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Microsoft Aims To Bolster Power BI with Datazen Acquisition

Microsoft on Tuesday announced that it has acquired Datazen Software, a Toronto-based startup that provides mobile business intelligence (BI) solutions.

Datazen's products are aimed at organizations that require on-premises BI solutions. Its lineup includes an app for Windows 8 that lets users create visualizations of data stored in Excel, the cloud or other sources; the Datazen Server, which is optimized for use with SQL Server and enables users to publish their data to devices; and mobile apps for Android, Windows and iOS.

In a blog post Tuesday, Kamal Hathi, partner director for cloud and enterprise at Microsoft, touted the acquisition as a boon for Microsoft's BI plans, specifically for the cloud-based Power BI. Microsoft intends to eventually fold Datazen's technology into Power BI, Hathi said.

"Datazen technology and solutions will complement Power BI, our cloud-based business analytics service, rounding out our mobile capabilities for customers who need a mobile BI solution implemented on-premises and optimized for SQL Server. Over time, we plan to integrate Datazen technology with Power BI to give our customers another hybrid bridge for their on-premises investment to the cloud," Hathi said in the post.

Microsoft first released Power BI in early 2014, but is currently testing an updated version that is expected for release later this year. The company has also said that it plans to release mobile Power BI apps for Android, iPhone and Windows devices. Possibly, Datazen's capabilities could materialize later this year in those Power BI mobile apps.

According to Boris Evelson, a vice president and principal analyst at research firm Forrester, Datazen's offerings fulfill several functions that are currently not available or as well-realized in Power BI. For starters, Power BI does not currently allow users to access data offline, whereas "Datazen caches data and metrics on mobile devices and allows for offline/disconnected mode analysis," Evelson said in an e-mail.

Second, he said that Datazen would give Microsoft's BI lineup a way to organize metrics on mobile devices. "SQL Server database is great for organizing data, but there has to be a layer on top of it to organize metrics, like customer profitability, for example. Then one needs an easy way to visualize metrics on a dashboard and provide various  analysis paths (sorting, filtering, ranking, drilling, etc.). Performance Point functionality from SharePoint provides for desktop devices, but Datazen improves the platform to organize and analyze metrics on mobile devices," Evelson said.

The Datazen buy benefits Microsoft from a competitive standpoint, according to Martha Bennett, principal analyst at Forrester. "Datazen was the most advanced mobile BI specialist with a Windows-first strategy," she said in an e-mail. "It makes sense for Microsoft to acquire Datazen -- their own mobile capabilities weren't even close."

According to Bennett, competing BI companies like Qlik and Tableau fall short of Datazen's native Windows support and offline capabilities, while others like Tibco and Cafe Moba have Windows support but are overall "less function-rich."

Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed. As part of the deal, Hathi said users of the Enterprise edition of SQL Server 2008 or later versions can download the Datazen Server product at no cost, provided they have Software Assurance.

In his own blog post about the acquisition, Datazen CEO Miljan Braticevic said that all of Datazen's products "will continue to be available in their current form."

About the Author

Gladys Rama is the senior site producer for Redmondmag.com, RCPmag.com and MCPmag.com.