Essentials of the Cloud in 2012

Learn what you really need to know about cloud computing with this free whitepaper bundle. Click “The Essentials of the Cloud in 2012 – Free Kit” to get the following popular white papers in a single download bundle:

  1. A Revolution in Cloud Networking: Citrix TriScale Technology
  2. Five Myths of Cloud Computing
  3. The Best Way to Build a Cloud — HP CloudSystem Matrix and HP 3PAR Utility Storage Provide Solid, Flexible Foundation
  4. Botnets: The Dark Side of Cloud Computing

These are excellent whitepapers on cloud computing.

Excellent Whitepaper on Databases

The Database Revolution Whitepaper

Dashboard Spy readers are encouraged to read this excellent whitepaper: The Database Revolution, A Perspective on the Database: Where We Came From and Where We’re Going. (This is a direct link to the pdf.)

It’s a great review of the “database revolution” and neatly summarizes the new generation of databases.

Here’s an excerpt:

Introducing the Database Revolution

This paper covers three database topics in significant depth:

  1. How to understand the new generation of databases that have recently emerged in the marketplace. We cover both those sometimes described as NoSQL databases and also column-store databases that are like the traditional relational databases to which we have become accustomed. Our intention is to explain the overall market shift and expansion, and in consequence what the database market looks like today.
  2. Guidance on how to view database workloads and technologies, and how they line up. We attempt to provide rules of thumb that may help the reader determine what class of technology is likely to fit with which workloads.
  3. Guidelines on how to select database technology. This is provided primarily because we expect that many of the readers of this paper will be involved in selecting database products and hence may find such guidelines useful.

A Summary of Findings

This paper is the result of a research program driven by Mark Madsen and Robin Bloor, involving interviews with vendors, interviews with customers, four webcasts, two of which took the format of round tables with other respected database technology analysts, and a
survey of database users.

We reached several key conclusions, listed here in summary:

  • The database market has changed, primarily because of advances in hardware technology which have made it possible to scale to much higher data volumes and workloads than was previously possible.
  • As a consequence, a new generation of databases has emerged, most of which are more scalable than before. There is a business need to take advantage of this improved capability; proved, if by nothing else, by the popularity and adoption of many of the
  • new generation of products.
  • These new products include some databases that implement the relational model of data (we’re terming these products “NewSQL” databases) and some that choose not to do so (NoSQL databases). Having said that, we do not believe the term NoSQL is informative since it covers too wide a range of capability to be useful.
  • We currently see the new generation of databases as being specialized to specific workloads rather than being general purpose or universal products as the relational databases were in their day.
  • We do not believe at this point in time that the older universal database products (grouped under the term “OldSQL”) have become outmoded. They are good at what they do, but they lack scalability for some specialized or very large workloads.

Demo of MicroStrategy Cloud Personal

In an earlier post, I showed an example of a sales dashboard built using MicroStrategy’s Cloud Personal. It’s a dashboarding platform that leverages the power of the cloud. This video show a demonstration of Microstrategy Cloud Personal.

First, you browse through your folders for an excel spreadsheet that you want to upload. The platform processes your spreadsheet and tries to automatically determine which columns are metrics and which columns are data attributes. You may have to manually change the column type.

Next, you get to the fun part and choose the dashboard graphs. You select from a library of various chart types. You then drag and drop to configure the visualization.

The most important part is to feel free to “fool around” with the drag and drops and property changes. You may hit upon some visualizations that you may not have thought of in advance.

Be sure to pay attention to the “publication” features. They look very powerful.

Free Chart Icons for Your Business Intelligence Dashboard

Chart and Graph Icons

Click here for some very attractive (and free) icons for use in your business intelligence applications.

There’s nothing like cheesy icons and graphics to spoil the professional look of your dashboard. Give the icons some thought and use well.

Here’s a tip: Try to use icons from the same icon set to ensure a unified look. If you have to go outside of the set of icons, be sure to select ones that are complimentary in some way. It could be color or perspective or other trait. Just make sure that all your icons look like they belong together.

Good luck with your dashboard design.

Example of a Hopelessly Complicated Dashboard

Dashboards are at their best when they are outrageously simple. Their “at-a-glance” nature takes advantage of universal human perception into order to bring instant understanding of data trends.

This example is outrageously complicated instead of simple. Sorry, but I would hate to have to attempt to understand this particular excel dashboard. See if you can make heads or tails out of it.

Sales Forecast Dashboard Example from MicroStrategy

microstrategy cloud dashboard

This sales forecast analysis tool is an executive dashboard powered by MicroStrategy’s Cloud Personal platform. You can view it at this link: MicroStrategy Sales Dashboard.

The various visualizations available on this sales dashboard is accessed via panels and tabs. A panel is the window that contains the visualization. Users can insert any number of panels to view their data in different graphical representations (each panel is represented by a dot located on the top right of the screen). A tab is a collection of panels, and filtering criteria may be specified at the tab level. The two tabs in the Sales Forecast Analysis Dashboard assess revenue trends along two different filter conditions.

With the first panel, Sales Managers can evaluate the revenue by the various industries and at the same time obtain a multi-dimensional performance snapshot for sales revenue at each stage of the sales cycle. The second panel shows a bubble chart that uses size and color to portray total revenue and number of accounts by geography. Each of the ensuing panels showcases a different visualization, from the conventional pie charts to heat maps.

Here’s a look at what you get when you click on the second tab:

Microstrategy cloud personal

More on the MicroStrategy Cloud Personal platform in an upcoming post.

Medicare Enrollment Dashboard

Dashboard Spy Example of Business Dashboard

The United States Federal Government continues its adoption of business intelligence dashboards as a data dissemination and management transparency technique with its rollout of the Medicare Enrollment Dashboard BETA version on its Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services site (CMS.GOV).

First let me show you a screen shot of the dashboard, then i’ll give you the link so that you can visit. I also want to mention a couple of things, but first, have a little look:

Medicare Enrollment Dashboard

You can visit the dashboard at this link: Medicare Enrollment Dashboard beta.

See if this strikes you the way it strikes me. Go to the link above and you’ll see that the landing page has a description of the dashboard. Click the link in the left sidebar that says “View Dashboard”. You then get to another page that lists a couple of dashboards including the one that you want to see (Huh? Yes, exactly – it’s confusing. But there’s more!).

You then click on “Medicare Enrollment Dashboard Beta” which takes you to a big page that says on the top: “Users should read the following information before accessing the Dashboard”

There’s literally a page of “information for users” that is rather dry. Then, at the very bottom of the page, under “related links”, you click on “Medicare Enrollment Dashboard”.

That brings you to a warning paragraph:

CMS has no responsibility for the data after it has been converted, processed or otherwise altered. Data that has been manipulated or reprocessed by the user is the responsibility of the user. The user may not present data that has been altered in any way as CMS data. Any alteration of the original data, including conversion to other media or other data formats, is the responsibility of the requestor.

You have to click on “Accept” and THEN the dashboard loads.

Anyone else see a problem here?

Try it out.

Hubert Lee, The Dashboard Spy

 

 

 

Conditional Formatting in Excel

I was working in Microsoft Excel and got a bit stuck on an issue with a formula, so I immediately went in search of the answer from my favorite Excel teaching resource, chandoo.org. I did find the answer, but while I was there, a very helpful article caught my eye so I thought I’d pass it along.

Conditional formatting in Excel is one of those foundational techniques that you must employ when creating business intelligence dashboards with excel. I’m talking about coloring certain cells a different color depending upon the value of that cell value.

For example:

Conditional Formatting Excel

Click here to read exactly how to accomplish this effect. It’s very important that you master it as you’ll use it over and over in your work.

Format cells with conditional formatting

And be sure to check out Chandoo’s School for Excel and his modules on Excel Dashboards.

If you are interested in using Excel for Dashboards, click on this banner to learn more about Excel School for Dashboards:

Excel School for Dashboards

 

USA Immigration Infographic

A Dashboard Spy reader was working on the creation of an infographic and called me for help. He’s not ready to show his work on this blog yet, but I wanted to share some inspiration I shared with him. He was looking to do something cool with a bar chart and I showed him this example. It shows United States immigration statistics in a cool layout. The bar chart is done in the shape of the U.S. flag. It’s a few years old, but definitely worth studying as an example.

Take a look:

Immigration statistics infographic

You’ll definitely want to see the original here in its full size. Click on this link to view a larger version:

U.S. Immigration Infographic

Interesting copy that sets up the user expectations from the infographic itself:

Who is coming to America? Immigration may have taken a back seat during the financial crisis, but the issue still needs resolving. While illegal immigrants sneaking over the border is still a primary concern, it’s good to know who came to our country legally and from where. This is a look at the 20 countries from which the most people came to America in 2008, how many immigrants already had family here, and how many received asylum when they arrived on shores.