Microsoft Buys Forerunner Software Tech to Boost Power BI Reporting

The acquisition of Forerunner's Mobilizer and Report Viewer will help Microsoft improve Power BI's reporting capabilities for mobile and web apps.

Power BI

Looking to grow its Power BI business intelligence and data analytics ecosystem, Microsoft went shopping close to home for its latest buy.

Microsoft has acquired enterprise report rendering technologies from fellow Redmond, Wash., technology firm Forerunner Software for an undisclosed amount, the company announced on April 2. Specifically, the software giant has snapped up Forerunner Mobilizer and Report Viewer.

Forerunner Mobilizer enables organizations to turn business insights from Microsoft SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS) into reports that can be viewed on a variety of mobile devices. Forerunner Report Viewer can be used to embed reports derived SSRS into web applications.

The acquisition effectively spells the end of Mobilizer and Report Viewer as commercial products, although Forerunner pledged to provide support to current customers through Oct. 20, 2020. Meanwhile, Microsoft has some big plans for the software.

"This technology includes, among other things, client-side rendering of Reporting Services (*.rdl) reports, responsive UI widgets for viewing reports, and a JavaScript SDK for integrating reports into other apps—a testament to what our partners can achieve building on our open platform," wrote Christopher Finlan, senior program manager for Power BI at Microsoft, in an April 2 blog post.

Forerunner's technology will also help pave the way for SSRS reports in the Power BI service, using client-side rendering capabilities to help deliver the experience, added Finlan. Power BI is Microsoft's cloud-based business intelligence (BI) offering, using the company's public massive public cloud infrastructure to crunch the numbers and generate interactive data visualizations, dashboards and reports.

The deal will also help Microsoft squeeze SSRS reports into smartphones and other mobile devices. Finlan expects the Power BI mobile apps to provide a snappier, more responsive user interface while users await report parameter values and navigate within reports.

Finally, Forerunner's rendering technology will offer developers more options.

The ReportView rendering control from Microsoft is based on ASP.NET Web Forms, explained Finlan. After completing its integration work, his team hopes to deliver a client-side, JavaScript solution that can be integrated "into any modern app," Finlan said.

Microsoft's mission to popularize BI in the workplace goes beyond the typical mobile devices that today's business professionals tote around.

In March, Microsoft released a version of its Power BI app for HoloLens, the company's self-contained mixed reality headset for developers and enterprise customers. Mixed reality is Microsoft's take on Windows-based augmented reality and virtual reality.

Running on a HoloLens, Power BI's dashboards, charts and other data visualizations appear to float in the air in front of the user while updating in real time. Users can opt to stash their Power BI content out of the way in a "docking belt" or pin it to a real-world location.

Behind the scenes, Microsoft has been working to help Power BI work better with other business software platforms. During the Microsoft Business Forward event in Amsterdam March 21, Microsoft announced Common Data Service (CDS) for Analytics, new functionality that will allow Power BI users to tap into a more diverse set of business applications and data sources, including third-party applications like Salesforce.

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the Internet.com network of...