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The Editor

I am the Group Online Platforms & Tools Manager. I look after the Crayon Group Websites, the Optimised Blog and our other online services. Any posts by "The Editor" have been posted on behalf of another author.

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Bridging the gap between what an organisation thinks it spends and what it actually does can be challenging

Dealing with individual businesses usage of SaaS

The rest of the business no longer needs to make IT the first port of call with it comes to buying IT services and this results in a gap between what IT thinks an organisation spends on IT and what it really does.

Therefore, non-IT department spending on software and hardware is more prevalent than most businesses realise. According to a Cisco report, the number of unauthorised cloud apps being used in the enterprise is 15 to 20 times greater than CIOs anticipated.

This can put pressure on the CIO, making planning for future investments a much more difficult job. As a result, there is a disconnect between what the IT department believes is happening and the facts on the ground. The growth in unknown and unauthorised SaaS applications can also present big challenges to organisations want to demonstrate they are on the right side of the law when it comes to software license compliance.

This is not to say that unknown usage of SaaS, more often referred to as shadow IT is bad thing. It allows organisations to respond effectively to demands and remain agile.

So, what can be done by CIOs to bridge this gap in knowledge? You can’t just shut down unauthorised application usage straightaway (those apps may be critical to a business unit’s bottom line), but also, from a software optimisation standpoint, you cannot ignore it either.

CIOs need to draw up a plan to bring this type of IT out of the shadows and under the oversight of the IT department. This is basically a hybrid IT model where employees can draw from a long list of IT-approved cloud services that they want or need to use.

However, before this model can be deployed, CIOs need to find and identify which unauthorised cloud applications are being used inside the business. There are a number of discovery tools available for such tasks which can automatically scan an organisation’s infrastructure to detect SaaS applications. The Software Asset Management solutions typically concentrate on the commonest high priority applications which will cost the most to the business and represent the greatest compliance risk.

These can quickly compile data for reports to the CIO, so they can discover which services are popular with users, allowing them to be quickly vetted and added to the list of approved services in the hybrid IT model.

The goal here should not be to completely get rid of shadow IT from the organisation, the chances of achieving that are slim and time-consuming. The ambition of the CIO should be to cut down on the need for users to get around the IT department in order to carry out their work functions.

CIOs should also hold regular reviews with business units to ensure that new business challenges and requirements are known about and can be addressed. These reviews are a good way of finding out why that unit has not come directly to the IT department with any requests for cloud applications and services.

Of course, unauthorised SaaS applications are competition to the IT department and the only way of ensuring IT performs better than these is to be closer to the customer – the business unit – so as to understand what problems they face and how to deliver solutions to them.

It has to be acknowledged that the IT department will inevitably expand their portfolio of approved cloud applications and services that are offered to end users. Yet, how many that will be is hard to quantify until you achieve accurate visibility into your businesses usage of SaaS.


Looking to bridge the disruption gap caused by digital transformation? Learn how Snow and Crayon are empowering CIOs and IT leaders to regain control, reduce overspend and influence key IT investment decisions:

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Putting cloud services on the company credit card is undermining attempts to plan. What can be done to solve this?

Is cloud adoption widening the disruption gap?

The use of cloud-based applications is popular among business units due to their ease of use and availability, but all too often their adoption is never reported back to IT to allow proper planning and investment.

According to the Cloud Industry Forum’s survey of 250 IT decision-makers in the UK, over four in five UK organisations have formally adopted at least one cloud service. Analyst firm Gartner found that in 2016, just 17 per cent of IT spending [was] controlled outside of the IT organisation.

Not only does unsanctioned business unit cloud adoption mean a loosening of grip on IT spending for the CIO, it can also be a security issue as well. A data breach from an individual business unit may result in financial penalties that hit an organisation’s bottom line.

Even without the significant upset of a security breach, the use of cloud services without proper management still means a lack of financial visibility for the CIO. Increasingly, the CFO works in association with the CIO to plan an organisation’s future spend. This is because the CIO needs to plan ahead to determine which investments are needed by the company and how much they will cost. They also need to ensure the firm invests wisely and gains business value from longstanding investments.

Not knowing what a business unit is spending on cloud services creates a disruption gap where the CIO has a critical lack of visibility into these investments. This means there is a real chance that poor visibility can lead to overspending on cloud services, whether that is duplication, not getting the best deal on cloud services spending, or ending up with a SaaS application that no-one uses.

Gaining insight

So, how can organisations better deal with cloud services procured by other business units?

IT procurement is often bypassed when business units purchase subscriptions below an authorisation threshold via an online portal or app store. These costs can rapidly mount up, if the CIO is not aware of them and they cannot turn to license optimisation to streamline costs.

In order to gain insight into this spending, shadow IT discovery tools can be deployed that automatically scan the organisation network infrastructure to detect cloud services.

These multiple platform auto discovery tools extend from the cloud and datacentre right down into the mobile device. This should get the CIO the full extent of cloud consumption as part of a great software asset management (SAM) strategy.

With this visibility comes more influence over the software decisions that other business units take when it comes to provisioning IT and cloud services. While CIOs can’t turn back the clock on shadow IT, at least knowing about it gives the CIO the ability to mitigate financial liabilities and act as a trusted advisor to the rest of the business when it comes to the provision of cloud services.

Having awareness of what is being used within the infrastructure and how much is being spent gives the CIO power to influence or control how software and cloud services are being consumed. Having such influence can drive substantial savings, boost efficiency and mitigate security risks.

With a good software asset management solution in hand, the CIO can be the person other business units turn to get the best deal on cloud services from vendors as they will know from the CIO which other parts of the business use the same services.

With digital transformation likely to turn every business unit leader into a “mini-CIO”, having insight into what cloud services are being used where can help in bridging the disruption gap this transformation is causing. Furthermore, it will also aid the CIO in maintaining relevancy in today’s modern organisation.


Looking to bridge the disruption gap caused by digital transformation? Learn how Snow and Crayon are empowering CIOs and IT leaders to regain control, reduce overspend and influence key IT investment decisions:


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Indirect Access (or Usage) can be a costly affair, but what is it and what can be done?

Six things you should know about SAP Indirect Access

With SAP recently winning a court case against its customer Diageo over £54 million in unpaid fees for Indirect Access of SAP systems by third-party applications, organisations need to take a closer look at how their systems interact with SAP. So, what do you need to know about it and what can be done to prevent it becoming a pricey problem?

What is Indirect Access?

Until now, SAP licensing has been focused on the direct usage in an organisation’s SAP environment. This means an individual user accessing SAP data directly through the SAP interface. But Indirect Access (commonly known as Indirect Usage) is when a SAP system is queried or access via a third-party application.

However, the associated licensing fees can change from customer to customer, depending on the contract and terms and conditions agreed at the point of purchase. The need for any additional licenses depend on if the environment is accessed by a user and whether data is changed or controlled inside SAP. There is a lot of bewilderment over this.

What organisations are in danger from Indirect Access?

Any organisation that has set up indirect access to a SAP environment is at risk of action by SAP in theory. Particularly those in the consumer packaged goods industry or any other organisation that has complex supply chains and partner networks. These typically feature greater amounts of indirect usage and hence are more likely to be targeted

What are common Indirect Access scenarios?

The financial implications of Indirect Usage are particularly high in such situations as a web-based storefront where a browser is used to track the movement of goods updated in SAP in real time.

Mobile devices, and even devices such as Amazon Echo or Google Home can be used to automate the updating of data into SAP. These devices can track the movement of goods and can be used by sales reps to place orders for customers.

Third party CRM and SRM applications which access SAP to provide information to users can be a form of indirect usage. For example, suppliers may use such applications to check stock levels and automatically send shipments to replenish these.

Can anything be done about Indirect Access?

The ruling means that SAP customers need to be extra cautious with Indirect Access. This is especially true when you consider in-house applications or applications SAP perceives to being running on another system, such as Salesforce. The fine levied on Diageo was in part due to applications running on mobile devices which served as a user interface, so organisations should also be aware of this too.

A lesson to be learned from this is to start a conversation with SAP and get an agreement with it over the principles used to determine liabilities for Indirect Usage. Taking the initiative could work to one’s advantage.

Will the situation get worse in the future?

Organisations will be extra aware of the issues of Indirect Usage / Access from now on. With greater adoption of the cloud, the situation is very likely to get worse as many apps move to the cloud and require their base data from SAP indirectly. Organisations will need to find extra budget to cover this.

SAP contracts are likely to come under much more financial and legal scrutiny as customers move to defend themselves from legal action in the future for usage that seems harmless at present.

Can Software Asset Management (SAM) help?

Software asset management processes and solutions can help in identifying communications between an SAP environment and third-party systems. This will highlight which users are querying SAP indirectly and what third party systems are being used for that indirect access. By doing this, your organisation can cut down its financial exposure to SAP Indirect Usage.


Concerned about your business exposure when it comes to SAP licensing? Register for our free webinar: 4 Steps to Reduce SAP Indirect Access Risk

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Erste Schritte mit Microsoft Secure Productive Enterprise







Is ILMT mandatory for Sub-capacity licensing?


Unless you qualify for one of the stated contractual exceptions, ILMT is a mandatory requirement.

The 4 exceptions are:

  • When ILMT does not yet provide support for the Eligible Sub-Capacity Product,
  • If Client’s Enterprise has fewer than 1,000 employees and contractors, Client is not a Service Provider, and Client has not contracted with a Service Provider to manage Client’s environment in which Eligible Products are deployed,
  • If the total physical capacity of Client’s Enterprise servers measured on a full capacity basis, but licensed under Sub-Capacity terms is less than 1,000 PVUs, or
  • When Client’s servers are licensed to full capacity.

Bigfix Inventory – Alternative to ILMT

IBM BigFix Inventory may be used in lieu of ILMT in cases where you wish to monitor a wider selection of vendors.  ILMT only reports on IBM Sub Capacity eligible products.  Inventory can monitor over 10,000 different vendors and more than 40,000 products, providing a lot more flexibility within your business and allowing your SAM team to ensure compliance across more than one vendor.

With IBM BigFix Inventory, you can maintain an up-to-date inventory of software assets that are installed in your entire infrastructure, gather information about your hardware, and ensure license compliance of your enterprise. You will also remain compliant because Inventory also produces the Audit Schedule required by IBM for compliance purposes.

The Licensing Specialist offer a SAM Managed Service which covers all aspects of Bigfix, ILMT & Inventory installation, quarterly internal audits and risk management.

How long do customers have to install ILMT?

As part of the Client’s Reporting Responsibilities in the IPAA, IBM stipulate that for Sub-Capacity usage of eligible products, the Client agrees to install and configure the most current version of IBM’s license metric tool (ILMT) within 90 days of Client’s first Sub-Capacity based Eligible Sub-Capacity Product deployment, to promptly install any updates to ILMT that are made available, and to collect deployment data for each such EP.

Installing ILMT

Since ILMT v7.5 went end of life in April 2017 it is now essential under IBM’s terms to be on the latest version of ILMT and keep all components up to date.  This means performing regular updates on agents, PVU tables, scans, software catalogs etc and producing at least a quarterly audit schedule from ILMT which IBM may request to see at any time.

These updates usually involve using Bigfix (the platform on which ILMT/Inventory sits) to upgrade the agents (old agents can affect scan data), ensure that the product numbers are correct and if any new products are purchased, these must be added to ILMT.  It also means that all configuration of software and licensing should be understood and corrected on ILMT for reporting purposes.

Failure to update any of these elements could mean that you are reporting incorrectly and may end up paying more than you need to for usage and renewals.

Existing ILMT Users

Existing sub-capacity customers should promptly upgrade to new versions, releases or modifications when they are made available as per the terms of the IPAA.

The Licensing Specialist offer a SAM Managed Service which covers all aspects of installing Bigfix, ILMT and Inventory as well as producing quarterly internal audits and highlighting areas for risk management.


Written by Sarah Lawrence

On behalf of Crayon

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Verwenden Sie Bibliotheken in InDesign? Haben Sie schon einmal vergessen, sie auf einem USB-Stick mitzunehmen, wenn Sie auf einem anderen Computer daran weiterarbeiten wollten? Heutzutage gibt es intelligentere Bibliotheken.

Sie heißen Creative Cloud-Bibliotheken und sind nicht nur in InDesign enthalten, sondern in den meisten Apps von Adobe zu finden, ganz egal, ob es sich um Apps für Computer oder Mobilgeräte handelt. Creative Cloud-Bibliotheken werden nicht lokal, sondern online in der Creative Cloud gespeichert. So wird die Integration zwischen Adobe-Apps effizienter denn je.

Hier ein Beispiel: Sie suchen nach einem Stock-Bild in Adobe Stock und lizenzieren es in der Bibliothek in Photoshop CC 2017.

Dieses Bild setzen Sie in InDesign CC 2017 ein, fügen eine Überschrift hinzu und betten schließlich noch Text ein, der mit einem Absatzformat formatiert wurde. Die Überschrift wird genauso wie das Absatzformat in der Bibliothek gespeichert.

Im Illustrator CC 2017 setzen Sie dasselbe Bild aus der Bibliothek ein, ebenso die Überschrift, fügen neuen Text hinzu und formatieren ihn mit Hilfe des integrierten Absatzformats aus der Bibliothek. Anschließend fügen Sie die passenden Farben ein und speichern alles in der Bibliothek ab.

Zurück in InDesign sind die Farben nun in der Bibliothek verfügbar und Sie können die Überschrift damit kolorieren.


Das ist gelungene Integration!

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Die neueste Version von Adobe Acrobat heißt DC, Document Cloud. Schon wieder eine Cloud? Es gibt die Creative Cloud, iCloud, Dropbox und zahlreiche andere – brauchen wir da wirklich noch eine Cloud?

Ja! Document Cloud bietet eine enge Einbindung in Adobe Acrobat, sodass eine PDF-Datei auf allen Geräten zur Verfügung steht, auf denen eine Acrobat-App verwendet werden kann. Damit ist es Ihnen möglich, sowohl über Ihren Computer als auch über Ihr Smartphone oder Tablet auf dieselben Dateien zuzugreifen, Notizen einzufügen und PDF-Dateien sogar zu bearbeiten. 

Hier ein Beispiel: Sie lassen sich eine PDF-Datei auf einem Computer im Adobe Reader anzeigen. Jetzt möchten Sie es in der Document Cloud speichern. Dazu melden Sie sich einfach rechts oben auf dem Bildschirm mit Ihrer bereits angelegten Adobe ID an. Klicken Sie dann auf das Cloud-Symbol links oben in der Symbolleiste, um die Datei in die Document Cloud hochzuladen. Bitte beachten Sie: Wir verwenden hier die kostenlose Adobe Reader-App.

Sobald Sie sich von der App aus angemeldet haben, kann dieselbe PDF-Datei aus der Adobe Reader-App auf ein Tablet, in unserem Beispiel ein iPad, heruntergeladen werden.


Nach erfolgtem Download können Kommentare direkt vom iPad aus eingefügt werden.


Jetzt speichern wir die PDF-Datei und laden sie auf ein iPhone herunter, um ein paar Seiten neu anzuordnen.


Danach können wir die PDF-Datei auf einem Computer öffnen und die Kommentare bearbeiten.


Dies waren nur ein paar wenige der vielfältigen Optionen, die Document Cloud bietet. Zudem ermöglicht der Cloud-Workflow die Bearbeitung von Texten in PDF-Dateien auf unterschiedlichen Geräten, ebenso das Ausfüllen und Unterschreiben von Formularen sowie das Einfügen oder Austauschen von Bildern und vieles mehr.

Der bedeutendste Vorteil ist aber die Tatsache, dass Sie sich keine Sorgen mehr machen müssen, wenn Sie einen USB-Stick oder eine externe Festplatte vergessen haben, da Sie über die Cloud immer auf Ihre Dateien zugreifen können.

The newest version of Adobe Acrobat is named DC, Document Cloud. Another Cloud? With Creative Cloud, iCloud, Dropbox and numerous others – do we really need another Cloud?

Yes we do. Document Cloud offers tight integration with Adobe Acrobat so that a PDF file is available on all devices capable of running an Acrobat app. Thus enabling your computer, smartphone, and tablet to access the same files, apply notes, and even edit PDFs.

An example: A PDF is viewed in Adobe Reader on a computer. We want to save it in the Document Cloud and to do this, we just need to sign in at the top right of the screen using our Adobe ID created earlier. Then click the Cloud icon top left in the Toolbar and the file is uploaded to the Document Cloud. Notice we are using the free Adobe Reader app.

The same PDF can now be dowloaded from the Adobe Reader app on a tablet, in this case an iPad, as soon as we have signed in from the app.

Once downloaded comments are added directly on the iPad.

The PDF is saved and is now downloaded on an iPhone, where some of the pages are rearranged.

Finally the PDF can be opened on a computer and the comments acted upon.

These were just a few of the options available from the Document Cloud. The Cloud workflow also allows text editing of PDFs on different devices, filling out and signing forms, adding or exchanging images, and even more.

Most importantly, you never have to worry about forgotten flash or hard drives as your files are always available in the Cloud.

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Do you use Libraries in InDesign? Ever forgotten to bring them along on a flash-drive as you planned to work on another computer? There are much smarter libraries available to you these days.

They are Creative Cloud Libraries and are not just for InDesign, as most of Adobe’s apps include Libraries, desktop and mobile apps alike, and they are shared. Creative Cloud Libraries are stored not locally, but online in the Creative Cloud and integration between Adobe apps has never been more efficient.

An example: A Stock Photo from Adobe Stock is searched for and licensed from the Library in Photoshop CC 2017.

This image is placed in InDesign CC 2017, a headline is added and text formatted with a Paragraph Style also included. The headline is saved in the Library, so is the Paragraph Style.

In Illustrator CC 2017 the same image is added from the Library, as are the headline and some new text -both formatted using the included Paragraph Style from the Library. Matching colours are then created and saved in the Library.

Back in InDesign the colours are now available in the Library and used to colourise the headline.

Now, that’s what we call integration!

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Dedicated to driving technical best practice for IT Professionals who want to learn from the best speakers in the world, NIC has rapidly become a ‘must-attend’ event, providing unmissable networking and learning experiences from the leading global IT experts.

The NIC conference will be held Thursday 2nd and Friday 3rd of February, with the Pre-conference day on Wednesday 1st of February.
NIC is the industry’s foremost collaborative and educational event for IT Technicians , offering global best in class content and structure, delivered by some of the leading technical IT speakers in the world. The main focus is on technical training for Microsoft and 3rd party products, tools and services.

After five successful years, NIC is continuing the concept of the original conference: Less slides, more demos!
The three-day event will focus on deep-dives and practical knowledge on the most used products. With a determined focus on hands-on clinics and sessions, we will show you how to solve the most common tasks and challenges, sharing all our experience, tips and tricks from the real world.

Ticket concessions are available for customers through their local Crayon teams, but hurry as demand is high and places are limited.

For further information, conference agenda and this year’s speaker line-ups please visit:

Business reporting might seem old fashioned next to the latest advances in big data, but organisations need both, faster than ever. That’s where SQL Server 2016 comes in, says Lindsay Clark

Making Data More Democratic

It’s a year since research firm Gartner killed big data. In 2015, as the much-hyped concept came to the Trough of Disillusionment in Gartner’s Hype Cycle, it disappeared and was never seen again. Big data, Gartner reasoned, had become too prevalent and too diverse to be adequately described by a single moniker.

The term was coined as far back as 1998 and the hype surrounding it reached fever-pitch around five years ago, as a mass of incumbent and start-up vendors encouraged businesses to exploit high-velocity unstructured data from clickstreams, smartphone locations and social media, among many other sources, to make better business decisions.

The industry noise around big data masked what many businesses were still trying to achieve: an up-to-the-minute, consistent and accessible approach to recording performance of sales, finance, operations and supply chain across the enterprise.

For example, as the big data hype peaked around 2011, global consumer goods giant Unilever began implementing a new data warehouse architecture for conventional business performance records. In part, it wanted to improve system performance to queries from expert analysts. But it also wanted to give ordinary business users access to standard reporting from anywhere in the world within three clicks of a mouse.

As the big data concept is consigned to the hype-cycle graveyard, it is time to recognise that conventional, structured business reporting still requires attention. It can mean success or failure for businesses trying to cope with ever more complex and rapid changes in market demand.

According to PWC, an enterprise-wide reporting solution is the most effective way to consolidate management information. Besides effectively helping businesses manage product and customer portfolios, this approach can cut the time and cost of managing data in half, the consultancy firm says.

Business leaders lack dashboards

However, Gartner has found business leaders are not likely to get a clear, up-to-date view of performance relevant to their roles. The analyst firm revealed that while 71% of business and IT leaders understood which key performance indicators (KPIs) are critical to supporting the business strategy, only 48% can access metrics that help them understand how their work contributes to strategic KPIs. Meanwhile, only 31% have dashboards to provide visibility of these metrics.

Samantha Searle, research analyst at Gartner, says: “[Businesses] persist in using historical measures and consequently miss the opportunity to either capture a business moment that would increase profit or intervene to prevent an unforeseen event, resulting in a decrease in profit.”

Companies that struggle to cope with today’s accelerated business cycles, which require leaders to keep track of work-in-progress, are seeing an increasingly vital need to make adjustments in real-time to optimise performance to increase organisational responsiveness to market dynamics, Gartner says.

Organisations are adopting suites of software to manage business processes, as well as operational intelligence platforms, to dramatically improve their response to unexpected business disruptions. Such technologies use predictive analytics and make it easier to identify relevant metrics, says Gartner.

Rapid reporting keeps business on course

Clive Longbottom, founder of analyst firm Quocirca, says these trends demand that businesses cut their reporting cycles as well as look to new sources of data.

“If a reasonable-sized organisation is depending on quarterly reports, it is like steering a supertanker by waiting until it is a mile off course: it takes a long time to pull it around. But if you can see it is 10 metres off course then smaller adjustments are required and less time is wasted. The more rapid reporting can be, and the more information you can offer, the easier it is for people to turn things around,” Longbottom says.

It might require structured data from within the business, as well as external semi-structured data, Longbottom says. “They need data which is contemporary, useful and has all the contextual elements to make decisions. This is where Oracle has struggled: everything is stuck into relational databases as a blob. You still need a relational database and super-fast tables. But you might also need to be able to do quick searches and ingest a load of less structured data from the internet and then figure out how to combine that with relational tables. Once you can do that, you can figure out how the business is performing in context, make short-term predictions, and share the results with the business.”

Microsoft brings big data and business reporting together

As such, Microsoft’s approach to SQL Server 2016, its latest enterprise database release, has been sound, Longbottom says. Based on Microsoft cloud database Azure SQL, it offers users access to the big data technologies, such as Hadoop and NoSQL, as well ensuring established relational database techniques are fast and secure. Users can access the structured and unstructured world from the same environment.

Gartner has already placed Microsoft in the “magic quadrant” of data warehouse and data management solutions for analytics for 2015 and 2016. SQL Server 2016 comes with a set of new features focused on improving business reporting, intelligence and analytics, Microsoft says. It has moved the enterprise analytical infrastructure to reside within the database, instead of functioning as an external application. The move is designed to improve speed and efficiency as the system will no longer need to pull data from the other databases to figure out what is happening within the dataset.

Advanced data mining and reporting using multi-dimensional data models are also included and integrate with an Excel spreadsheet via the PowerPivot add-in. The database engine includes high-availability features such as failover and replication.

Microsoft says SQL Server 2016 offers “groundbreaking” performance and efficiencies. For example, it set up the database on a single server with four Xeon E7 processors, and it took just 5.3 seconds to run a complex query on the entire 100TB dataset.

The new enterprise database also comes with Microsoft advanced analytics tool, Power BI, on-premises or in the cloud. The aim is to make it easier for users to build KPI and other data dashboards that are mobile-friendly and publish them to their servers from the SQL 2016 platform. For example, Mobile Report Publisher is available to create custom dashboards compatible with modern browser interfaces and mobile device apps, directly from the tool.

Independent analyst firm Ovum is impressed with Microsoft’s ability to make advanced analytics and reporting techniques more available to the business users with a lower level of technical skills.

Slick reporting in the same environment

Microsoft has been able to draw on its rich history of popular and commoditised business applications through simplified visual tooling, aggressive price points, and compatibility with tooling that already reaches a large professional skills base, Ovum says. “[SQL 2016] brings important capabilities to Windows: expanded in-memory computing, pushdown in-database analytics, more granular and dynamic data security, hybrid cloud support, and housekeeping features aimed at productivity and compliance.”

In particular, Ovum sees SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS) differentiating SQL Server from its principal rivals. “Oracle and IBM DB2 reporting tools are included as part of separate BI suites, while Teradata does not provide native reporting tools. SSRS allows SQL Server customers to avoid the need for buying à la carte BI or visualisation tools.”

Microsoft also offers SQL Server Analysis Services (SSAS) as an optional add-on for providing multidimensional online analytical processing (OLAP) cubes for faster report generation. Outside the database, ubiquitous spreadsheet tool Excel can generate analytic reports through its charting capabilities.

Reporting to reach the mobile masses

SQL Server 2016 can also generate reports native to Android, iOS, and Windows Phone formats. Ovum says: “SSRS mobile reports are dynamically adjusted to the footprint – from tablet to smartphone form factor. This capability has come through Microsoft’s 2015 acquisition of partner Datazen Software. The company developed a server that converted SSRS and Microsoft Power BI visualisations to mobile form factors. SQL Server 2016 integrated that capability, eliminating the need for a separate mobile report server. Obviously, Microsoft is not the first to add mobile BI reporting – those capabilities have become widely available with many third party BI, reporting, and visualisation tools. But adding it to the core database allows Microsoft customers to get basic reporting capabilities – now on mobile – without additional third-party tool cost or architectural complexity.”

Ovum says that the upgraded HTML5-based Web Report Manager portal adds support for the new mobile report generation capability, allowing mobile and desktop reports to be accessed through the same portal.

All these features allow up-to-the-minute business performance reports to be published to users wherever they are, without the need to log into a PC-based system.

Better intelligence, faster decisions

Quocirca analyst Clive Longbottom, says that if SQL Server 2016 lives up to its promise, it could help business decision makers get faster access to the information they need to guide their organisation in the right direction before it is too late.

“You start to get to the democratisation of data. Making sure that those who have the information available to them can extract knowledge which can be fed through to the places where the decisions are made. Organisations may no longer need to steer the business by looking in the rear view mirror. Instead, they get the chance to peek around the corner and figuring out what is coming next.”

Microsoft says SQL Server 2016 is set to open up conventional business reporting, and unstructured big data, to a much wider audience of mobile business users, at ever reducing timescales. At the same time, it costs less than the competition. Gartner has shown that the total cost of ownership of SQL 2016 offers a saving of 50 percent compared with Oracle and SAP HANA implementations. As markets become more dynamic and prone to disruption, businesses should ask if SQL 2016 is an investment opportunity they can afford to miss.