An Introduction to the HP Business Decision Appliance

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1 An Introduction to the HP Business Decision Appliance January 2011

2 Contents An Introduction to the HP Business Decision Appliance... 1 Executive Summary... 3 Challenges for Users... 3 Challenges for IT... 3 Managed Self-Service Business Intelligence from Microsoft... 4 HP Business Decision Appliance... 4 Hardware... 4 Software... 5 Implementation... 5 Business Impact... 5 For More Information... 6

3 Executive Summary To be responsive to an ever-changing business environment, decision-makers need easy access to information and the tools that allow them to derive new insights on demand. The HP Business Decision Appliance, designed jointly by Microsoft and HP, optimized for SQL Server 2008 and SharePoint Server 2010, supports this objective with a combination of hardware and software tuned specifically for high-performance, simpler manageability, and ease of use. Furthermore, the HP Business Decision Appliance is designed with a rapid setup process that provides these benefits from the first day. Challenges for Users Over the years, the price of acquiring hardware for BI solutions has dropped, computing power for BI applications has increased, and features in BI software have expanded, and yet the pervasiveness of business intelligence is still amazingly low. A 2008 report from Gartner estimates only a percent of employees in a typical organization are regular users of BI applications. Although the reasons for the low usage of BI vary across organizations, there are several common challenges that users encounter with existing BI solutions that adversely impact the decision-making process: Typical BI tools are often considered hard to use. Almost two-thirds of the respondents to a Forrester Research study agreed that BI applications are somewhat difficult or difficult to learn, navigate, and use (Lean Business Intelligence, October 2, 2009). The enterprise data warehouse does not include all data that users require. In spite of plans to grow a data warehouse organically by introducing new data sources and managing new requirements periodically, IT can never keep up with the analysis needs and data requirements of the user community. Analysis must sometimes include data obtained from external sources that will never be part of the enterprise data warehouse. This data might be in the form of Excel files, text files, XML files, or even Web pages, and difficult for the average user to integrate with relational or multidimensional data retrieved from traditional BI solutions. Challenges for IT BI solutions continue to be one of the top priorities for CIOs. However, respondents to a Garner survey indicate a preference to invest in technologies that can be up and running quickly without the huge up-front investment that typifies enterprise data warehousing projects (Gartner EXP, January 2010). Challenges facing IT s ability to successful implement BI technologies include: Although many BI technologies are available that are easy to implement, they often cannot scale to the workloads that many organizations require. Even when software vendors provide very specific instructions regarding hardware requirements and software installation, it can be difficult to find information that helps IT to select the hardware configuration that is appropriate to the workload. The process of hardware selection can be time-consuming and error-prone, and the wrong choice can be costly. The intricacies of networking, the necessities of securing the environment, and the steps to connect multiple technologies together require a great deal of skill. Many organizations have few resources in-house with the necessary technical expertise to install, configure, and properly implement the BI tools and thereby fully accommodate the users analysis needs. When the enterprise data warehouse or existing BI solutions cannot support self-service BI because the data is unavailable and the tools are difficult to use, IT must fill the gap to support users ad hoc requests with resources that are already overburdened 3 AN INTRODUCTION TO THE HP BUSINESS DECISION APPLIANCE Sponsored by Microsoft & HP

4 Managed Self-Service Business Intelligence from Microsoft The release of Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2, Microsoft SharePoint 2010, and PowerPivot for Excel enable the self-service BI solutions that have long been a challenge to deliver. Using the familiar Microsoft Excel interface, users can integrate information from enterprise data warehouses with manually constructed data or data from external sources at any time. External data sources can include data from a variety of sources, including Access, SQL Server, or SQL Azure databases, Analysis Services cubes, text files, data feeds, cloud services, Excel and PowerPivot workbooks, data from the Web, and other relational and multidimensional sources. Users can then publish the results of their analysis to a SharePoint document library, thus centralizing their insights and enabling subsequent analysis using these workbooks as a source. By storing the PowerPivot workbooks in SharePoint, users can not only easily share the results of their analysis and collaborate with others, but they can also take advantage of other SharePoint features such as content management, search, social computing, and business intelligence dashboards. Using management tools for PowerPivot for SharePoint, IT can monitor workbook activity to keep track of popular data sources and to assess the impact of user queries on server resources. HP Business Decision Appliance The availability of managed self-service business intelligence technologies from Microsoft resolves many challenges experienced by users and reduces the need for IT to execute ad hoc requests. However, it does nothing to solve IT s problems with hardware selection or the lack of appropriate skills necessary to install, configure, and tune these technologies. To resolve these latter problems, Microsoft and HP have jointly invested in the development of the HP Business Decision Appliance. This appliance provides several benefits: Lower cost. The time spent by IT researching hardware and testing to find the configuration that will support the target workload is unnecessary because the HP Business Decision Appliance includes all the hardware necessary for a successful, high-performing implementation. Deployment complete in hours, not months. An organization purchases the HP Business Decision Appliance as a single ready-to-use unit. After installing the unit in a rack, plugging it into a power source, and connecting it to the network, an administrator uses remote access to connect to the appliance and run a wizard that installs and configures the software components included with the appliance. No additional configuration or tuning is required before the appliance is made available for proof of concept or live deployment. Optimal performance. Engineers from both companies have worked together to identify the appropriate hardware configuration and to tune the software configuration settings to work optimally with the appliance s hardware components. In addition, the engineers have designed the appliance to specifically tune and balance the processor, network driver, memory, and storage components for the target workloads which can support up to 80 concurrent users in a small-tomedium-sized business or departmental proof of concept environments in a larger organization. Easier operation. The HP Business Decision Appliance is designed for administrators with no prior experience with SQL Server and SharePoint technologies. It includes an administration console as a portal to appliance-specific tasks, including backup, restore, and shutdown. An administrator can locate all information relevant to managing the server in one easy-to-access location. Hardware The HP Business Decision Appliance is a high-performance solution designed to run on a powerful rackmounted 1U server component with high-capacity storage using serial attached SCSI (SAS) disks. The hardware components shipping with the appliance include: HP ProLiant DL360 G7 (X5650 processor) with 96GB RAM 8 x internal 300GB SFF 6G SAS disks Sponsored by Microsoft & HP AN INTRODUCTION TO THE HP BUSINESS DECISION APPLIANCE 4

5 Software The software for the HP Business Decision Appliance ships with the hardware, but requires installation using a configuration wizard. After execution of this wizard, the following server software is installed in the appliance: Microsoft Windows Server 2008 R2 Enterprise Edition Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2 Enterprise Edition with PowerPivot integration for SharePoint Microsoft SharePoint 2010 Enterprise Edition Prerequisites for SharePoint and PowerPivot Appliance Administration Console Appliance-specific SharePoint Home Page Implementation Instead of spending months on installing, tuning, and testing a variety of hardware and software combinations in search of the best combination of components, IT can install a new appliance in an existing rack, and then spend approximately an hour running a configuration wizard to prepare the appliance for use. The wizard prompts the administrator for a server name, the domain to join, and a domain account with permissions to join the appliance to the domain. After the process of joining the domain is complete, the wizard requests a domain user account to add as a local administrator on the appliance and adds that account as the SharePoint farm administrator. It also prompts for a user account to set up as a SQL administrator. Then installation of the prerequisite software and all software components begins. After installing the server software, the wizard proceeds with configuration of the environment and optimization of the software for the appliance. The installation process also adds the Appliance Home Page and the Appliance Administration Console to SharePoint and installs a System Center Management Pack for the appliance. The Appliance Home Page is a portal containing links for business users to download the PowerPivot client and to access content on using PowerPivot. It also contains links that IT uses to learn more about administrative tasks and to administer the HP Business Decision Appliance and SharePoint. The Appliance Administration Console allows IT to perform the following server management tasks: Backup and restore Shutdown and restart View backup history Reset appliance to factory state View appliance-specific information Business Impact The HP Business Decision Appliance solves many of the challenges commonly associated with implementing BI solutions. For the small-to-medium-sized business that has little to no IT infrastructure, an HP Business Decision Appliance can provide powerful BI functionality without the need to hire an army of consultants to make it ready for use. For larger organizations, an HP Business Decision Appliance can provide a complete production environment for users sooner than IT has the manpower to construct a comparable configuration in piecemeal fashion. Although users are responsible for defining data connections and producing workbooks, IT still has the ability to monitor and manage the overall environment. For organizations having no prior experience with Microsoft technologies, the HP Business Decision Appliance allows IT to implement a working solution with confidence that the hardware and software 5 AN INTRODUCTION TO THE HP BUSINESS DECISION APPLIANCE Sponsored by Microsoft & HP

6 will work together correctly from day one. Even when IT has extensive experience with Microsoft, the appliance saves time and costs associated with the design, acquisition, and implementation of a high-performing BI environment. The HP Business Decision Appliance is beneficial for consultants as well. For many consultants, a proof-of-concept is often the beginning of a long-term relationship with an organization. Even with a proof-of-concept project, consultants often spend the first two days performing installation and configuration tasks that are necessary, but provide no value. By using the appliance, consultants can start building out SharePoint sites and connecting to data sources on the first day of engagement, thereby engaging with the client organization sooner in the process of solution development. No matter the size of an organization or the level of experience with Microsoft technologies, the HP Business Decision Appliance has a positive impact on the business in several ways: IT reduces costs and risks associated with implementation, saving 1-6 months of research and testing. Users start integrating and analyzing business data on the first day with minimal IT involvement. Users work with familiar Microsoft technologies to create, share, and secure powerful insights. IT uses an integrated management dashboard to easily monitor usage and server health. For More Information For more information, including how to purchase and deploy the HP Business Decision Appliance please contact your HP or Microsoft Sales representative. The HP Business Decision Appliance is also currently available from your HP/Microsoft authorized partner and is complemented by business intelligence services available from authorized HP and Microsoft channel partners. See the following websites for more information and to learn how you can put it to work for your organization today. Sponsored by Microsoft & HP AN INTRODUCTION TO THE HP BUSINESS DECISION APPLIANCE 6

7 The information contained in this document represents the current view of Microsoft Corporation on the issues discussed as of the date of publication. Because Microsoft must respond to changing market conditions, it should not be interpreted to be a commitment on the part of Microsoft, and Microsoft cannot guarantee the accuracy of any information presented after the date of publication. This white paper is for informational purposes only. MICROSOFT MAKES NO WARRANTIES, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, IN THIS DOCUMENT. Complying with all applicable copyright laws is the responsibility of the user. Without limiting the rights under copyright, no part of this document may be reproduced, stored in, or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise), or for any purpose, without the express written permission of Microsoft Corporation. Microsoft may have patents, patent applications, trademarks, copyrights, or other intellectual property rights covering subject matter in this document. Except as expressly provided in any written license agreement from Microsoft, the furnishing of this document does not give you any license to these patents, trademarks, copyrights, or other intellectual property Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved. Microsoft is a trademark of the Microsoft group of companies. Copyright 2011 Hewlett-Packard Development Company, L.P. The information contained herein is subject to change without notice. The only warranties for HP products and services are set forth in the express warranty Statements accompanying such products and services. Nothing herein should be construed as constituting an additional warranty. HP shall not be liable for technical or editorial errors or omissions contained herein. 7 AN INTRODUCTION TO THE HP BUSINESS DECISION APPLIANCE Sponsored by Microsoft & HP

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