
  2. Metadata management
  3. Development tools
  4. Collaboration

Information delivery:

  1. Reporting
  2. Dashboards
  3. Ad hoc query
  4. Microsoft Office integration
  5. Search-based BI

Analysis:

  1. OLAP
  2. Interactive visualization
  3. Predictive modelling and data mining
  4. Scorecards

All tools in the platform should use the same security, metadata, administration, portal integration, object model and query engine and should share the same look and feel. It should provide a robust way to search, capture, store, reuse and publish metadata objects such as dimensions, hierarchies, measures, performance metrics and report layout objects.

MicroStrategy

MicroStrategy is a Business Intelligence software that provides organizations with greater insights to:
Enhance cost-efficiency and productivity
Build stronger customer relationships
Optimize revenue-generating strategies
Monitor trends and discover anomalies
Forecast business opportunities

MicroStrategy was founded in 1989 by Michael Saylor (CEO), Sanju Bansal (COO) and Thomas Spahr as a consulting firm focused on multidimensional modelling and simulation.

With all of the requirements of an enterprise class business intelligence system in mind, MicroStrategy has produced a tightly integrated platform solution written in C++ and Java with Visual Basic, J2EE, and .NET interfaces. There are two front end layers—one built using JSP, the other using ASP.NET— which provides the flexibility to run on Microsoft® Windows®, Sun™ Solaris™, IBM® AIX®, Red Hat® Linux®, SUSE® Linux®, or HP-UX® operating systems.

Benefits
Rich functionality for end users
Power for project designers, report developers and analysts
Control for administrators
Scalability
Reliability
Security
Efficient and sophisticated analytics
Rapid query performance

Architecture
It has the following components:
Source Systems
Data Warehouse
ETL process
Metadata database
MicroStrategy products

Source Systems (OLTP)
Source systems are typically databases or mainframes that store transaction processing data. Transaction processing involves simple recording of transactions.

A bank is one example of a business with different types of source systems. The average bank offers their customers a variety of services and therefore needs these different types of source systems to support their services. For example, consider the ATM. You can withdraw and deposit money as well as check your account balance. However, if you need a demand draft, you have to go inside and speak with a bank teller. The bank has different operational systems, each designed to perform tasks that are specific to the service. If the bank wants to see a unified view of a particular customer, all the information from each source systems have to be collected and stored in a centralized data warehouse.

Data Warehouse (OLAP)
A well designed and robust data warehouse lies at the heart of the BI system and enables its users to leverage the competitive advantage that BI provides.

While source systems are designed and optimized for transaction processing, data warehouses are designed and optimised for analytical processing. Analytical processing involves manipulating transaction records to calculate sales trends, growth patterns, percent of total contributions, trend reporting, profit analysis and so forth.

ETL Process
The extraction, transformation and loading process facilitates the transfer of the data from the source systems to the data warehouse.

Metadata
It is the repository that stores object definitions and information about your data warehouse. The information is stored in a proprietary format within a relational database. It maps objects -which are used to build reports and analyze data -to your data warehouse structures and data.

MicroStrategy Products
The MicroStrategy applications allow you to interact with the BI system. They allow you to logically organize data hierarchically to create, calculate and analyze complex data relationships. They also provide the ability to look at data from many different perspectives.

A variety of grid and graph formats are available for superior report presentation. You can even build documents, which enable you to combine multiple reports with text and graphics.

MicroStrategy Developer/Desktop
It is a client/server application that report developers and analysts use to create reports, documents, projects, other schema objects and view them. It is available in few editions. Each edition provides a different level of functionality to accommodate different user groups.

MicroStrategy Architect
It is an application that project designers use to create projects. It is used to create schema objects that map to columns in the data warehouse.

MicroStrategy Web
It is an intuitive reporting interface for end users, that offers interactive reporting and analysis through a web browser. It provides windows like functionality with access to extensive report and document creation, manipulation and formatting capabilities in an easy to use web interface.
It comes in three different editions –Web Reporter, Web Analyst and Web Professional.

MicroStrategy Office
It enables power analysts and end users to run and analyse reports in Microsoft Excel, Word or PowerPoint using a Microsoft.NET compatible web service architecture.

MicroStrategy Mobile
It is an interactive interface that lets mobile business users run reports and dashboards directly from their BlackBerry Mobiles, Apple iPhones and iPads.
All level of business users receive the same report on their smartphones as they do via MicroStrategy Web or MicroStrategy Desktop, without the need to reformatting existing reports.

Intelligence server
IS is the core of the MicroStrategy platform. It provides a powerful, comprehensive set of features necessary for a scalable, fault-tolerant, enterprise-wide business intelligence system.
We primarily access MicroStrategy Intelligence server functionality using the Developer interface.

The SQL Engine of IS generates SQL optimized for whatever database platform we use.
The Query Engine sends report SQL to the warehouse database and retrieves the results.
The Analytical Engine performs analytical calculations and formats reports.

MicroStrategy Enterprise Manager
As business intelligence usage increases, it becomes important for any organization to identify business intelligence usage patterns to deliver the right customer satisfaction. MicroStrategy Enterprise Manager lets administrators monitor
system and report usage, which in turn allows them to develop tuning strategies that can maximize performance.

MicroStrategy Command Manager
MicroStrategy Command Manager provides the ability to create text-based scripts and automate common administrative functionality. These text-based scripts can also run from the command line and are therefore available from inside third-party applications. MicroStrategy comes with hundreds of default text scripts.

MicroStrategy System Manager
Administrators can combine multiple sequential administrative tasks into a single workflow, then deploy the workflow at a scheduled time or on demand, with MicroStrategy System Manager. These workflows can be deployed using a standard interface, an interactive command line process, or a completely silent configuration process.

MicroStrategy Integrity Manager
As a business intelligence system grows to encompass multiple production and development environments, it becomes important to ensure that changes to an environment do not alter any of your results. MicroStrategy Integrity Manager is an automated comparison tool that lets administrators compare reports and documents across environments, streamlining the process of identifying and resolving discrepancies.

MicroStrategy SDK
MicroStrategy SDK creates an open architecture that enables developers to integrate, extend, and fully exploit the power of the MicroStrategy platform through a set of rich APIs that fully expose all platform functionality. Businesses can leverage this powerful development environment to rapidly deploy custom applications and embed intelligence
into any website.

Architecture

  1. MicroStrategy Intelligence Server receives a logon request from any interface. The Security Engine authenticates the user, and allocates the appropriate authorization. If third-party authentication is used, the Security Engine receives authentication credentials from the third-party before providing the proper authorization information.
  2. The user navigates through the available applications, folders, and business definitions to run a report. This activity is serviced by the Object Browsing Engine. The information is retrieved from the metadata repository or from caches via the Cache Management Engine.
  3. If the metadata information is not cached, a connection is made to the metadata repository to retrieve the required object definitions. These object definitions are cached in memory, and managed by the Cache Management Engine.
  4. When the user runs a report, the information is handed over to the Resolution Engine for analysis. If the Cache Management Engine determines that a valid cache exists for this report, the cached result set is passed to the Analytic Engine and Formatting Engine before the final formatted report is sent to the user.
  5. If prompts are included, the Prompting Engine manages the user input, resolves the prompt answers, and hands the information back to the Resolution Engine. Possible prompt answers are retrieved from cache if available. Otherwise, a connection (not shown) to the data source is created via the Query Engine.
  6. Once all required information is gathered for query generation, the Dynamic SQL Engine generates the optimized SQL for the specific data source. For multi-dimensional cube data sources, the Dynamic MDX generates optimized MDX.
  7. The Dynamic SQL Engine hands the SQL to the Query Engine for execution against the data source.
  8. The Query Engine connects to the relevant data source, and runs the query. If a valid connection is cached, that connection is used to reduce overhead. Upon completion, the final report results are retrieved.
  9. If intermediate calculations are required that are not supported by the data source, intermediate data is transferred back to the Query Engine, and handed over to Analytical Engine for processing.
  10. The intermediate results are returned to the data source to complete the query. Steps 9 and 10 can be repeated many times if necessary.
  11. The report results are handed over to the Analytical Engine, which performs additional calculations, and applies cross-tabbing, page-by, and aggregation according to the report layout.
  12. The final result set is added to the report cache, and indexed by the Cache Management Engine. Other nodes in a clustered environment are notified that this report cache is available. This result set is now available for any matching requests from any user interface.
  13. The Formatting Engine applies all the report formats – fonts, colors, images, thresholds, alignment, size, bands, and graphs – and converts the data into the required output type – XML, PDF, Excel, CSV, and HTML. The XML is cached and available for all other Web users.
  14. The final formatted report is delivered to the user.