9.3 Feature Roundup

MicroStrategy has just released a major update in the form of 9.3 that’s packed with some very exciting features.  Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to spend as much time with this release as I have in past, but I did get a little look at it and below I’ll highlight the features I’m most excited about.

The headlining feature of this release is the new Search interface!  This thing is very sweet and works just how you would expect.  It can become the default starting screen you see when opening a project, and it gives you a Google-style search box to find any report just by starting to type it’s name.  The typeahead drop down starts to autofill with matches before you’ve finished a word and initial results start to flow on the page below, similar to Google Instant.
The Search integration is deeper than just finding reports though.  From a Blank Report, instead of browsing for objects and dragging them on, you can now simply click on the columns/rows and start typing the name of the Attribute/Metric you want and find them much faster.  It starts to resemble creating a report by describing it instead of locating all of the building blocks.  Curiously, the search applies to the Page-by section as well, but not the Report Filter, so it kind of breaks the spell when you’ve quickly typed out all of your objects and then need to browse for a filter.  The search magic returns for drilling from any grid by simply hovering your mouse in the gap between two columns, and a little search box will pop up for you to type in.
  • Dynamic Metric Aliasing is a feature everyone has wanted at one time or another.  It basically lets you put certain macros directly into your Metric aliases so that the column names can contain context specific values for display.  For example, if you choose “2012” in a report prompt, you can now have a column labeled “2012 Revenue”.
  • Derived Elements are now supported in all reports, not just View Reports.  I feel that this will add tremendous value and greatly help with report flexibility since previously we would have had to rely on Consolidations or Custom Groups.  Consolidations always have the problem of being difficult to maintain while Custom Groups generally cause poor performance.  With Derived Elements, you get easy maintenance and fast in-memory processing.

Intelligence Server

  • Parallel SQL Execution will allow independent passes in a multisource report run at the same time instead of sequentially.  This is especially useful with multisource reports so that you can leverage multiple databases running simultaneously instead of waiting for one to finish before the next can start.
  • Installation files are replaced by compartmentalized installed per product.  This means if you need to install Desktop on a user’s machine, you don’t have to send them 3gb of files.

Visual Insight
VI saw a huge upgrade in this release with lots of commonly requested features added including combining multiple visualizations in a single view, support for selectors, multiple datasets, themes, new export modes and overall a 30% speed improvement.  It’s interesting to me to see how much VI is borrowing and loaning features to the core product and I wonder if it’s a matter of time before the two merge and this becomes the standard UI across all of MicroStrategy (just my conjecture).

Data Import
Enhancements include automatic aggregation for Date and Geography dimensions.  If your data only provides a Date or Zip Code, MicroStrategy can automatically provide Week/Month/Quarter/Year and City/State/Country attributes as well.


  • Searchbox Selector is the feature that excites me the most.  It’s basically a list box style selector, except instead of giving you a long, endlessly scrolling list of options, it gives you a simple search box that updates live as you type.  This will let you build a cleaner UI but still provide the user the flexibility to explore the data on the fly.
  • Filter Panels are a new type of object with some pretty cool special properties.  This special type of Panel Stack can only contain Selectors and allows you to collapse the controls leaving a short summary of the current view. 
  • Synchronized Drilling allows you to have multiple grids/graphs on a Dashboard, and drilling on one will cause the other linked ones to drill.  This is not the same as a Selector which always allowed you to target multiple objects, but actually drilling inside a grid or graph.
  • Google Maps integration gets a really cool feature called Density Maps, which are basically Geo Heat Maps and will allow you to create some really cool looking maps in your Dashboards.

Distribution Services
Narrowcast has had one foot in the grave since 9.0 saw the release of Distribution Services, and the second foot may be coming down now with two key features appearing in 9.3:
  • Bursting allows you to subscribe to a single report but slice it’s pages out into separate files.  While Narrowcast also supports using this method to send emails, it appears that Distribution Services is only supporting file exports for now, but at least the foundation is there.
  • Dynamic Recipient Lists were a life saving feature in Narrowcast if you ever needed it, and now it makes a welcome appearance in Distribution Services.  This allows you to maintain a list of recipients in a database table instead of manually creating all of the subscriptions.
System Manager
This is a new administration tool that allows you to automate workflows for tasks.  While mostly intended for OEM distributions and Cloud management, it also provides some handy automation for larger tasks in an environment ranging from installations to configurations.  In a large, high availability environment, this tool would allow you to basically script out the upgrade.  This means you could test your script in different QA environments before applying a fully automated upgrade to production, greatly reducing those weekend/late night upgrade projects.  System Manager integrates with all of the existing administration tools including Enterprise Manager, Command Manager, Object Manager and Integrity Manager.
Command Manager
Command Manager has learned a bunch of new tricks (too many to list), but one I’ve desperately been waiting for is the ability to create Subscriptions and provide Prompt Answers.  Basically every subscription I’ve ever needed to create involved prompt answers, and now that creation can be automated.  
Data Mining Services
The dark horse of MicroStrategy gains some really cool new features.
  • R is a fast growing statistical programming language that now gets direct integration into MicroStrategy.  This enables an analyst to quickly feed analyses from R directly into MicroStrategy Reports.  You can grab the plugin from codeplex.
  • R generated graphs can be displayed directly in Dashboards.
  • A Network Visualization Widget was added to the visualization library and it allo
    ws you to visualize relationships between lots of elements in Flash.
Even More
There’s tons of other features, mostly bringing more parity between the ever growing number of platforms that MicroStrategy supports (Desktop/Web/VI/iPhone/Android).

Full Readme and Release Notes

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45 Responses

  1. I also understand that count distincts off of cubes is supported…

    • Bryan says:

      Yeah I heard that too, but haven’t tried it. I’m not exactly sure how that works. There’s hundreds of other small features that will have various levels of impact depending on if it affects you or not, I just tried to capture the large ones in this post. Also, a lot of the changes are undocumented.

      An example of one I didn’t see documented anywhere but has a huge impact on a project I’m currently working on is that we now have the ability to conditionally hide (and format I think) objects on a document based on Attribute values, whereas before it was only Metric values.

    • Hi Bryan, have you found out further about the supposed ‘count distinct on cubes’ possibilities? We’ve had to put very granular information into our cubes to be able to have accurate customer counts in our dashboards. And the cube sizes would be SO much less if we could somehow leave them out and have distinct counts calculated on selected aggregations (or something).

    • Bryan says:

      Sorry, I haven’t. I’m not sure if it ever made it in honestly.

    • JS says:

      Hi Brian, regarding your comment above that reads —New in 9.3 “An example of one I didn’t see documented anywhere but has a huge impact on a project I’m currently working on is that we now have the ability to conditionally hide (and format I think) objects on a document based on Attribute values, whereas before it was only Metric values.”
      We are using 9.3. HF3 and have a report services document with 3 panels in a row. In each panel, there are individual grids (1panel 1 grid). In the middle panel, there is an attribute embedded in the grid that is used as a selector for the 3rd panle/grid. There are a lot of elements in that attribute. Our requirement is that when 1 of the elements (let’s say element “A”) from the selector “Attribute” in grid 2/panel 2 is selected, panel3 grid report would hide 2 attribute columns in that grid. When, from the same Attribute selector, another element(let’s say “B”) is selected, the panel3/grid3 report would show all the columns in the grid. Based on your comment it looks like it is possible, can you throw some light on this sitiuation please?

  2. The parallelization of SQL queries is fascinating — what is there to stop you from creating an alias of your current DB connection and faking the iServer to submit a multi-pass report so that it executes in parallel vs. serial against the same DB?

    I am excited about the R integration — namely because the number of supported packages for R is huge and growing, and it offers an avenue to incorporate something like Google graphs into a MicroStrategy dashboard. Also, the ability to run loops from an R program means that you could in theory switch roles between MicroStrategy and R and have R consume data from MicroStrategy. Good stuff.

    My biggest concern these days is that the emphasis that MicroStrategy has placed on the ancillary offerings (social, cloud) has taken away some of the velocity that could go into developing features for the core platform. The graphing engine can always get better, and Qlikview and Tableau are constantly innovating in this space.

    Happy to see that MicroStrategy continues to expand support for Hadoop — this simply expands the types of problems and the subject data that MicroStrategy can be used to help navigate and solve.

    Good stuff all around, Bryan. Thanks as always.

    • Bryan says:

      The way I understand it, and I could be wrong because I haven’t tried it, is that the Parallelization also applies to single DSNs with non-dependent multipass SQL statements (like Custom Groups) assuming there are open job slots for the extra passes to run. But maybe that’s just wishful thinking 🙂

      I second your concern about getting away from core, *especially* in regards to the graphs. I didn’t mention it in the post, but 9.3 actually comes with a redesigned Web UI “shell” that’s pretty modern. The pieces that didn’t get updated, like the Report interfaces, is very obvious and stick out like a sore thumb. Hopefully though, these are signs of major overhauls to come. The graphs are at least 2 decades out of style, definitely time to upgrade to something like these, please!

  3. Ravi Kumar says:

    I believe in 9.3 we can also join tables/columns from Multiple sources and do reporting. Previously even though we have Multi sourcing we couldnt join 2 sources together in a single report.
    Please correct if I’m wrong.

    The company that I work for is using MicroStrategy as an self service tool, which means every business will report out of their data sources either it could be SQL server, Excel or Oracle or .CSV files.

    They mostly massages the data and feeds to MicroStrategy as a single data sources and generates reports.
    Most of the times we have excel files as our ODBC data sources as Data Import feature has certain limitations while generating a report.

    If 9.3 allows joining multiple sources, they can avoid massaging the data in excel files in some cases.

    I understood MicroStrategy is not a good self service tool.

    Thanks Bryan, you are very helpful in terms of Knowledge and techniques that we can do with in MicroStrategy.

  4. Heard that the look of the web is not as good as 9.2.1. Is that true?

  5. Hi Bryan,

    As you mentioned… Installation files are replaced by compartmentalized installed per product. This means if you need to install Desktop on a user’s machine, you don’t have to send them 3gb of files.

    I actually tried to install just Integrity Manager in one of my client machines and I grabbed all the necessary files alone from the datafile folder but now I cant proceed further since the files zipfiles cannot be extracted as it asks for a password! Any pointers on this would really help me.

    • Bryan says:

      I haven’t actually tried this, but if I had to make a total guess, I’d say you still need the regular installer, but only need the single zip file. When you go through the installer, I’d guess either the options you’re missing will be greyed out or when you pick IM, the install will work just fine since you still have the files. I’m assuming its passworded because it’s the installer that does the license check. Total guess, but sounds right. Try it and let me know!

  6. Unknown says:

    Hi Bryan,

    Have you gone through R Analytics Integration with micorstrategy which is one of the new feature in 9.3

  7. Our Environment has MSTR 9.3 and we want to use Bursting and Dynamic receipient list feature available in 9.3. There isn’t much documentation available in the manuals/knowledge base as to how we implement this feature. Did you get a chance to have a handson with this feature yet ?

  8. Unknown says:

    I was hoping to see some capability to link data from the data upload to existing data in the model. Our sales guy had said that there have been a lot of requests for that capability. But from what I am seeing it is not in this release.

  9. Hi Bryan,
    We use Narrowcast to split a document into multiple PDF’s (based on page by value), but it doesn’t work to split a document into multiple flash dashboards. Do you know if Distribution services in this version does support that?
    Thanks in advance

    • Bryan says:

      Not sure, I haven’t heard that feature specifically. You’ll just have to setup a copy in a test environment and try it out (let me know!)

  10. Hello Bryan,

    Do you’ve any links to presentations/demos of the R integration in MS 9.3? I’m interested in how the R integration works.

    Thanks in advance

  11. Steve says:

    Hello Bryan,

    I just found your blog and I’ll definitely get back here often.

    During Miami World, I heard that they planned to allow architects to build upgrade packages. We would definitely benefit from such a feature. Do you know if it starts with 9.3 ?

    • Bryan says:

      If you’re talking about System Manager, then yes!

    • Steve says:

      Thanks for the quick answer.
      I’m actually talking of allowing developpers with Architect licence to prepare Migration Packages without Administration licence.

      As I write these lines, our developpers build an object prompt containing all the impacted objetcs and then I, as the admin, build the package from thatm then apply it.
      If the developpers could create them, I’d only have to check and apply.

    • Bryan says:

      Oh sorry. I do remember hearing about that, but not sure if it’s in 9.3 or not. What’s the advantage of creating a package after an Object Prompt? Why not just migrate the Object Prompt and be done with it?

    • Rajeevrang says:

      I also heard of the packages supporting backout features which might not be possible with the object prompt. But I have personally not tried packages. Any info on Backouts of installs ?.


    • Bryan says:

      They’re called Undo Packages, and I haven’t used those either. My feeling there is that their usefulness has a very limited shelf life too, since any other changes in Prod (like other Migrations) could invalidate them.

    • Steve says:

      Let’s say I have DeveloperA that works on RelA release and DeveloperB working on RelB relase, both on the same project in the DEV environment.
      DeveloperA prepares the object prompt containing all his new and edited stuff and asks me to promote it to ITG.
      When migrating the o-prompt, some dependencies might be found that are not specific to RelA. These objects might even have been changed for RelB.
      I then have to check all the objects to make sure they were in the object prompt.
      With the update package, DeveloperA could have selected “Keep Existing” for these, which would simplify my life.

      Am I missing something with the Object Prompt technique that would prevent me from using the update package ?

      Sorry if the text is long…

    • Bryan says:

      Keep Existing is a setting you can change in Object Manager to be your default resolution choice by object type. The Object Prompt technique doesn’t add anything to, or prevent use of, anything to do with Update Packages. I *think* in 9.3, Developers can create Update Packages. Prior to this, they required a separate license in order to create the packages in Object Manager. The Object Prompt is a way around it such that they could declare the objects they wanted to move and simply tell the administrator how to handle the different object conflicts.

  12. John says:

    Do you know if there’s been any upgrades to Flex necessary for the transition to 9.3? We’re worried about our custom widgets still working and needing recompiling.

    • Bryan says:

      Compared to 9.2, no, I believe it’s exactly the same with the exception that the plugin that ships with 9.3 now supports Flash Builder 4.6. The only thing that affects you is if they change the Flex SDK version, but I doubt MicroStrategy will be pushing that anymore as they seem to be trying to move away from Flash.

  13. Jim Lett says:

    Hi Bryan – Any idea when MSTR will be releasing 9.3.1. Our IT Dept doesn’t like to upgrade until the bugs have been worked out of the new version.

    • Bryan says:

      No idea, but if I had to guess based on their history, I’d say sometime around the summer. Those releases though are more about new features than fixes. If anything, it’ll break more than it fixes 😉 It’s hotfixes that resolve bugs, and I believe we’re on (or near) HF2 of 9.3. I’ve been using 9.3 for awhile and haven’t experienced any issues that weren’t already present in 9.2.x.

  14. manju says:

    Hi Bryan,

    On upgrading to 9.3, we are getting an HTML error while executing documents.
    Is there any solution?

    • Bryan says:

      A few thoughts .. it’s hard to diagnose without the actual error message ;), you really should contact support with these kinds of problems and are you sure you upgraded web to the same version (including hotfixes?)

    • Coller... says:

      It’s been a long time since the question, so I guess you already solved it, but still: So many javascript files changed for 9.3 (but kept the same name) that it’s strongly encouraged to delete the browser’s cache.

  15. David Urena says:

    Hi Brian,
    I’m trying to find a way to remove from the search results the “shortcuts”. We have in our implementation a number of shortcuts in different folder to help out users, but when using the Search in 9.3, it all becomes messy having 1 attribute and 5/6 shortcuts to pick from. Have you come accross of a setting somewhere or idea of customization?

    • Bryan says:

      I haven’t really used the search feature at all, but isn’t there Advanced options on the left where you can remove Shortcut as an object type? There’s probably a way to save that setting.

  16. Swathi says:

    Hi Bryan,

    I observed that Search selector is available from web only. It’s not there in desktop. Is that true or am I missing something


  17. Matt Cahill says:

    Hi Bryan,

    Have you had any success creating subscriptions with prompt answers from Command Manager? I keep getting a “the answer for prompt was given in an incorrect format.” error. Do you have any examples that have worked for you?

    I understand the GUID would be subjective, but having a working example would be useful. I can’t seem to find anything that works. I even tried an example just using a base attributeGUID like the outline example seems to suggest but that example doesn’t work either.

    Do you know if the kind of prompt calls for a different format?


  18. hafeez says:

    HI Bryan,

    How different is 9.4 compared to 9.3. Just wondering, if you are planning to write up a similar article for 9.4 as well.


    • bryan says:

      I don’t use MicroStrategy any more and stopped before 9.4 came out. I won’t be blogging any more about MicroStrategy and so not really sure what the differences are any more. What I used to do was just read over the major release notes and read the list of fixes and generally provide some clearer context than they do in the release notes and add personal reviews of my time with the beta. Those days are sadly gone though.

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