I am here this week at the Second Annual Microsoft BI Conference in Seattle.  The highlight yesterday was of course the keynotes by Stephen Elop and Ted Kummert.  They announced SQL Server Kilimanjaro which is the next version of SQL Server which is going to be BI focused.  They also announced Gemini which is the next version of Analysis Services which will have an option to use a column-oriented data store and in-memory storage.  To me, Gemini was the most interesting announcement.  Analysis Services is a good product with MOLAP and ROLAP options.  The column-oriented and in-memory storage option will allow Analysis Services to scale and to also have extremely good performance.  The power of Gemini is expected to really be unleashed on the non-BI user.  Microsoft spoke about democratization and I think this is where Gemini is going.  They demonstrated strong connectivity between Excel and Gemini.  What the theme seems to be is that Excel is on every desktop and if we allow the Excel user to get at the data directly through Gemini, there is no need to wait for IT.  This empowers the business user and therefore democratizes the data.  Powerful concept.  Since Microsoft owns Excel, Microsoft is definitely a company that can make this work.  The sad part is that the product is at least a year and a half away so Microsoft potentially freezes the market for other vendors in this space.  There is also an opportunity here for other BI vendors.  This is because the new column-oriented and in-memory option for Analysis Service will all be under the covers.  Therefore, the interfaces to Analysis Services – MDX Query Language, XML for Analysis (XMLA), and OLE DB for OLAP (ODBO) will all continue to work as they currently do.  Therefore, if a BI vendor were to build a product that did a better job of capitalizing on Gemini than Excel, the BI vendor would have a great opportunity in about one and a half years.