Awesome applications need awesome embedded analytics. In this article, I am going to review the latest and greatest version 3.0 of Dundas BI. Dundas offers a flexible embedded BI framework that includes incredibly beautiful, fully responsive HTML5, interactive animated visualizations. Unlike many other embedded BI solutions, Dundas has a wonderfully wide and deep feature set for developers spanning extract, transform, load (ETL), reports, dashboards and scorecards with data-driven alerting. Also when it comes to wanting control over every little detail in a presentation layer, Dundas delivers!
Historically Dundas entered the market as a visualization component vendor with Dundas Charts. Years ago, I successfully implemented that offering on several reporting projects. The charting components were best-in-class and loved by developers around the world. Microsoft eventually acquired a portion of Dundas’ solutions and cooked it into SQL Server Reporting Services.
Following that purchase, the Dundas team kept on innovating. They released Dundas Dashboard several years ago and now have taken the offering much further. Dundas BI today is an embedded business intelligence and analytics framework. It is touted as one of the most customizable and extensible platforms on the market. After seeing a demo, I was amazed at what they had accomplished. The Dundas teams have been rocking it in Toronto, Canada.
In my opinion, Dundas BI strengths are the sheer plethora of out-of-the-box features and impeccable styling of analytics presentation.
I also highly value the pay once, unlimited usage, OEM-friendly, white-label licensing model. Even though this solution is primarily sold as an embedded BI offering, I feel the unembedded, online demo that I played with was quite excellent as-is. I could easily see Dundas BI used as a stand-alone BI platform today. Here are a few notes from my hands-on review.
Dundas BI Technical Architecture
Dundas BI can be deployed on-premises or in the cloud. The open, flexible platform has full API support and extended scripting. It can be easily integrated into existing web pages, applications and portals such as SharePoint or a CRM.
One rather unique capability of Dundas BI is out-of-the-box multi-tenancy. Built-in support for multi-tenant deployment scenarios allows SaaS/ISV app developers to easily create and manage tenants in a single instance which are isolated from each other, add accounts for specific tenants and customize the license seats for each tenant individually.
The technical architecture uses an optional layer approach.
- Data Connectors provide in-memory, warehoused or direct connect access to data sources. During data connect or load, Data Cubes of measures, dimensions and hierarchies are automatically created.
- ETL features allow for data blending, transformation and cleansing.
- Reusable Metric Sets, Dashboards, Reports, Scorecards and data-driven Alerts allow for contextually interactive, drill-down, operational, predefined or self-service ad-hoc reporting.
- R support for predictive and advanced analytics.
- Script library for custom visualizations or special interactions and extensible component libraries.
- Design once, deploy anywhere mobile tablet and phone rendering
Currently the Dundas BI connector library contains a wide array of popular data sources. Additional data sources are released incrementally throughout the year.
For my #SQLFamily readers, Dundas BI provides end-to-end support for the Microsoft BI stack.
- SQL Server, SQL Server PDW and Analysis Services
- R for advanced statistics and forecasting
- Excel, PowerPivot and Access
- SharePoint lists and Excel Services
- SharePoint on-premises and SharePoint Online
ETL, In-Memory and Data Warehouse
Other infrequently found features in embedded BI solutions are ETL and an in-memory engine. Typically, those features are found in enterprise BI platforms.
ETL enables users to add transform nodes, join different data sources and perform data cleansing. Available transforms include but are not limited to, select transforms TSQL, MDX, stored procedures, aggregate, calculate, filter, join, union, lookup, formulas, remove duplicates, top, bottom, sort, transpose, un-pivot, fuzzy grouping and lookup, data sampling, and R language scripting. Output can be stored within Dundas BI in-memory engine or data warehouse.
Gorgeous Dashboards, Reports and Scorecards
In case you did not know it by now, I am a dashboard snob. Usually I am a bit disappointed in vendor dashboard capabilities. Only a few players have exceeded my extremely high expectations… Dundas BI is one of them. Even the samples use best practice dashboard designs = extra kudos!
I encourage you to check out the much longer Dundas BI feature overview
that better showcases the breadth and depth of this framework.
With an easy, drag-and-drop design experience, users can create appealing dashboards, reports and scorecards. Analytic content has savvy interactivity and nice story-telling options.
- Granular control over almost all visual design elements
- Support for reusable styles and themes
- Personalization capabilities
- Attractive filter controls (i.e. calendar, slider, drop-down, etc.)
- Extensive data visualization library that can render many data points aka big data ready
- Smart visualizations for relationship diagram, pareto, histogram, and box-plots charts
- Support for XAML or SVG diagram shapes (i.e. floor plan, ship, human body)
- Geospatial mapping with ESRI shapefile support
- Quick forecasting and R integration for advanced analytics
- Customizable interactions for brushing, hover-over and click actions
- Drill down/up with aggregation level change support
- Zoom in/out, sort, group and expand
- Text annotations, comments and notes
- Slideshows and storytelling with animated transitions
- Scheduling analytic content delivery to groups of users
- Data-driven alerts and conditional logic notifications
Summary and Next Steps
If you are looking for an enterprise scale, high-quality, embedded analytics solution with both wide and deep functionality, Dundas needs to be on your list. If I have to be balanced and ding them on anything, it would be this offering is more of a professional embedded BI and analytics offering. Folks like me will adore it, but casual business users may not fully leverage all of the available capabilities.
For additional information, check out the following resources.
- Dundas BI Free Trial
- Dundas website
- Dashboard samples
- What is New in v3.0
- Getting started videos
- Developer resources
- Online documentation