Tag Archives: PowerPivot

Day 1 Review #sqlpass #summit12

This SQL PASS Summit was my third, and it was good. Kind of crazy timing as we just had a baby 2+ weeks ago, so I am very lucky I got to go.

Day one was Wednesday Nov 7th. There is a kickoff thing the night before which is always good to see everyone again, etc. There are pre-cons two days before (5th, 6th). Myself, as with many I talked to, came out the 5th, thinking the conference started the 6th, which we were mistaken, so it was kind of a free day, but still things going on. The website said 6th-9th so we all assumed without digging into the detail. At least I wasn’t the only one.

The first day keynote was good, Ted Kummert from Microsoft which I have seen a few times now, and the same cast of characters, Amir Netz showing off more Power View and Movie data. The big things announced that made me perk up were SQL Server 2012 SP1 and Power View over OLAP (coming soon?). No big flashy giveaways like BUILD, but good keynote, then the fun starts.

I attended 4 sessions on Wednesday

1. BIA-303: What’s New in Analysis Services 2012? – Chris Webb

This was my first session of the day, and it was in 305-TCC. TCC was across the street, which maybe was like that years past, but I never had to go to any, so everyone seemed lost. We finally got there, but then Chris Webb told us that the abstract was wrong in some places and the talk would mostly be about tabular, not multidimensional. Oh well, good stuff anyways. There was one slide about OLAP stuff. The biggest thing I got out of this was xEvents for SSAS, and how to pull into PowerPivot. This is the first time I have seen Chris Webb present and it was good.

2. BIA-316-M: Enterprise Information Management: Bringing Together SSIS, DQS, and MDS

For the second session, it was two Microsoft employees. I like to try to hit many sessions by Microsoft Employees because well, they usually have worked on the products, and they get into details, and they sometimes let some juicy details slip.

Matt Masson and Matthew Roche are great presenters, funny and play off each other. They showed and telled SQL Server 2012 MDS and DQS and discussed how it could and should be used in orgs. Master Data is a huge issue in many businesses and the Microsoft solution looks really good. Using DQS along with SSIS to clean your data, or as a very smart “spell checker”, and then MDS to track changes, workflow, and send back data to source systems if you’d like. The big thing here I took out was how they see MDS fitting into businesses, and that a BI team should implement MDS/DQS to make sure their dimensional data is clean and the “golden master” they need for great BI reporting, and updating back to source systems is a secondary thing.

3. BID-212-S: Around the World with SharePoint BI Toolbelt

This was a typical Brian Knight session. Not as huge of a production as some of them I have seen. Just him and his employee/bi architect and a helper/demo person.

They showed quickly how to get SharePoint setup for Excel Services and Power View and then did some demos. Overall good stuff but seemed a bit rushed and some things didn’t work. They demo’d PerformancePoint, which who knows what future that has, but seems like the best tool for OLAP scorecards in SharePoint. Performance Point has been an enigma for us to do anything with, not sure we ever will. I always see it demo’d and see the benefits, and see what it can do, but we never get around to doing it. Maybe someday, or maybe it will just get replaced by something..

As I said he brings up a sales person from his team or someone new to show how easy it is for a non-techie to use Power View (or whatever tool they present) and go through a little demo.

4. BID-102: Mobile Business Intelligence for Everyone, Now!

Final presentation of the day was with Jen Stirrup, who also won the PASSion award on Thursday. I also chatted with her briefly Wednesday morning, which was good as I haven’t met her before this summit. The presentation was OK. It was a 100 level, but I wanted to see some Mobile BI. I have some high expectations as I saw Jen Underwood present on Mobile BI at TechEd, so was expecting more of the same. Jen Underwood was actually in the audience and answered some audience questions.

The presentation had some technical glitches, and also dug a little to deep into visualization discussion, which is good, but I wasn’t expecting it in this one, maybe a different session. Jen showed some stuff on her iPad, and talked about how she uses Azure and SSRS in Azure, and also HostedPowerPivot, which was good stuff, but nothing new that I didn’t see at TechEd.

I use MobiSSRS for SSRS reports on iOS and that works great, she didn’t mention it, but Mobile BI presentations can get into the “3rd party app here and there” instead of what you can do out of the box. With mobile BI though, the first question is, “do you run SharePoint?” and the second is, “It is Enterprise?” because that makes a big difference in what you might try to do

Wednesday was a good day, I didn’t do much in the evening besides just grab a bite to eat and hit the hay. Bummer this year was that I started getting a cold on the way out on the plane, and it ate at my voice all week. Nothing to serious but enough to not want to talk in a pub about BI much as you have to yell.

More to come about Day 2 and Day 3, and overall thoughts..

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Yamanalysis: Analyzing Yammer and Using PowerPivot on MySQL

I have blogged before about we use Yammer. Some interesting data can be gleaned from the usage of Yammer. One thing though is that the data and usage stats are limited in the Yammer area, but you can get all the data and take a look at things. I ran into Yamanalysis and decided to give it a try.

After getting Ruby, Rails, MySQL, curl/curb, GraphViz, IBM WordCloud and whatever else configured, I finally got it working. (FYI – MySQL 5.0 – you need to run the config wizard as administrator on Windows 7 or it just hangs at the end).

Pretty cool data and analysis from a higher level. Of course after getting everything working, I wanted to hit the data with PowerPivot. This sounds like an easy feat, but yet seemed to be a complicated task.

I first got the ODBC connector 5.1 for MySQL (Since PowerPivot doesn’t natively connect to MySQL,and 5.1 since that is the only one I could find reliably and get to work.), and set up an ODBC source. Tests fine.

In PowerPivot, I would run through the wizard and it would get architecture mismatches, and catastrophic failures, trying to test the connection. Ignoring that and moving forward, running a query would just hang on import forever. I tried different DSN’s, User/System DSNs, etc, to no avail.

What I ended up doing was firing up my local Microsoft SQL instance, and creating a linked server through a system DSN to the MySQL instance, then I could query the data fine from SQL. I opened up PowerPivot, connected to SQL local and then ran the query to MySQL and it work. What a workaround, what a hack, but at least I can hit the data in PowerPivot locally, which was my goal here.

Of course I could take what Yamanalysis is doing and dump to SQL, or do something similar in C# and dump to SQL, that might be a project for another day.

#sqlpass 2011 Summit Thoughts

Want to get a quick post out before I forget everything cool I have been thinking about the 2011 SQL Pass Summit in Seattle WA.

The conference started out great with a first timer reception (this was my second year), and I knew a few first timers so that would great.

The first day keynote was good, and then the sessions I hit were on a full range of things, new semantic search stuff with file table, and more.

I missed a couple of sessions on day 1 because I was in a Microsoft led focus group on “BI in the cloud” some very cool ideas thrown out and excited to see what is coming up in the future.

More good keynote on day two, a deeper dive into the stuff in SQL Server 2012 (formerly Denali). Went to some good sessions on Data Quality Services (DQS) and Vertipaq vs OLAP, and Power View (remember the space!) SharePoint and Power View integration, etc. Some very cool stuff coming soon with the 2012 release.

Tabular cubes vs Multidimensional cubes. OLAP vs Vertipaq, etc. Big debates and questions here, when to put things in Tabular vs MDX, etc. DAX solves some hard problems we run into with MDX.

Another thing I went to a couple sessions on was StreamInsight. This is some very cool technology for complex event processing, using .NET and LINQ. The StreamInsight guys are crazy smart. Also integrating StreamInsight with Azure, and doing some crazy processing and analysis of tons of data in near real time. I see this technology making a difference somewhere down the road.

Power View was another big winner from the summit. This integrates with SharePoint 2010 as a Silverlight (SL still isn’t dead?) report builder and viewer. Not even sure they are called “reports” anymore, but “views”. You create views and you can interact/edit them in real time. Export to PowerPoint too. These views work off “tabular” vertipaq BISM (BI semantic model) cubes. This technology is going to change how we deliver information to the business.

Being able to take a PowerPivot (no space!) and reverse engineer it into SQL Server Data Tools (formerly BIDS – in VS2010 shell) to create a BISM tabular cube and publish to SSAS Tabular instance looks great. Solving problems like crazy snapshotting and many to many and time analysis using DAX looks very useful.

Of course, GameWorks appreciation night was fun, and I found a Mcmenamins (Six Arms) up the road from the convention center, so I got get a taste of Ruby again. Good conversation and times at the Taphouse and around the Sheraton and Convention center was good too. Seattle is a nice city and the weather was pretty good I thought. Another great summit.

PowerPivot, Excel Services, SharePoint 2010 Farm, and You

The last few days I have spent an exorbitant amount of time (5-6 hours?) getting PowerPivot and Excel Services working on a SharePoint 2010 Farm. I just want to get out there some of the things I had to do to get it all working, and why (at least what I think is why).

First off, most dev setups are using one box for SharePoint, which, in my eyes, masks most every issue you will run into.

Most prod environments are multiple boxes, Web Front Ends, App Servers, etc. This leads to the most pain when setting up these services (PowerPivot, Excel Services) as there are hundreds of different configurations and setups. You need to get it juuuust right.

Anyways, I will explain as best I can.

First, assuming you have PowerPivot running on an app server and Excel Services running to. You upload your PowerPivot workbook to a PowerPivot gallery and you go home happy. But wait, does the data refresh correctly? Can you even open it?

1. If your site is running https, you have to tweak the Excel Services settings.

By default, only http:// shows up here (I think?) so you need to add https:// or you can’t even really get into your PowerPivot.

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2. You probably are going to have to up the upload size limit

Some PowerPivot workbooks are big, like 80-100 MB big. Default in SharePoint 2010 for Excel Services is something like 10 MB, and SharePoint default is 50 MB, you need to change for both settings.

3. If you don’t have Kerberos set up, it is tougher.

PowerPivot refreshes data from some system somewhere to its own “cube”, then Excel Services refreshes data from that cube into Excel Web. You have to setup a way for the data to get refreshed into PowerPivot’s cube. No Kerberos? Then you need to use the Secure Store Service and set up a credential, and set that up as the unattended service account for PowerPivot refresh. Then, at least you can get data from somewhere else into PowerPivot’s “cube”

Second step is getting Excel Services to refresh from that cube into Excel web. What I had to end up doing was creating another credential in the Secure Store service for Excel Services Refresh (set up as farm account for now, it has the stroke it needs). And then set that up in Excel Services settings as well for Excel Services unattended refresh account. But also! – you need to change your workbooks before you upload or whatever.

In your workbook, go to your connection, properties, and get to the authentication, and change to “none” instead of “windows authentication”, then your data will refresh from the PowerPivot cube to Excel in SharePoint.

4. Same thing goes for the PowerPivot Management Dashboards

The management dashboards are set to “windows authentication” so they wont work either, you need to change to “none”, in the Management Dashboard site, goto all site content, PowerPivot Management, <some guid> folder, and then 1033 (US English), edit the two workbooks to use “none” and save, and your management dashboard will actually work!

I’m sure there is a ton more I go delve into here, but this is the high level. As Rob (@powerpivotpro) would say – “make sure to click on the slicers!”

OData is the New Hotness

Not sure why I didn’t look into this sooner. OData. Open Data Protocol.

Not many providers, but this has huge potential. First off, PowerPivot can consume OData feeds! See the “From Data Feeds” button :)

I used it to download Netflix’s whole library. I tried to download StackOverflow’s data (http://odata.stackexchange.com/) but had no luck. Either got errors or it was taking forEVER!

But, you can see how easy it is to create an OData API for your data? Scott Hanselman did it for StackOverlfow in 30 minutes. This opens up HUGE oppourtunities for apps and ISV’s to expose their data out for end user and other developer consumption.

You can see all the “producers” here: http://www.odata.org/producers .. I am sure there are more, just not on the list.

What a cool easy way to expose your data as an “API” out there.. Excited to see how it is used (Pivot Viewer, Power Pivot, etc) and what people do with it.

Where does PowerPivot Fit?

Now that SQL Server 2008 R2 is out, and Excel 2010 is out. You can get PowerPivot (http://powerpivot.com/) and create your own in memory cubes!

…. Or something like that.

I still haven’t figure out where PowerPivot fits in a business scenario. Why?

Well first you have what are now being called the “old school” BI users, that use Excel to connect to an SSAS cube and create fancy pivots and reports, maybe convert to formulas and create some nice reports/dashboards.. analytics.

Then you have people who only consume canned/standardized reports, through SSRS mostly, or maybe Excel Web Services… but they don’t create. Just consume.

You might even have power users, who take Report Builder and create those SSRS reports for other users. Awesome.

But then, you have this tool, PowerPivot. What can you do? Hit databases (mostly… cubes and other sources as well), bring back data, relate it, and create pivot reports/graphs off of it.

But you better be pretty dang advanced as a business user to use PowerPivot. I could count on one hand the users (that I have dealt with over the last 10 years) I would feel comfortable giving it to and not ending up with more of a headache.

What do I think is still missing from the Microsoft BI toolset? Looking at Business Objects, the Web Intelligence. Universes. You create a Universe off of a datasource and expose it out to the user, they can create reports/ad-hoc whatever off of it.

Kind of like the ever elusive “Report Model” in the Microsoft stack that no one ever uses, ever will use, or has no reason to use. But in BO, they make it useful.

I don’t see PowerPivot taking the place of a Report Model/Universe, so where does it fit? IT Analysts making “pre” cubes before you actually make cubes for your users that just want to hit it with Excel and not care about anything else?

Or people who just want to create their own cubes in silos. Tell me how that lends itself to “one version of the truth”?

Either way, we will see how it evolves and hopefully find some good use for it. :)