MicroStrategy has released the latest version of its business intelligence software suite, MicroStrategy 9, and is claiming that it is more flexible and powerful than previous editions.

One of the chief enhancements is the addition of a so-called multisource engine that's designed to allow users to do complex analysis of data drawn from multiple sources, including data warehouses, data marts, large central databases and small departmental ones.

"Prior to the multisource option, you had to model all your data in a snowflake schema running within a single data warehouse," wrote Wayne Eckerson, director of research for The Data Warehousing Institute (TDWI), in an email. "The new option finally gives MicroStrategy a federated capability that makes the tool infinitely more flexible - and makes it more viable for departmental solutions. That is, you no longer have to invest in a data warehouse and extract, transform and load [technology] to use MicroStrategy 9, so the costs are reduced."

Corporate departments can also start using MicroStrategy 9 without fear that their smaller-scale deployments will face difficulty if upgraded to an enterprise-level one, since, according to Eckerson, "all of the changes can be managed in metadata. You essentially just re-point your tools to a new source. (Of course, if you've let your metadata diverge, you'll need to do some reconciliation.)"

That, said Eric De Roos, director of product management at MicroStrategy, enables the software to be competitive as enterprises continue to consolidate their disparate BI installations.

In contrast to Version 9's back-end enhancements, MicroStrategy 8's primary improvements were in the front-end. For instance, Version 8.1, which rolled out in January 2007, included new performance management dashboards.

Eckerson also praised new MicroStrategy 9 components that let users run the software in-memory for faster performance, or get personalised reports as part of a "distribution service."

Overall, he called Version 9 "a monumental new release that fixes some glaring deficiencies relative to the competition."