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SQLBI - Marco Russo

SQLBI is a blog dedicated to building Business Intelligence solutions with SQL Server.
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Vizubi: the first competitor of PowerPivot

A couple of weeks ago the first version of Vizubi has been released. It is an Excel AddIn with many of the features of PowerPivot, but also with a few important differences. I made some tests and in this post I give my first impression of the product.

DISCLAIMER: I don’t have any involvement in Vizubi and I’m writing a book about PowerPivot in these days. Nevertheless, I think that competition is a good thing and can only improve products and enlarging the market. I had a mail conversation with Vizubi authors to get some explanation about the product, in an effort to avoid wrong statements in this post.

Vizubi has an approach similar to PowerPivot. You create a model importing data from heterogeneous sources. The model is table based, you can define relationships between tables and finally you can browse data using the Pivot Table and Pivot Chart experience. The first important difference is that the model is not inside the Excel file, but is saved into an external file. In Vizubi vision, this simplifies the share of a model between several users. In this way, Excel is just the reporting tool that navigates into an external, sharable model. Something that is conceptually similar to client-server architecture, despite the end user is entirely responsible for the design of the model. Another important point is that, if possible, Vizubi has a “easy of use” goal different than PowerPivot. While PowerPivot is target to the top 5% advanced Excel Users, Vizubi has a wider target, at the expense of advanced functionality.

I don’t have performance measures and performance by itself is not the selling point here.

Now, supposing that the readers of this blog already know the feature set of PowerPivot, I think that a comparison between the features of these products is the faster way to get an idea… then I suggest you to try the trial edition (it’s free) so that you will have a term of comparison for both the products from hereinafter.

Features available in Vizubi and not in PowerPivot

  • Support of Excel 2003 and 2007: this is the single most important feature, I suppose. Vizubi supports older version of Excel and this could be important for all these users that don’t plan to migrate to 2010 very soon, or that cannot migrate very soon because of company policies.
  • Model can be used by other Excel files: this is a direct consequence of having a separate file containing model and data.
  • Import data from QlikView: this is an important feature for existing QlikView users that, using Vizubi, will be able to navigate in their data by using Excel
  • Wizard for Dates table: the lack of a Dates table is a very important missing feature in the actual version of PowerPivot. You can create your own Dates table by using Excel, but having a wizard would have been much more productive. In Vizubi, whenever you have a Date column, you can easily generate a related Dates table with all the necessary columns.
  • Navigation with Previous/Next buttons: because Excel is “just” a browser for your data, you can define views of data and moving between them by clicking previous and next buttons, just like in a browser. Yes, you can do something similar by using Undo/Redo feature in Excel, but this approach is more consistent.
  • Navigation with Bookmarks: you can define a bookmark for a view and easily return to that view. This is another feature that is really desired by former ProClarity users
  • Predefined Reports: instead of copying an Excel file to users, you can define reports (views on data, by selecting slicers, rows, columns, measures) in the Vizubi model, which can be shared among Excel files. Thus, creating an empty workbook in Excel you already have a set of predefined reports available (of course, reports have to be defined by the user who define the Vizubi model).
  • Filter by Selection: it is very easy to define a filter by selecting data directly in the Pivot Table, instead of opening a separate window with long lists of items – I would like having both these options in my ideal Pivot Table with PowerPivot, really
  • Panels: they are somewhat similar to Excel 2010 slicers, but they are more dynamic, allowing many more tables and attributes to be visible in the same real estate. I admit that for complex analysis with many attributes this approach is more readable. The side effect is that you have less graphical options from a design point of view in comparison to Excel 2010 Slicers.
  • Groups: you can define a set of columns, also from different tables, that can be used as a single column that can be cycled (like moving on “next” simply changes the column used in your report – you can also use a dropdown list to select the field).
  • Drillthrough: they call it “show details”, but it is what we usually call drillthrough. You know, it’s a very missing feature in PowerPivot
  • Report detach: you can detach a report from data, so that you create a snapshot of the report without the risk of “unwanted updates”. This feature is important if you consider that data are in a separate file, such a feature wouldn’t make sense in PowerPivot because everything is in the same Excel file.

Features missing in Vizubi and available in PowerPivot

  • Formula language: in Vizubi there is no formula language equivalent of PowerPivot DAX. You can only make simple calculations.
  • Measures: you cannot defines formula which works on aggregated value (remember, you don’t have something like DAX)
  • 64-bit support: in this version, 64-bit of Excel is not supported (but remember that Vizubi supports also 2003 and 2007, which are only available as 32-bit applications)
  • Automatic fix of relationships defined in the wrong order: this is something that an end user might fail in defining the model and that PowerPivot automatically fix when a relationship is defined.
  • Web Publishing: there is no support for something like PowerPivot for SharePoint. Vizubi models and reports can be used only in Excel.

Well, I think that this is enough to get a first impression. I’ve been impressed of the job made in Vizubi, considering the different budget they had. And this is a first version for both. Probably, Vizubi will have a faster release cycle than Microsoft. Yes, we know that Microsoft has a broader scope, but maybe that Vizubi will fill the needs of some users – who cannot upgrade to Excel 2010 and who want to share data between a users by just sharing files and not through a more complex intranet system. Yes, just those small and medium companies that today are not planning to adopt SharePoint (in its Enterprise edition, which would enable the use of PowerPivot for SharePoint).

And yes, Vizubi is not free and has a price range from 99.95 to 279.95 USD, while PowerPivot is for free but requires Excel 2010.
Competition is started.

Published Wednesday, June 30, 2010 11:00 PM by Marco Russo (SQLBI)
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Donald Farmer said:

Hi Marco - this is a good review of Vizubi, but it's a mistake to see it as a competitor to PowerPivot, simply because PowerPivot is not targetted at their market.

Vizubi is a nice tool for analysis within Excel, and I think we should wish them good luck with their integration and their business.

However, PowerPivot is a very different proposition. SharePoint integration is not just a feature - it is central to the entire concept of enabling information workers to do their own analysis AND collaborate using an IT managed infrastructure. Without that, you just have an Excel add-in, and they are widespread and common.

It is for this reason that people often see QlikView or Spotfire as competitors to PowerPivot (although I personally see them mostly as complementary) even without an Excel authoring environment.

For sure there are some who want to use file-sharing rather than a collaboration platform - but as you know, PowerPivot is clearly not targetted at those users, so Vizubi really does not compete with us, which I expect is why they sensibly chose that particular market to target.

So, great review of the Vizubi tool, but a somewhat mistaken view of PowerPivot.

Keep up the great blog

Donald

June 30, 2010 7:23 PM
 

Marco Russo said:

Donald,

I get your point, I know the value proposition you mentioned very well.

But are you saying PowerPivot is not aimed to people who work alone? Or to small teams that for some reason don't have SharePoint?

I think (and said many times) that the actual MS BI strategy is weak for small teams and for many small-to-medium companies. There is space for competitors here. In the last years I've seen companies moving out from SSAS (not for good reasons, in my opinion, but it was their perception, not mine). And I'm disappointed, because I prefer companies using SSAS (I am a consultant, after all!) and losing market share is something that hurts me very hard.

Anyway, this is a too wide discussion for a comment. But for some customers, these products (Vizubi and PowerPivot) are competitors. Some customers might want to choose between upgrading to Office 2010 or buying Vizubi. Or another tool, of course. And they will consider PowerPivot as an alternative to Vizubi (or vice versa) for their specific needs.

Maybe that when BPOS will allow publishing PowerPivot workbooks, it will be a game changer in this market segment, but today we are not there.

Finally, I sincerely think that PowerPivot is a more advanced and complete product, today. Sharepoint and DAX are too much important in my job, sure. But having a product that is somewhat comparable (I can avoid the term competitor, no problem) to PowerPivot (even if just for a segment of the user base) is something that might help the whole ecosystem to grow faster and better.

June 30, 2010 7:52 PM
 

llauses said:

Hi,

The first RHS is limit until 70.000 lines, how anz historical data with millions rows?

good luck

llauses@llauses.com

November 4, 2010 4:56 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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