Microsoft Maestro Takes Its Bow


Maestro, which relies on some of the innards of SharePoint and SQL Server, is going to a just over a dozen beta testers now, said Chris Caren, general manager of Business Applications within Microsoft's Information Worker Business Unit. A full beta release is slated for this summer with final shipment due in the fourth quarter. Pricing has yet to be determined.

The goal is to provide realtime monitoring of back-office system metrics, as well as a window into the more historical data found in data warehouses, Caren told CRN on Monday.

The software requires the use of either SQL Server 2000 or upcoming SQL Server 2005 and integrates with their reporting and notification services. It also relies on Windows Server 2003's integral SharePoint services. If the user also has the full SharePoint Portal Server 2003 additional functions will "light up", a spokeswoman said.

"With Portal Server, you also can get the full 'My Sites' personalization and enterprise scaling," she said. That would enable creation of fully personalized "dashboards" to backend metrics and data.

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In like fashion, while Maestro will likely run with older versions of Office—-some details are still pending—-the use of the latest Office 2003 version will enable additional functions.

Maestro's goal is to link to a variety of back-office applications and data, although Microsoft estimates that 80 percent of the metrics its customers want to tap are now in SQL Server. Access to SAP apps can be accomplished with the SAP .Net connector. Other data repositories can be accessed via ODBC connectors or an array of standard Web Services that Maestro supports.

VARs and integrators can use Maestro, along with SQL Server and Visual Studio to build their own realtime links to line-of-business applications of all types, Microsoft said.

Caren, who recently joined Microsoft from San Jose, Calif-based Business Objects, said the product is similar to offerings from Cognos, Business Objects and Hyperion.

As CRN reported in March, Maestro will be marketed as an Office System Server. Caren said the offering builds on the existing Business Scorecards Accelerator but partners who have seen the software characterize it as a huge leap forward.

"This is part of Microsoft's answer to [BusinessObjects] XI and NetWeaver integration," said one partner source.

The source, who asked not to be identified, said the major application vendors—-in this case Microsoft and SAP--are making an end run around their traditional BI partners to get a larger footprint in existing or even new accounts.

"Microsoft and SAP have decided to collaborate on how to make this work really well--as opposed to fairly well if the application source is accessed via Netweaver rather than Maestro," the source said. When--and if--this all works, the impact on Teradata, Cognos, Business Objects, maybe even SAS, could be huge, he said.

Competitors have put their game faces on, however. An executive with a BI power said Maestro sounds like it is cobbled together with piece-parts from other Microsoft products and is not a true end-to-end BI solution. She noted that Microsoft has said for years it would own reporting and has yet to make a dent with SQL Server reporting services.

Still, all of the analytics/BI players have their eyes on what Microsoft and SAP are doing.

"We always have to see which way the wind's blowing with all these guys," said Neal Hill, senior vice president of corporate development at Ottawa-based Cognos.