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SQLBI - Marco Russo

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Call for long term strategy in Microsoft BI Client

I know, the answer is: SharePoint. But, despite SharePoint 2010 is much easier to install (well, I’m not talking about the Beta release here).

I recently blogged about the lack of a killer application for the client side. I’ve got many many interesting comments. I recently talked about Excel Services and Chris wrote about SSRS overlapping with other reporting/dashboarding tools in his blog.

Chris raised a question about SoftArtisan acquisition, and we are often wondering about ProClarity acquisition and Dundas licensing (Dundas had a Pivot Table for the web that today is a big lack in Reporting Services and is available only through Excel Services in SharePoint).

Anyway, the point is: what is the long term strategy for BI Client in Microsoft? This is an important question for all those companies that don’t have (and/or don’t plane to use) SharePoint. Or that are going to use SharePoint in a hosted environment for their collaboration purposes (Microsoft sells this service!) but still have data on their servers. And they want to analyze (and internally publish) these data. Today, I really don’t have an answer and this is not a good situation for a consultant like me.

Published Thursday, March 4, 2010 11:52 AM by Marco Russo (SQLBI)



victor said:


One of the answer could be: use another tool to analyse data but keep Excel as very well known client and publish on the web with something else.

Do you know the Palo Suite solution? it can be a good candidate for such Microsoft users. more details here


March 4, 2010 7:41 AM

Allie Gentry said:

I could write a really article on business intelligence user interface because I have been in this industry over 20 years. But you nailed it when you talked about the need for a client facing killer app. Now everyone says they have it, but all the apps are geared towards analysts. Even with all the changes to the interface to business intelligence solutions/softwares they do not make it easy for the other 95% user base.

In addition, these solutions are services intensive and very costly to implement.

Although I like SharePoint 2010 there is a big market for other customers who need a solution.

Go article. Thanks

Allie Gentry


March 4, 2010 1:43 PM

James Luetkehoelter said:

I think yer right on the money Marco - there isn't a true multi-dimensional client in the MS portfolio - not compared to what some of the competition has. It almost feels like they don't want to play in the client space with BI but just the backend.

I was disappointed with the direction the Proclarity acquisition took, and while the newer tools are an improvement over a basic Excel pivot table, it doesn't even touch what other vendors have as far as flexibility, ease of use - heck, just not "killer" (the MS side client space is barely "flesh-wounding").

March 4, 2010 2:29 PM

greg kramer said:

jl, are you saying that powerpivot is not a killer app?..that excel is not the defacto bi tool for the world?...or you acknowledge that but just think that excel w/ vba & just suck generally? ..just wondering

March 6, 2010 6:44 PM

Marco Russo (SQLBI) said:

Greg, I don't know James' opinion, but I know PowerPivot, I like PowerPivot and Excel and SharePoint, and I'm writin a book about PowerPivot. And, no, I don't think that PowerPivot is a killer app for the overall BI needs. It is a tool that complement existing BI solutions based on Analysis Services. Someone will use it just because it seems simpler and faster, but it doesn't have so many features. Many of them are lacking in Excel too.

Today Microsoft doesn't have a dedicated and relatively "light" OLAP tool that is independent from Office, both on desktop and server side. On the server MS requires you to install SharePoint, which is not an easy task to learn and maintaint and I thinkg it cannot be justified for the BI part alone.

Thus, Excel is great and doesn't suck. But it is not the killer app. Today, nobody has one, in my opinion.


March 6, 2010 6:52 PM

Jim Sinclair said:

I'm afraid Microsoft's BI client strategy is driven more by the need to protect the Office franchise than it is by what's best for the customer.  I was very disappointed in their handling of the ProClarity acquisition, as I thought it would make perfect sense as an additional component in the SQL Server suite.  In my line of work we often build applications that have to cross multiple organizational boundaries and you really need to be able to provide a first rate OLAP client through the web.  From what I've seen recently, Panorama NovaView might be a good choice though I haven't had a hands on opportunity yet.

March 9, 2010 11:11 AM

Navi said:

Hi Jim, I am with and you can easily put 'your hand' on our software

overall, Panorama is working very closely with the Microsoft team to close the gap you guys discussed about. you can see the first fruits of this cooperation in the joint webcast, Microsoft and Panorama did last week(include: SharePoint 2010 and PowerPivot in-Memory):

March 12, 2010 2:16 AM

Colin Banfield said:

I think that Microsoft will continue to promote Excel as the client-side analysis tool for the foreseeable future. The problem with Excel is - it's part of suite of very mature applications, with a long three-year cycle. If, after waiting three years for a feature and the feature doesn't show up, then there's another three-year wait, and on and on.

One of the most important client BI analysis tools is charts. Excel hasn't seen any meaningful chart enhancements in over 20 years - long before the term "BI" was in vogue. Excel 2010 only fixes problems introduced in the new chart engine first seen in Excel 2007. So, it's another three years to see if there will be any chart enhancements (or six years from Excel 2007 - an eternity in this business). PivotCharts are mostly useless because they treat the underlying PivotTable data as if it were uni-dimensional i.e. PivotCharts are incapable of displaying the multi-dimensional nature of PivotTables visually. To me, improving chart functionality for interactive analysis of multi-dimensional data is the biggest improvement that can be made to Excel.

On the PowerPivot front, there are several improvements I'd like to see - based on maintaining the objectives and design goals of the tool, i.e. as a self-service tool for the Excel power user. There is a lot of criticism by BI pros about features lacking in PowerPivot, compared to AS. But some of these folks, who have seemingly hijacked the product :) don't fully appreciate that PowerPivot is not and was never intended to compete with AS. Thus, from the standpoint of the self-service Excel user, features like dimensional security and other frequently mentioned AS features aren't that important.

That's not to say I wouldn't like to see PowerPivot-like features added to AS (either in ways that Chris Webb discusses and/or as a similar tool implemented in AS - if for no other reason but to remove dependency on SharePoint). But it's *not* PowerPivot, so any future similar tool in AS should not be referred to as "PowerPivot."

March 18, 2010 2:37 PM

Kory said:

If you have ever watched an episode of CSI, you'll see outlandish use of technology they use to solve crimes.  Producers of the show get a lot of these ideas from real-life technology from Microsoft (

This is the type of creativity that Microsoft needs to think outside-the-box when it comes to Business Intelligence.  Stop trying to fit everything in the "SharePoint" box, if it doesn't fit.  

Could you imagine if Microsoft was hired to create the investor tool "Think or Swim"?  They would host it in SharePoint, trying to figure out how to get Excel Services, PerformancePoint, ProClarity, PowerPivot all working together flawlessly- but it wouldn't be pretty or functional, would be slow, and I'm guessing would be considered a joke to serious investors looking for a serious investment tool.

March 31, 2010 2:05 PM

JConcepcion said:

Jim Sinclair nailed it in his comment. Microsoft's BI offerings, it seems, are positioned to protect its Office and Sharepoint offerings. They had a chance to have BI killer apps that have been carved up to marketing versions rather than evolving to its great form. Take Performance Point Planning - that had a potential to be a Hyperion Planning competitor, but it was a slow rampup and I guess the Sharepoint and Office groups won out. Another example is PowerPivot--pure killer app in its essence, but now to fully have it in the enterprise it needs Sharepoint. We all know how any BI inside Sharepoint equals a hell of an experience (Excel services and kerberos hell, doublehop issues). Now, an elegant Vertipaq engine requires many service trips. Another example is ProClarity--fantastic BI client there--gone. The best thing Microsoft do is buy Tableau Software (but then they'd ruin it by turning it into Sharepoint Services for Tableau). Microsoft, if you're reading this, it's the user experience, not the stack.

May 8, 2010 1:20 PM

Marco Russo (SQLBI) said:

Guys, I really hope Microsoft will announce some change (well, some news, they will never says something was wrong!) in its BI Client strategy at the Microsoft BI Conference next month (

Let's see what will happen...

May 8, 2010 1:30 PM

AlanE said:

Any thoughts on the PivotViewer tool demonstrated in the BI conference keynote on day 2? I know it's early days and its current ability seems limited in application but it seems to be one step in the right direction, allowing visual analysis of potentially large data sets.

June 22, 2010 7:02 AM

Marco Russo (SQLBI) said:

It should be available (at least as a beta release) within one month, at least this is what MS said at the BI Conference.

However, in my personal opinion, PivotViewer is just a gadget, good for the WOW effect (which is important!) but not really useful in the day-by-day analysis.

June 22, 2010 7:20 AM
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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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