Saturday, October 4, 2008

Live Excel Services Demonstration

Excel Services is a Rich Way of Delivery Thin Client BI

I am a great fan of thin client delivery tools for business intelligence (BI). This is the way we can deliver BI tools to the masses and make significant impacts on organsiations and the way people make decisions. Excel Services (a component of Windows SharePoint) is one of these thin client delivery vehicles. The client requires no client side installs, just IE or compatible browser. The Excel spreadsheet is partially funcational, and what I like to do is connect it to an OLAP cube that is continually updating. All the Excel functionality and the OLAP query is happening on the server, with just the rendering sent down to the client.

Here is a simple demonstration that you can try out. It is Excel Services with an OLAP cube of an old New Zealand census. Notice how you see a page that looks like Excel, and there is a table and chart displayed with data coming from an OLAP cube. What is interesting is that you can now interact with the OLAP cube. Try clicking on the dropdown button next to Freedom (that's Kiwi for Marital Status). You will be able to select one or more Freedoms, which will result in an updated table and chart. You can try combinations of the filters, for example, married people in the Tasman region who are employed. Notice how fast it is to render the new chart, even though this involves a full Internet round trip with an OLAP query and excel rendering happening on the server.
There are a couple of other Excel Services demonstrations on the site, which I find more interesting because they are connected to cubes that are continually updating. These are the Web and Perfmon cubes. If you are interested in real time BI, you should try out the Perfmon Excel Services demonstration. That cube is never more than 180 seconds behind real time, with over 30,000 new facts every 60 seconds.

One of the reasons why some Microsoft customers really like Excel Services is that once the OLAP cube has been built (and scheduled for continual updating as in this demonstration) someone with just Excel skills can be responsible for creating and maintaining the "reports" or Excel worksheets. Since all Excel Services does is display Excel spreadsheets via thin client. The Excel author only needs to work normally in Excel, then rather than saving, they publish to PerformancePoint. Quite simple really.
For more real-time and live BI demonstrations go to

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