Visual Studio LightSwitch is built on two basic concepts; data and screens which are used to create typical business applications.

Obviously, there is more to it than that but generally when developing a business application, you start with a piece of data. This can take the form of local data or a connection to an external data source of some description. You describe this data in your application and then build your application in order to manipulate the data as required. The second step involves providing a mechanism to interact with that data. This is generally accomplished by designing screens which allow users to perform standard CRUD (create/read/update/delete) operations on the data. Ultimately, a combination of screens makes a business application.

Business application developers should immediately see the  benefits of LightSwitch once they start to get their hands dirty with it. However, in general, Business Intelligence (BI) projects are not really about building business applications, rather they provide the means to analyse the data being produced by such business applications. However, many BI projects face the same challenge, namely how to manage master data or some other data. Commonly, BI solutions require that a number of tables in the database require content which needs to be managed by the users. More often than not, database tools are used to manage these tables but this is not an ideal solution as generally users expect a more user-friendly way to do this and database tools such as Management Studio are far too powerful for managing this sort of data.

So how have we solved this problem in the past? I cannot speak for all BI solution providers, but at Altius we’ve been solving this problem by writing custom applications to let users to manage data. Such custom applications have been written in such languages as VB 6, ASP.NET, C# and WPF. More importantly, most have been created from scratch which has created additional overhead to the project.

By using LightSwitch, instead of writing all those applications, can we very quickly create an application for the users to manage their master data such as user permissions or dimension data. The beauty of LightSwitch is that you can leverage the data regardless of where it is. Your data can come from SQL Server (local and remote), SharePoint, Azure, or even .NET WCF Services.

LightSwitch also provides some really powerful integration functionality with common business tools. For example, you can export any list to Excel with no coding whatsoever or with some minor custom code create reports in Word or PowerPoint.

Another powerful feature is that while creating your LightSwitch application you don’t need to think about it how you are ultimately going to deploy it. LightSwitch applications can be deployed as web-based applications or desktop applications.

One word of warning however. LightSwitch relies on the use of SilverLight. This allows the decision around deployment to be made late during development. This could obviously cause issues if the organisation you are working in does not have SilverLight installed on the client machines. Generally, such applications for managing BI data would only be available to a small set of users so some concessions could be made for these users.

There are many powerfull features of LightSwitch application. We have launched our new LightSwitch hosting. Please visit our site for more information about our new product.

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