SharePoint 2013, Excel 2013 Previews Get BI Boost
- By Kurt Mackie
- July 24, 2012
Microsoft on Monday outlined some finer points for organizations wanting
to test the business intelligence (BI) capabilities available in the SharePoint 2013
and Excel 2013 previews released last week.
A requirement for testing Microsoft's BI tools supported by
those previews is the installation of Service Pack 1 Community
Technology Preview 3 of SQL Server 2012, which can be downloaded here. SQL Server 2012 SP1 CTP3 was specifically designed by Microsoft to
let users test the BI capabilities of these emerging products. It was
originally released on July 5 and is just designed for testing purposes.
It's not for production environments and doesn't contain any advanced
Microsoft has touted the ability for knowledge workers to perform
"self-service BI" by leveraging SQL Server 2012, which was released in April. However, this Microsoft
BI vision depends on bringing a number of Microsoft products together,
including the Excel PowerPivot addition found in Office and the Power
View add-in, which is part of SharePoint Reporting Services.
Power View allows users to visualize data on an ad hoc query basis.
PowerPivot is for structuring multidimensional data using Excel's
workbooks. Both can be used to create interactive charts from data with
drill-down capabilities. With the new 2013 previews, it appears
Microsoft has been improving its BI integration within Excel.
Power View Changes
One new change associated with Power View and Microsoft's 2013
preview releases is that Power View's features now are available via the
Excel 2013 preview, as well as SharePoint 2013, according to a Microsoft article. "Many of the features now
in Power View in Excel 2013 were in Power View in SharePoint 2010, and
new features have been added to both," the article explains. That
change now makes it possible to perform data modeling from within an
Excel 2013 workbook.
What's not supported with the new Power View is its use on an Excel
Web App, which is a browser-based version of Excel. Users have to tap
Excel Services instead to get the BI capabilities.
Power View also works a little differently for those using Excel in
the Office 365 preview, which is Microsoft's subscription-based,
cloud-enabled version of Office 2013. The Excel Web App Data Center
in SharePoint Online, part of Office 365, needs to be used to support
Power View on the new Office 365 preview.
Also out of the picture right now is the use of SkyDrive,
Microsoft's online storage service. It can't be used to view Power View
sheets, Microsoft's article indicated.
PowerPivot in the Excel 2013 preview now lets users "import
millions of rows from multiple data sources," according to a Microsoft
article. The data can be processed quickly via the use of SQL Server
2012's "xVelocity in-memory analytics engine." Data
compressed via xVelocity get saved inside an Excel workbook.
Other new PowerPivot features include the ability to filter data
when importing it, the ability to define calculated fields and key
performance indicators, and advanced formula writing using an expression
language called "Data Analysis Expressions."
With all of that data crunching, IT management may need some support
tools. A Microsoft blog
suggested that new IT management capabilities are being added to
SharePoint 2013 for that purpose. The SharePoint 2013 preview has the
ability to discover user-created spreadsheets. It also has spreadsheet
analysis capabilities with interactive diagnostics, according to the
blog post. Microsoft lists the software requirements for running BI
capabilities with the SharePoint 2013 preview at this TechNet library page.
Self-service BI is a major push for Microsoft with SQL Server 2012,
which comes in Enterprise, Business Intelligence and Standard editions. A
recent Forrester Wave report (PDF) ranked Microsoft in the "leaders"
category, along with IBM, SAP and SAS, in terms of enabling BI
solutions. One perk on the Microsoft side is the licensing, which
organizations may already have in place.
"Microsoft may only offer around 80% of advanced BI
functionality as compared with other leading vendors, but what it lacks
in features it more than makes up for in cost/benefits ratios,"
according to the report, "Self-Service Business Intelligence
Platforms, Q2 2012," which examined 11 BI software vendors.
Kurt Mackie is online news editor for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.