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SQLBI - Marco Russo

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Gemini is now PowerPivot

The project codenamed Gemini has an official name now: PowerPivot. The complete name should be “PowerPivot for Excel 2010”, but PowerPivot is simpler. I didn’t like that name yesterday, but today it seems better.

Microsoft announced this name at the Microsoft SharePoint Conference 2009 held in Las Vegas. As usual, demos are good and people are impressed. But, remember, this is a SharePoint conference, not a SQL Server (or Business Intelligence one). What I mean is that many of the demos shown this week are not so different from what have been shown 4 or 5 years ago. And, guess what? Microsoft never finished the job of the vision where UDM (Unified Dimensional Model) should have been the center of the universe and every reporting query should have posted to this central repository of information.

Today, the solution is giving power (using PowerPivot) to the end user, integrating the visualization with every single flavor of Office 2010 (Visio included!). You know, only SQL Server 2008 R2 has a Reporting Services component that makes it possible to display data in maps (something I did in 2000 with MapPoint – why they didn’t implemented a simpler way to integrate geographical data of a cube in MapPoint 8-9 years ago?). A lot of things could have been possible in 2002, or at least in 2005, or with Excel 2007, but unfortunately many times I had to abandon a possible way to show data just because there was the lack of the “last mile” to show data. And this created a lack of credibility in the Microsoft client tools for BI.

So, to be honest, today I’m skeptical. I don’t want to deceive my customers showing wonderful demos just to get customer complains when something will not work and MS Support answer will be “it’s not a bug, it’s by design”. This time I’ll wait and I will not risk my face. Probably, I’m wrong – but, you know, I don’t see any evidence that grants me that this time things will be different. We still have a big wave of new Office products, the next one will be in 2013 or something like that and if something is not good in 2010, you will have to wait 3 years or you will have to write some work-around just to make your solution working. I mean, I can survive to a problem in Excel where the color of a border doesn’t display well, but my customer will not be so happy if the drillthrough will not work as expected (it’s just an example – not something that has real issues).

My hope is that PowerPivot will have a shorter release cycle, with a v2 in 2011 and a v3 in 2012 (or they could be deployed with Office 2010 Service Packs if there is some version dependency). But, at this time, we don’t have any information about that. Technically, it should be possible to do, because it’s an AddIn separated from Excel codebase. Thus, it’s a “political” decision. I hope that a clear roadmap for PowerPivot will be announced. Shorter release cycle. Otherwise, too many missing feature will delay its adoption until (at least) the next version of Office.

Microsoft, please, don’t repeat the same mistakes.

Published Friday, October 23, 2009 3:59 AM by Marco Russo (SQLBI)



Chris Webb said:

Be careful, Marco, you're beginning to sound like me!

October 23, 2009 4:38 AM

Keith Henkel said:

Is anybody else concerned that PowerPivot is only available through SharePoint and Excel? Is there any way for other clients to use it?

October 23, 2009 8:27 AM

Marco Russo (SQLBI) said:

PowerPivot without Excel doesn't make sense, at least from a point of view of licensing (nobody told anything, but I'd assume it will not have an additional license fee, at least for Excel desktop version).

October 23, 2009 8:42 AM

Keith Henkel said:

I guess I am really asking about Gemini. The SQL R2 documentation makes it sound like the engine runs under SharePoint. I had read that Gemini is really just another storage mode. The documentation only mentions Gemini as a storage technology.

October 23, 2009 2:07 PM

Marco Russo (SQLBI) said:

Gemini and PowerPivot are the same thing.

The engine can run locally (just as the local engine of Analysis Services that you use when you create an offline cube in Excel) or on the server (in that case, it's the engine used by SharePoint to display the excel file through Excel Services).

Technically, Gemini/PowerPivot should be a set of technology where the server part is an extension (a storage mode) of Analysis Services. However, the Analysis Services version will not make this storage mode available for general use in the next release (Kilimanjaro) and Microsoft still don't have announced plans for following versions of Analysis Services (i.e. version 11 - Kilimanjaro will be a 10.5 release).

October 23, 2009 6:41 PM

Rob Collie said:

Hi folks, if you want a place to ask questions and get answers from members of the PowerPivot team in an unofficial setting, feel free to drop in at

Take Care,

-Rob Collie

Senior Lead Program Manager, Microsoft PowerPivot

November 1, 2009 6:23 PM
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About Marco Russo (SQLBI)

Marco Russo is a consultant, writer and trainer specialized in Business Intelligence with Microsoft technologies. He runs the SQLBI.COM website, which is dedicated to distribute resources useful for BI developers, like Integration Services components, Analysis Services models, tools, technical information and so on. Marco is certified as MCT, MCDBA, MCSD.NET, MCSA, MCSE+I.

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