Last week Donald Farmer announced that he was leaving his long-time position as Microsoft’s lead BI technology evangelist for QlikTech, a small company from Sweden, now based in Pennsylvania; that pioneered in-memory OLAP and analytics. Microsoft has invested heavily in their own version of in-memory OLAP with PowerPivot and the BI Semantic Model coming in the next SQL Server release sometime around the end of the year. Donald is leaving Microsoft under favorable conditions at a time when many look to him for his leadership. Yesterday Steve Ballmer announced that Bob Muglia will be leaving his post as the leader of Microsoft’s Server Tools Business. Again, Bob is leaving in his own accord. There’s a lot of buzz in the SQL Server MVP community about whether these two events are related. If they are, some say, we’ll likely see a few more people leaving. If not, they may be coincidental. I’ve been watching Donald speak at conferences and user groups for nearly seven years and I love his insight, passion and unique perspective.
In the past few years Microsoft has stepped up as a major player and industry leader in a few related arenas – server platforms, large-scale databases and business intelligence. We have seen their general strategy change from a desktop software provider to a strong leader in the enterprise business systems space. And just recently we’re seeing leadership changes in the top ranks. This may be a sign of some realignment and adjustments to their strategic direction.
In October and November, at various industry insider events, we learned, prior to this information being made public, that some of the new BI functionality in SQL Server Denali will only be available to customers with SharePoint Enterprise licenses. This means that these new capabilities may not be within reach of smaller business customers. I had a chance to chat with Ted Kummert, Senior VP of Microsoft’s BI Platform Division, about this. He said that this was his decision. It was strategic and they’re not backing down. Clearly, the future Microsoft BI is going to be large-scale and intended to reach enterprise-class customers. Leaders of the Microsoft BI product teams have told me that the licensing models and product edition features will be re-evaluated and adjusted so that these products continue to support small and mid-sized customers. But for now, it’s big-business first.
I’m not saying that it’s a bad thing. Microsoft’s in a great position financially and their recent enterprise-class investments into technologies such as database server high-availability and parallel data warehousing are doing well. Apparently we’re seeing signs of some strategic realignment and new directions within the ranks of the executive leadership. I’m optimistic but anxious to see what the next year brings.