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Proclarity Migration Roadmap (or lack thereof)

with 27 comments

For those of you who commented on my recent post asking what the future held for existing Proclarity users, some interesting news. My fellow SQL BI MVP Thomas Ivarsson asked whether there were any plans for helping Proclarity users migrate to PerformancePoint and got this reply from Alyson Powell Erwin:

http://social.technet.microsoft.com/Forums/en-US/ppsmonitoringandanalytics/thread/b4e9bd35-62ce-4ca5-bd1f-05133b30bcc9

Here’s the text:

There will not yet be a migration from ProClarity 6.3 to PerformancePoint Services for SharePoint 2010.  Customers can continue to use ProClarity throughout its current supported lifecycle date of July 2012 for mainstream and July 2017 for extended.  We are still working on the roadmap for ProClarity but it is likely that you will not see a migration path until the O15 timeframe. 

So, in effect, three and a half years after Microsoft first announced they were buying Proclarity, they still have no roadmap for migrating existing Proclarity customers onto a new platform. I’m sorry, but this is just not good enough; I don’t think they could have come up with a strategy that would be more damaging to Microsoft BI if they had called up Larry Ellison and asked him to contribute some ideas. Development on Proclarity finished three years ago, almost, and they’re saying that there probably won’t be a migration story until Office 15 – which is likely to be about three or four years in the future! That’s effectively telling some of the most serious, committed Microsoft BI customers to bin their existing solutions and start again from scratch, and I can’t tell you how angry that makes me feel. It seems to me that Microsoft don’t have a BI strategy any more, they have a sell-more-Office (and especially MOSS) strategy. That’s fair enough, Microsoft have to make money somehow, but in there’s no point expecting SQL Server BI to drive sales of Office in the future if they’re busily driving away the existing customer and partner base. It’s a classic case of killing the goose that laid the golden egg.

Here’s what Microsoft should do:

  • Round up whatever members of the Proclarity dev team that are still in Microsoft and get them to work on a new stopgap release of Proclarity. It doesn’t need to add much new functionality, but it does need to update the UI and make it look a bit less like a VB6 app circa 1998.
  • Either stop pretending that Excel will meet the needs of power users and let the Proclarity fat client live for a few years longer, or add functionality to Excel that will bring it up to the required standard. Richard Lees has just published a good list of what needs to be done here (I can think of a few more myself, such as support for ragged hierarchies that use HideMemberIf), and while some of these issues are addressed in Excel 2010 not all are. Excel 2010 is just bringing Excel up to the levels of functionality that most third party SSAS clients had in 2005. And again, I can’t wait until Office 15.
  • Publish – and commit to – a clear roadmap showing how existing Proclarity customers can be migrated to the new Office BI platform. At the moment most Proclarity customers feel completely abandoned and have no idea what to do (as the comments in my recent blog post demonstrate).

In the meantime, if I was one of the remaining third party SSAS tools vendors I would be wondering if it was possible to create a wizard that would migrate existing Proclarity briefing books onto their own platform. I would imagine it might generate a few leads…

Written by Chris Webb

October 13, 2009 at 2:07 pm

Posted in Client Tools

27 Responses

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  1. I have to agree. I know this banter over a ProClarity strategy is not new. Microsoft has been explaining that ProClarity capabilities will be migrated into PPS over several major versions for some time. But, in the mean time, what are we supposed to do? Better still, what kind of guidance is there in how I should be leveraging ProClarity today that will make migration off of the platform easier in the future? Not only would such guidance help me to determine which capabilities in the old product I should leverage, but it would also help me in my SharePoint topology. I could really use a clear BI vision from Microsoft that extends beyond 6 months.

    Michael

    October 13, 2009 at 3:55 pm

  2. I still rely on Proclarity for ad hoc OLAP analysis, and will continue to do so until it won\’t run on the desktop. But I have already switched our corporate dashboard away from Proclarity, and have recommended yet another vendor to other corporations for their ad hoc analysis. Microsoft screwed up big time on this. They have lost the right to call themselves a serious, big time BI Vendor. Great database stack, but no delivery tools. Excel? Seriously? Where\’s the visualization? the easy data retrieval? So, yes, I get it, columnar databases are the future, but that doesn\’t help now, nor for the next few years.

    Unknown

    October 13, 2009 at 4:56 pm

  3. With you all the way on this one Chris. I\’ve been working for some time now with Excel 2007 and 2010 and they still just don\’t cut it in terms of deep BI functionality. I still use proclarity every day in my role, but find it extremely frustrating that I can\’t really surface any of the really good stuff in the MOSS/PPS environment.In this day & age, and with the drive towards 64bit architecture, it leaves the 32bit only Proclarity platform (and those that still use it, or need to install it) seriously wallowing in the mire…

    Will

    October 13, 2009 at 7:44 pm

  4. The roadmap for ProClarity integration is amazingly slow. How hard can it be, within a 3-4 years time frame, to add report templates for the Decomposition Tree, Perspective and the Performance Map to the coming version of Performance Point Services in Sharepoint 2010? I have no other information except Alison\’s comment but it was really disappointing.

    Thomas

    October 13, 2009 at 8:09 pm

  5. Background: I was on the team that built the ProClarity desktop product, but am no longer with the company. Most of the team is still there at Microsoft\’s Boise office. But, most of the team has moved to PerformancePoint (afaik) and are happily working in .net. While the ProClarity code base is in Delphi. While delphi is a wonderful language, most like C# better. That is cause #1.Cause #2, most feature changes require a cascade of changes through the product. Most of the controls have to be changed, and tested, probably not a minor task.Anyway, nice to see some of the code I wrote is still in use.

    Chris

    October 13, 2009 at 11:24 pm

  6. Great post Chris, I agree with you and Richard. And still – after testing a few other solutions for ad-hoc analysis, ProClarity, even with its outdated interface, is the best (most stable, fastest and feature rich) SSAS client tool out there. I can\’t understand how the Microsoft BI stack can lack such critical functionality and I can\’t understand why it can\’t be implemented in some other component – PerformancePoint or SSRS with ad-hoc grids, or even .NET olap grid control (e.g. based on Dundas but faster). It really makes me sad that we cannot deliver a solution which caters to such requirements purely with Microsoft tools and if we try to do, it would lack something (Excel is limited, ProClarity outdated gui and 32bit iis, PPS limited functionality.. It is a terrible miss and relying on third-party tools is just not appropriate for a serious player in the BI field.

    Boyan

    October 13, 2009 at 11:46 pm

  7. For companys (like us) who are not on a sharepoint strategy (we\’re still on search for the problems to be solved by sharepoint) it doesn\’t make any sense to keep Sharepoint under SA just for the vague possibility that it will cover ProClarity functionalty in some years. This is also true for any stopgap release. SA is between 20 to 25 Percent of the license value, so the gap between versions must be less than 4 to 5 years to make any sense for SA. We can\’t wait that long, so for us the strategy is clear and goes (at least for the Client side) directly away from MS. I\’m not an expert in the OLAP Market – is there any other vendor focusing on server that much and give the client market away to others?

    Unknown

    October 14, 2009 at 7:55 am

  8. Very interesting comments here. I would say that report templates, in the next version of Sharepoint/PP M&A extension for the visual tools in ProClarity , and an upgrade wizard for the briefing books would be a short run good enough solution.

    Thomas

    October 14, 2009 at 7:48 pm

  9. I don\’t think we will see any upgrade wizards from ProClarity to PPS. Just think of all of the custom sets and calculations that can be created in ProClarity that would somehow have to be incorporated into PPS. Since PPS doesn\’t allow for end users to create such calculations, I would think PPS would have to change drastically before it would even be possible.

    David

    October 14, 2009 at 9:49 pm

  10. Dear Chris – My name is Navi and I am the CEO of a BI vendor called Panorama (www.Panorama.com). We know each other well but I want to ensure the rest of your readers will understand I might come from a biased background, as Panorama sold Microsoft the OLAP engine and Panorama do partner with Microsoft globally to drive End2End BI solutions. (http://blogs.msdn.com/bi/archive/2009/07/15/bringing-panorama-back-into-the-big-tent.aspx)I understand the frustration of many of the ProClarity customers, they have been through a lot in the last few years, and they probably deserve more answers. But some of your comments were suggesting that Microsoft ‘doesn’t have a BI strategy’ and I want to share my thoughts with you and your readers. I actually think that Microsoft have a brilliant BI strategy. As you know we are very close to the Microsoft BI development team. During our last visits to Redmond we have seen amazing products which Microsoft works on, such as project ‘Gemini’ and project ‘Madison’. Those are huge steps towards fulfilling significant needs in the BI market. Although Excel might not fit all of the users, it does fit some of the users and Microsoft is certainly committed to make it a better tool. Also, Microsoft was always about opening it’s platform to allow innovative partners (such as Panorama and many others) to develop amazing BI solutions on their stack. I believe it is brilliant because this way they can actually enjoy a higher degree of innovation coming from different development team around the world (and the world is flat!) who aren’t bound to the strict Office release time frames to launch more features. Moreover, Microsoft is actually working closely with partners to ensure they deliver a complete end to end solution which can easily beat any competitor such as Oracle, IBM or SAP when it comes to BI functionality and User Interface. Yes, it means that customer need to evaluate a 3rd party tool, but ‘So What?’, evaluating SAP actually means you evaluate dozens of different toolsets and UI’s: BOBJ, Crystal, Cartesis, SRC, Outlooksoft, Inxight, and the list is still long… evaluating Oracle means evaluating Hyperion, Brio…etc… and evaluating Cognos… means… Applix, Temtec.. and many others. So, to summarize my points, Microsoft customers should rest assure Microsoft BI roadmap is strong and stable, it focus on a stronger platform and better tools, and their partners provide great value of top of their platform with advanced analytics, innovative UIs (http://tinyurl.com/PanoramaBI), and standalone solutions. (http://www.panorama.com/products/ppt-presentation.html) PS: I do invite any competitor to compare their offering Vs Panorama/Microsoft… I know who will win the match… (watch the joint MSFT+Panorama offering in action: http://tinyurl.com/o37kur)

    eynav

    October 14, 2009 at 11:20 pm

  11. Thanks for your input, everyone – I knew I was touching a raw nerve with this subject, but hopefully the more people complain the more visibility this will get.Navi – to address your points specifically, surely the way that Panorama has recently been welcomed \’back into the big tent\’ is a tacit admission that the Proclarity strategy was a big screw-up? The very fact you guys were outside the \’big tent\’ in the first place was due to MS buying your closest competitor. And while I agree that there are a lot of exciting technologies in the pipeline and that other vendors have an equally confusing product range, that doesn\’t excuse the way MS is treating its existing Proclarity customers or give the overal strategy any coherence – as I said, the only way it seems to make sense is not as a BI strategy, but as a way of selling more Office 2010.

    Chris

    October 15, 2009 at 10:46 am

  12. Panorama didn\’t exactly help matters with its intenational webcast event soon after the announcement of PerformancePoint Server being discontinued and M&A being folded into Office SharePoint Server Enterprise. I am, however, very happy to see some of the more recent progress in that relationship, namely the embracing of Gemini.In the end, Microsoft\’s ProClarity/PPS strategy is disappointing. While Office 2010 may give us some great new visualizations, we will ultimately have to wait for Office 15 before seeing ProClarity 6.3 retired. That\’s a full 5+ years between versions, and that is very sad :( What I am happy about is the possibility that Office 15 may come with migration tools. Hopefully, enough loud voices will keep that on the roadmap.

    Michael

    October 16, 2009 at 3:29 pm

  13. Hi Chris, Thomas, Will and everyone, I share the frustration caused by the lack of migration path for ProClarity users. Until today I was thinking that ProClarity users might have to recreate their PAS BBKs using Excel 2007/2010 and Dashboard Designer (be it PPS 2007 or SP 2010), and publish them to Excel and PerformancePoint Services in SharePoint 2010. Or using SSRS 2008 and publish them on SP2010\’s Reporting Services.But then I saw that on the Sharepoint 2010\’s PP Services what\’s new page: http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ee661741(office.14).aspx, Microsoft mentioned PAS reports in PP Services. It is pictured there that we can publish PAS reports as SharePoint WebParts, just like SSRS reports, and export them to Excel & Powerpoint 2007/2010. On the same page, Microsoft also mentioned that Decomposition Tree will be available on PP Services: "The Decomposition Tree is a new visualization report type available in PerformancePoint Services. You can use it to quickly and visually break down higher-level data values from a multi-dimensional data set to understand the driving forces behind those values. The Decomposition Tree is available in scorecards and analytic reports and ultimately in dashboards". My understanding is that PP Services\’ scorecards and dashboards functionalities are the migrated functionality from PPS 2007 Dashboard Designer, and that the Decomposition Tree is a rebuilt of the ProClarity\’s.The task of migrating ProClarity Briefing Books to SSRS, Dashboard Designer and Excel 2010 is massive, especially if you have hundreds of them, stored on PAS or as files. Because of this scale of work, and no migration tool available, I was thinking of the feasibility of creating a .NET app that converts PAS BBK files into Excel 2007/2010. If you ever saved a simple 1-pager BBK as XML Briefing Book and open the resulting 3 XML files, you will see that the BBK is a simple combination (concatenation) of the 3 XML files: first the book XML, followed by the MDStore XML, followed by the pages XML. Well, with some binary in between, but it is definitely possible to find/locate the three component I mentioned above, indicated by <BriefingBook3>, <MDSTore> and <BriefingPage3> tags, located at the start of their respective XML island.I am therefore still hopeful that Microsoft (or other company) would build this PAS BBK Migration Wizard (to Excel 2007/2010). I appreciate that while some complex BBK functionalities could be challenging to convert to Excel (i.e. selector, perspective, performance map), majority of the PAS functionalities should be quite straight forward (i.e. grid, sort, filter, total, chart, new/custom measures/sets, timeline). Some PAS functionalities are more suitable for convertion to PPS2007/SP2010\’s Dashboard than Excel.

    Vincent

    November 5, 2009 at 12:19 pm

  14. Would you rather want a BBK migrator to PerformancePoint or a PAS migrator to PerformancePoint? Wouldn\’t you want to convert the ProClarity pages to PerformancePoint and not Excel so that they can be surfaced on a Dashboard?How do you handle dashboard creation? Do you just create filters when there are slicers, single report dashboards, and two report dashboards for split views?How do you handle reports that don\’t migrate over like Performance Map?

    Josh

    November 10, 2009 at 8:40 pm

  15. To be honest, you\’d want everything you mention to help Proclarity users. And that, obviously, would not be feasible, especially given the difficulties of mapping the functionality of the old toolset onto the new toolset. But something would be better than nothing, so the task would be to work out what \’something\’ can actually be delivered.

    Chris

    November 11, 2009 at 9:09 pm

  16. Hi Josh, thank you for your time and attention to this issue. I am relieved that people from PerformancePoint development team are monitoring. Answering your questions,1. PAS or BBK. Whilst PAS are convertible to BBK and vice versa, the process of retrieving and publishing BBKs to and from PAS is one-at-a-time; hence doing hundreds of them is quite laborious. Quantity wise, companies tend to have a lot more BBKs than PAS pages. Probably only 10-20% of all BBKs are published as PAS pages in PAS libraries. 80% remains in their local or network drives. Having said that, the ones stored in PAS are the important ones, usually having been approved, checked and verified, and used formally within the company as shared reports or KPIs. On the other hand, the ones in their local/network drives are usually personal ones. So if I have to choose one between PAS and BBK, I would nominate PAS.2. PerformancePoint or Excel. PerformancePoint has more features but Excel has wider user base. As R2 Nov CTP is out, when we say Excel these days, apart from the PivotTable on Excel 2007/10, we also need to consider PowerPivot. PivotTable, PivotChart, ExcelServices, Analytics Grid, Analytic Chart are elements/templates of PPS Reports, so there is some overlap between PerformancePoint and Excel. I think a basic ProClarity \’grid & chart\’ page will translate nicely into either PivotTable & PivotChart, or Analytic Grid & Chart. Whilst PivotTable would be editable by users with Excel (which is just about everybody), Analytic Grid isn\’t. Please correct me if I\’m wrong everyone, but I think the idea of \’IT creates a cube and users browse the cube to create their own report\’ in my opinion is best supported with Excel. Where as the Analytics Grid / Chart (wrapped in Dashboards, KPIs, Scorecards, Indicators) support the old concept of \’Contact IT to order a (BI) report\’.3. Dashboard creation. Yes Josh, we could create filter for slicers, and 2 zones/reports for split views/pages. Reports that don\’t migrate over such as Perspective and Performance Map can perhaps be converted to the closest feature, or to a basic grid. The most important thing, as Chris said, is something got delivered. It\’s better than nothing.Many thanks, Vincent Rainardi

    Vincent

    November 12, 2009 at 5:21 pm

  17. Great post – thanks for that. This is a concern for our business. We have no problem with users generating their reports in ProClarity – in fact our IT people would not know how to do it. If a casual user needs a more complicated report, they go to a power business user, not IT. We also use Business Reporter extensively, so we get the Excel synergy as well (but of course Business Reporter is no longer supported).An acceptable solution would have been to beef up Business Reporter to include the graphics and improve stability, and have the best of both the Ecxel and ProClarity worlds, but clearly that is not going to happen. The Pivot Table interface (Excel 2007) is a joke compared to the ProClarity interface, and I do not look forward to trying to train users in it.I thought MOSS may be the salvation, but what I read here does not engender much confidence.This is all going backwards for us, and we are going to have to look seriously at alternatives to ProClarity, and by extension to MS BI.

    Les

    December 15, 2009 at 10:05 pm

  18. Hi Chris, Your suggestion of what Microsoft should do was spot-on … and I am wondering if there was any “good news” for ProClarity users, resulting from your comments & observations ? Regards, JohnM

    John Morter

    January 4, 2011 at 4:53 am

  19. BTW, yesterday someone pointed out this product to me: http://pyramidanalytics.com/Pyramid_the_upgrade_to_ProClarity_PAS.aspx
    It looks like it might be an option for Proclarity users, but I need to take a proper look.

    Chris Webb

    January 13, 2011 at 7:14 am

    • Chris, I took a look at Pyramid – albeit, just via the on-line demo/overview.

      It looks pretty good – and would be worth a closer look for anyone considering a user-interface tool for analysis over SS/AS cubes – – certainly better than any of the Microsoft offerings I’ve seen (PP, etc)

      I can say this with some confidence, ‘cos it looks very much like what one might expect ProClarity to have evolved to, had it not been ‘moth-balled’ by Microsoft !!

      And, therein lies the frustration for those of us who have invested in ProClarity: The functionality of Pyramid (and of a number of other, similar tools I’ve looked at and tried) has quite obviously been considerably ‘inspired’ by the example of ProClarity … which quite simply confirms and affirms the ‘rightness’ of ProClarity’s approach in the first place.

      I therefore completely fail to understand why Microsoft has allowed ProC to stagnate – and, thereby, has enabled others – such as Pyramid – to fill the functionality gap they’ve left.

      Microsoft, undoubtedly, would say that Excel satisfies that need – – but that’s a naive mis-understanding of BI-delivery requirements. ie. To replace ProClarity, we need a tool that enables “managed” access to ad-hoc analysis capability over OLAP cubes, that the general user-community can comfortably use – and use with confidence that they’re dealing with a certified version of the truth … not Excel-tools that only a handful of power-users can understand (with as many versions of the truth as there are ‘nifty’ formulae & macros in their spreadsheets –> aka” Spreadmart hell”).

      The resulting ‘gift’ to Microsoft’s competition is, generally, not a bad thing at all – except from Microsoft’s perspective (which just makes it all the more difficult to understand their treatment of ProC) … but the fact that there are now a growing number of alternatives to ProClarity is not much consolation to those of us who have already made a big monetary investment in ProClarity AND who have continued with software-assurance investments, with not much to show for it.

      What is it that I’m not understanding about Microsoft’s attitude to this functionality need ?

      Regards, JohnM

      John Morter

      January 14, 2011 at 6:21 am

      • >>What is it that I’m not understanding about Microsoft’s
        >>attitude to this functionality need ?

        I’ve spent the last 5 years trying to do this, and failed. It’s helpful to think about Microsoft as being like the Soviet Union, obeying its own internal logic that is impenetrable to outsiders…!

        Chris Webb

        January 14, 2011 at 7:17 am

    • Thanks for pointing this out! We downloaded this product and took it for a test run. It has many similarities to ProClarity and looks like it reflects many things that needed to be fixed. It can also import and reuse proclarity/PAS content. The pyramid geospatial stuff also rocks. Finally.

      Snap

      March 27, 2011 at 12:02 am

  20. Hi All,

    there is a OutOfTheBox upgrade for proclarity:
    it is pyramis analytics. it is based on silverlight and has a very cool features.
    find it at : http://blogs.microsoft.co.il/blogs/bilive/archive/2011/01/23/the-best-olap-viewer.aspx

    Ronen

    April 7, 2011 at 7:59 pm

  21. [...] it’s worth looking at is that if you’re lumbered with a large Proclarity installation and no obvious way of migrating, it that it could be the answer to your prayers. It’s designed with existing Proclarity customers [...]

  22. [...] is still used as a front-end for SSAS by almost 20% of the customers surveyed, which explains why this is still one of the most popular posts on my [...]


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