Archive for August, 2013

Task: to bring a brief overview based on my own experience acquired during the last few days in our company about building mobile BI (Business Intelligence) solutions related to SQL Server. This concept will be demonstrated mainly by means of a virtualized three-server testing environment for SharePoint/mobile BI platform via Hyper-V as a virtualization technology by Microsoft


At the time of writing this blog post in the world of Microsoft, there doesn’t exist any comprehensive cross-platform for the mobile BI (Apple, Android, Microsoft) environment for easy-building mobile BI solutions, including tablets and smartphones as well (iPad/iPhone, Android and Windows 8/Phones devices). The future Microsoft sees itself in the project called Mobile Helix Link, Power Map (codename “GeoFlow”) + Power Query (codename “Data Explorer”) for Excel and mainly in the technology “InfoNav” (codename) as a feature of Power BI (note: Power BI – self-service “power” tools: Power Pivot, Power View, Power Query and Power Map). Unfortunately, nowadays we can build our mobile BI solutions based on SQL Server as a data source in the following (different) ways:

  • IIS (Internet Information Services; as a very low cost solution): SSRS (SQL Server Reporting Services; note: limited use for the Apple platform, details are described below)
  • SharePoint Server: Excel Services (easier solutions), PerformancePoint Services (much more complex solutions)
  • OWA Server (Office Web Apps): Excel
  • 3rd party developer tools/platforms or ready-to-use solutions

Below, there is described a hardware and software configuration of a three-server testing environment for building SharePoint BI in general and mobile BI solutions based on this Microsoft platform.

Three-server SharePoint testing environment:

In a few bullets below, there are described the results of my investigation about some possibilities for mobile BI solutions based on the SQL Server platform.

Mobile BI (iPad/iPhone, Android, Windows 8/Phone devices) platform:

    1. IIS:

  • SSRS:
  • iPad: Safari/Chrome/Opera – NO, Mercury (Chrome and Firefox alternative) – NO, FF/IE – not supported
  • either to use a native application from app store, e.g.:
  • Mobi Reports Pro by Mobi Weave, Inc. (note: very good solution – I recommend it’s use)
  • SSRS Report Viewer Pro by By Ororo a.s. (note: iPad only)
  • or to use Remote Desktop Services/Terminal Services (Windows Server) instead of native application (note: in addition one CAL per user)
  • Android: FF – OK, Chrome/Opera – NO, Safari/IE – not supported
  • Windows 8: IE – OK, alternative – FF, Chrome/Opera – NO, Safari – not supported on tablet?
  • 2. SharePoint 2013:

  • Excel Services:
  • iPad: Safari – OK (note: slicers – OK), alternatives – Chrome/Mercury (Chrome and Firefox alternative), Opera – NO, FF/IE – not supported
  • Android: FF – OK (note: slicers – NO), Chrome/Opera/(Built-in Browser/Dolphin) – NO, Safari/IE – not supported
  • Windows 8: IE – OK, alternatives – FF/Chrome/Opera, Safari – not supported
  • PerformancePoint Services (Dashboards):
  • OLAP/Excel Services:
  • iPad: Safari – OK (note: slicers – OK), alternatives – Chrome/Mercury (Chrome and Firefox alternative), Opera – NO, FF/IE – not supported
  • Android: FF – OK (note: slicers – NO), Chrome/Opera/(Built-in Browser/Dolphin) – NO, Safari/IE – not supported
  • Windows 8: IE – OK, alternative – FF, Chrome/Opera – OK (note: zoom – NO), Safari – not supported
  • SSRS:
  • iPad: Safari/Chrome/Opera – NO, Mercury (Chrome and Firefox alternative) – NO, FF/IE – not supported
  • Android: FF – OK, Chrome/Opera/(Built-in Browser/Dolphin) – NO, Safari/IE – not supported
  • Windows 8: IE – OK, alternative – FF, Chrome/Opera – NO, Safari – not supported on tablet?
  • PowerPivot/PowerView: the output is rendered in Silverlight
  • iPad: SL – not supported on iOS (note: SL is available only for Windows and Mackintosh)
  • Android: SL – not supported
  • Windows 8: IE – OK, alternatives – FF/Chrome/Opera (note: scroll – NO), Safari – not supported
  • 3. OWA 2013 (Office Web Apps):

  • Deploy Office Web Apps Server
  • Configure SharePoint 2013 to use Office Web Apps
  • 4.a) 3rd party developer tools/platforms:

  • Build cross-platform iOS, Android, Mac and Windows apps with C# and .NET by Xamarin
  • UIFramework for .NET by ComponentArt
  • Data Visualization for Visual Studio by ComponentArt
  • 4.b) 3rd party ready-to-use solutions:

  • Datazen – Mobile BI for Windows 8, iPad/iPhone and Android by ComponentArt
  • Tableau Server by Tableau Software (note: I recommend it’s use)
  • iPad: web browsers – OK and native free app – OK
  • Android: web browsers – OK and native free app – OK
  • Windows 8: web browsers – OK (note: a native app isn’t available)
  • Mobi Reports Pro – BI for SSRS on iPad and iPhone by Mobi Weave
  • Mobi Office – Mobile Content Management by Mobi Weave

Testing devices:

  • iPad: 6.1.3 (note: iPhone – not tested)
  • Android: Samsung Tab 10.1 with OS: 4.0.3 (note: Android on a phone – not tested)
  • Windows 8: ThinkPad Tablet (note: Windows Phone – not tested)

Recommendations:

  • iPad: Mercury (note: for the sake of drill down in zoomed mode – PerformancePoint Services), alternatives – Chrome/Safari + Mobi Reports Pro for SSRS
  • Android: FF (note: without slicers)
  • Windows 8: IE (note: alternative – FF)
  • note: cross-platform independence is possible to achieve by using Remote Desktop Services/Terminal Services (Windows Server; in addition one CAL per user)


Figure 1: Dashboard (PerformancePoint Services)

Figure 1: Dashboard (PerformancePoint Services)


Figure 1: Dashboard (Tableau Server)

Figure 1: Dashboard (Tableau Server)


Conclusion: nowadays (at the time of writing the blog post), as a universal cross-platform solution for building mobile BI applications directly with Microsoft tools/frameworks, the use of Excel Services (more suited for analysts) or using dashboards (PerformancePoint Services) with charts, scorecards (more suited for top management) based on SharePoint platform seems to be the best but not ideal choice


Documents:

Additional references:
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