So much for publishing soundbites during the recent SharePoint 2009 Conference. What can I say, I got distracted 🙂 Here’s a delayed one.
Microsoft announced a new product at the conference that has been going under the codename Project Gemini – PowerPivot
PowerPivot is being released as an add-on component to Excel 2010 (licensing not available at time of writing). It’s purpose: analysing massive sets of data using familiar tools. It brings business intelligence (BI) into Excel. Historically, to do such large scale analysis has required specialist tools.
PowerPivot enables incredibly fast filtering and sorting of spreadsheet data extending to 100 million rows. That’s a pretty big dataset for Excel to handle. PowerPivot includes some nifty compression algorithms and the working data set is read only. There are features to enable you to edit related tables that feed into it. With SharePoint 2010 you will be able to display the content and analysis in web parts for browser-only scenarios. And whilst its title suggests it’s a giant PivotTable, PowerPivot is not your traditional Excel pivot table. You can have multiple slices based on related tables to cross-analyse the data. Here’s a couple of images taken from the conference:
In the image above there is the main pivot table (selected in blue) summarising and filtering total purchases by selected continents. To the left and top left of it you can see two slices that are being used to further filter the data by genre and rating
In the image above you can see one of the new functions that are included with PowerPivot, it is creating a sum by matching values in a related table. It’s hard to visualise how different this is to the traditional Excel pivot tables and formulas. One example given during the talk was that PowerPivot could enable historical comparison analysis such as comparing accounting information across financial years.
This is an interesting move for Microsoft as we enter an era where massive amounts of data are being created and shared across the Internet. Finding easy ways to visualise such quantities of data is a hot topic. Microsoft is not the ony one coming up with new tools…
Some reading on how massive amounts of data is challenging conventional wisdom:
- Recent Innovations in method (The Technium, December 2004)
- The Google Way of Science – replacing the hypothesis (The Technium, June 2008)
- The Future is Big Data in the Cloud (GigaOM, October 2009)
Side note: Whilst I can see where Microsoft got the name from, I can’t help but keep calling it PivotPoint instead. Blame SharePoint, PowerPoint and PerformancePoint for that 🙂