The data warehousing back-end can be called the back bone of a best practice Business Intelligence & Corporate Performance Management solution and architecture. Microsoft always has been very good in providing solutions that make your BI back-end robust, performing, extensible and scalable. Since Microsoft acquired its database and cube technology from Sybase in the mid 90's, it has been constantly improving it to meet the high standards that an enterprise data warehouse relies on.
Next to the improvements of standard database functionalities in the SQL Server database, making it a high available, robust and scalable solution, Microsoft also made improvements that would specifically benefit its use as a data warehouse DB. Some of these improvements are optimizing the engine for star joins, adding the column store index, adding in memory processing options,
With the 2005 release of the SQL Server platform, Microsoft also added an enterprise level ETL tool: SQL Server Integration Services. Before SQL Server Integration Services, Microsoft had a solution to load data from one environment to another (DTS), but it could hardly be called a full-blown ETL tool. Adding SQL Server Integration Services to the product platform, Microsoft now has a complete back end solution.
Already very early Microsoft acquired its OLAP technology from Panorama. Because of this early acquisition, Microsoft always has been a leader when it came to cube technology. Investing and improving this product, later renamed to SQL Server Analysis Services, has made it a leader in cube technology. Even today when more and more vendors are moving to in-memory OLAP solutions, Microsoft is there to defend its leadership with the Vertipaq engine, released as part of SQL Server 2012.
Since its proven technology in the BI back-end it is also common to have mixed technology implementations. It is no problem to use the strengths of the Microsoft BI back-end platform with the visualization strengths of another BI front-end vendor like IBM Cognos or SAP Business Objects.
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