As many of you probably already know, Donald Farmer left Microsoft to join QlikView. There are no doubts that Donald have been “the face of Microsoft BI” in the last years. This news has been initially perceived (me included, I admit) as a possible lack of confidence in Microsoft BI Vision, but after reading his blog and many other comments from Microsoft people, I can say it is not. This is more a personal choice, looking for a new challenge in a brilliant career in a relatively smaller environment with an high potential growth. In case he would not be alone then, well, a problem might exist. But I’ve seen much more people moving from dev teams years ago, whereas in the last one-two years the situation seemed pretty stable (except that Mosha Pasumansky moved to Bing one year ago, but it wasn’t a transfer to competition, anyway). Of course, in case several others key people would move to competition in the next months, then we should reconsider this move, but we don’t have clear indicators now.
A more important departure from Microsoft have been the Jamie MacLennan departure one year ago: he left Microsoft with several other people of its Data Mining team, founding Predixion Software and filling the gap of missing Microsoft investment in Data Mining in this timeframe. It is not that Microsoft dismissed Data Mining, but it is not high in its priorities by now. However, a niche market for Microsoft is always a great opportunity for a startup, and in 3-4 years the scenario might be completely different.
My opinion on this is that competition is good. Competition is good for the market and is good for us – users, consultants, developers, ISVs. One of my biggest complains to Microsoft in the past has been the slowness of reaction in the competitive BI market. Too many years from AS2000 to SSAS 2005. Too few new features from SQL2005 to SQL2008. Especially SSIS had very low investment after SSIS 2005 release. In the last two years things there is a different story. Big investments, big bets with some risks. New ideas on front-end side (Crescent and PivotViewer). Maybe some mistake, we’ll know that in the future. But without companies like QlikView probably Microsoft wouldn’t have invested so much in Vertipaq, the technology behind PowerPivot and the future version of Analysis Services “Denali”. We still don’t realize how much these products will change the way we do Business Intelligence, with consequences that might impact the infrastructure of a “traditional” BI solution like we know today. But today it is too early to discuss these details… the point is that I’m sure we are not looking at the end of an era. There is no supporting evidence for that.
That said, the real reason why so many people (as you can read on blogs, tweets and forums these days) are astonished at Donald move is that they know Donald personally. He is a great person: competent, brilliant, modest, gentle, helpful. The kind of person it is a pleasure to work with. Just to make an example: even if it was not supposed to be responsible for that, last year Donald found the time to give us very good feedback and several hints helping us planning the PowerPivot Workshop we are running these days. So, thank you Donald, I wish you the best!