Announcing Next Generation Business Intelligence Software with Silverlight
I have been excited about Silverlight since Silverlight 1.1 Alpha was announced in early 2007. I have seen tremendous potential in the RIA technology from its inception. Being through the .NET 1.0 release in 2002 and seeing how Microsoft can make a powerful framework that can integrate with across their products made me feel secure that Silverlight was going to get full integration support by Microsoft. Fast forward to 2009 and we are in the third release of Silverlight. Silverlight has evolved tremendously and has caught up feature-wise with Adobe's RIA products (Flash, Flex, AIR) and is ahead in some features. If you have been following this blog or my identity online, you are aware I am very passionate about the technology well beyond a Flash alternative. I think Silverlight often gets compared to other RIAs and does not properly distinguish its attributes that make it a great business RIA. Features like enterpise service integration (WCF, .NET RIA Services), HD Smooth Streaming, SharePoint (web parts), Bing SDK/Map integration, cloud computing (Azure), mobile, parallel computing, etc., are not amplified enough.
One of my complaints is that the message of what this technology can accomplish in a business environment is currently being under-represented by the online community and Microsoft. It is easy to find an article on how to do a flip animation or bind to a datagrid. However, I think Silverlight needs to be represented better as a busines tool and how the RIA architecture can be applied to solve real business problems. Take a look at the list of books available for Silverlight (http://www.silverlightshow.net/Books.aspx). Looking at the list, you will notice that a majority of the books are essentially intros to Silverlight features. Some of the books have different names, but essentially you are not getting an application of the technology to solve business scenarios. Don't get me wrong; some of the books I have read truly stand out (i.e., John Papa's Data Driven Services, SharePoint Dev using Silverlight, Jeff Paries's Foundation Silverlight Animation) and go well beyond listing object properties and show you how to apply advanced engineering concepts using Silverlight. However, I saw an opportunity to provide a resource that shows how Silverlight can be applied to solve business problems.
Over the last two years, I have had the opportunity to use Silverlight in the enterprise and saw its potential for delivering Business Intelligence (BI) solutions. Silverlight's ability to execute on the client and deliver visual intelligence makes it a fanastic option to surface interactive Business Intelligence analytical modules. I decided to combine my experience of designing Business Intelligence solutions and apply these principles to Silverlight in a new book. After about six months of work, I am pleased to announce my book Next Generation Business Intelligence Software with Silverlight 3. The book will be available in the October/November timeframe and is currently listed as a pre-order on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, etc.
What will you learn from investing in this resource?
Covering the entire scope of BI and applying these concepts to Silverlight applications is simply not realistic in one single resource. Even if I had the option of writing 750 pages or more, important facets of BI would be missed. Therefore, I decided to focus on the presentation tier of Business Intelligence applications. For example, I didn't think it was fair to focus on the data and services tier with these technologies going through a rapid implementation and tooling evolution (RIA Services, WCF REST, Oslo, ADO.NET Data Services 1.5, etc.). However, Silverlight's rendering and client processing engine is mature enough to warrant a guide on how to implement client-side BI concepts. Therefore, topics like visual intelligence, data visualizations, predictive analytics, collective intelligence, interactive tools, parallel computing, working with large data sets, etc., are covered in my book on the presentation tier.
Who is this book for?
This book has three intended audience segments and their goals:
- Silverlight Developers - Learn how to extend your Silverlight knowledge in real-world applications. Learn the basics of Business Intelligence 2.0.
- Business Intelligence Professionals - Get a better understanding of how Silverlight can help you overcome some of the challenges to implement simple BI tools.
- Strategic Decision Makers (architects, CIO, technical director, etc.) - Understand if Silverlight is the right platform to deliver BI software.
What is the chapter list?
- The first chapter (Business Intelligence 2.0 Defined) is an introductory chapter to Business Intelligence. This chapter will introduce BI and the new wave of BI 2.0. The content will show how Business Intelligence is evolving and embracing new software development advancements. This chapter will contrast classic BI and BI 2.0 by showing numerous examples of current software offerings. Lastly, this section will define the core items of BI 2.0 which will be implemented throughout this book using Silverlight.
- The second introductory chapter (Advantages of Applying BI 2.0 Using Microsoft Silverlight) introduces the Microsoft RIA technology: Silverlight. This chapter is dedicated to analyzing the current Microsoft Business Intelligence product vertical and providing opinions why Silverlight is a good fit for implementing Business Intelligence tenets. After reading this chapter, you will understand the key enterprise and business integration features of Silverlight that will be discussed in this resource.
- Chapter Three (Silverlight as a BI Client) looks at what makes an effective BI client. It goes on to specifically detail Silverlight tools and features that can be used to create a fantastic functioning analytical experience. The chapter goes into specific functionality such as LINQ data queries, business algorithm implementations and local storage.
- In Chapter Four (Adding Interactivity to BI Data), the information from the previous chapters is used to show how to use Silverlight to bring interactivity to BI applications. This chapter will teach by example on how to add simple interactions that can make a BI client easier to use and feel more fluid. It concludes with how these concepts can be leveraged for future designs with multi-touch screens to create the ultimate interactive experience.
- Chapter Five (Introduction to Data Visualizations) is the first chapter in a series of chapters about Visual Intelligence. The content in this chapter will show the empirical advantages of creating a visual representation of data versus classic tabular layouts. This chapter shows how visualizing data has matured and grown over the last several years. The concept of natural visualizations is introduced by defining the different characteristics and Silverlight implementations.
- Chapter Six (Creating Data Visualizations for Analysis) continues to build on the visual intelligence topic by showing how to enhance data visualizations with features to make turn them into analytical tools. This chapter will show you how to create advanced visualizations by extending the default Silverlight data visualization presentation.
- Chapter Seven (Enhancing Visual Intelligence in Silverlight) is the last chapter that focuses on creating complex composite data visualizations. You will also see how Silverlight as a professional visual intelligence environment can implement BI 2.0 functionality.
- Chapter Eight (Applying Collective Intelligence) introduces collective intelligence as a form of social Business Intelligence. This chapter defines the importance of Collective Intelligence on the web today. Furthermore, you will see how Silverlight can be used to gather and surface Collective Intelligence to users.
- Chapter Nine (Predictive Analytics) will describe how to integrate forward-looking data structures in our client logic to perform "what-if" scenarios. This chapter will also show how statistics used on aggregates can deliver instant insight on future events.
- Chapter Ten (Improving Performance with Concurrent Programming) is an advanced chapter that covers additional enhancements that can be gained by using multiple cores to aid in BI calculations. You will see how you can enhance the performance of BI modules by leveraging Silverlight’s advanced CPU and GPU programming features.
- Chapter Eleven (Integrating with Business Intelligence Systems) is a chapter that shows you how to apply the concepts that you have learned and integrate them into new solutions or existing BI systems. Silverlight in an SaaS delivery model as well as Silverlight web parts are covered in this chapter.
- Appendix A (Prototyping Applications with Dynamic Data) includes a short primer on prototyping data applications in Microsoft Expression Blend 3. This short section provides a quick overview on how to use Blend’s dynamic data feature to quickly create and add data to UI functionality without having to spend time architecting databases and services. This is a powerful tool to prototype BI 2.0 analytical modules without needing access to large-scale data repositories.
Companion Web Site
In addition to providing the source code and samples with this book, I have decided to create a companion web site for this resource. I don't think it would be fair for me to claim that this book can be fully understood by non-Silverlight developers if all that was provided was a zip file with source code. The companion web site will include all of coding scenarios as live demos which will allow readers without the full Silverlight development environment to fully understand the content. Furthermore, it will include the source code and samples that were not covered in detail in the book. I plan to use the companion web site as a vehicle to deliver further information on Business Intelligence and Silverlight in the form of web resource links, training videos, whitepapers and more advanced examples. I am currently working on the companion web site and it will be launched when the book is closer to being published.
If you are a Silverlight developer or interested in Business Intelligence, I encourage you to give my book a try to see how visual and interactive analytical tools can be delivered to average users with Silverlight.
Sample Content of What You Will See In This Book
Creating a Silverlight Predictive Analytics Tool to estimate future sales revenue
Optimizing Data Processing with Concurrent Programming (looks scary; it really isn't)
Learn about distributive client-side architecture for BI
Silverlight as an enterprise Visual Intelligence Environment (Trellis Data Visualization with KPI goals)
Don't worry if this is all alien to you...I will walk you through BI 2.0 fundementals as well...