Microsoft UK has produced two online seminars with SQL Server Magazine that make for compelling viewing for anyone involved in the data business.

"Managed Self-Service BI" is presented by consultant Stacia Misner, a regular contributor to SQL Server Magazine and the author of a number of books on BI. "SQL Server 2008 R2: Enterprise Data Access for Mission-Critical Applications" is presented by Michael Otey, senior technical director of both Windows IT Pro and SQL Server Magazine and whose work will be more than familiar to readers of this newsletter.

Both TV studio-style presentations are free to access without the need for registration here and they each last for just under one hour.

In "Managed self-service BI", Stacia Misner asks whether we are seeing a decline in what could be called traditional BI. She looks at business intelligence's original promise and the shortcomings that have meant that very few users within an organisation end up actually using BI tools. More often, the IT department becomes the intermediary between users and the data warehouses, cubes and analytical tools that they should be able to utilise themselves. Either that or the data that users access is often unmanaged and incorrect. The next generation of business intelligence can live up to its original potential, she says, but only as managed self-service BI.

Misner explains, for example, how the PowerPivot for Excel plug-in can help users analyse huge amounts of data on their desktop from multiple data sources like SQL Server, SharePoint and the cloud. She also shows viewers exactly how they can use PowerPivot for SharePoint and the BI features within SQL Server 2008 R2. There is also a look at where Analysis Services fits in with PowerPivot deployment.

In "SQL Server 2008 R2: Enterprise Data Access for Mission-Critical Applications", Michael Otey
presents a concise overview of the features packed into R2. He look at how SQL Server evolved into an enterprise-level product with built-in BI functions. He examines the application's improved scalability in an age of virtualisation. And he explains the product's beefed up HA and DR capabilities as well as new security and compliance features like SQL Server Audit and support for Filestream data types.

Otey concludes with a return to the theme of self-service BI by looking at Integration Services, Analysis Services and Reporting Services and at how PowerPivot for Excel means users can get far more out of their organisation's data using an interface they find familiar.