Microsoft Using Excel to Win Some BI Love


Ah, Microsoft Excel, the spreadsheet program so loved by users, so vilified by plenty of other folks.


When I wrote in August about how a real estate companyused unspecified business intelligence tools to shed some light on its cell phone expenses, trimming its telecommunications costs, an astute reader responded that his bet was on Excel being the "tool" in question. And that company certainly isn't alone. When I wrote about Ace Hardware's decision to swap out an overly complex BI system for simpler software from Information Builders, I noted that one of the software's strongest selling points was its easy integration with Excel.


Microsoft, which has yet to gain much traction in the BI market, is moving forward with a plan designed to tie Excel to its SQL Server and other back-end BI tools such as SharePoint Server or PerformancePoint Server, reports Computerworld. The idea, says Forrester Research analyst James Kobielus, is to make BI easier for "average" users by giving them an "in-memory, drag-and-drop, pivot-table-enabled" dashboard. In addition to Excel, users will also be able to access query results from Microsoft's Dynamics 2009 ERP application and from Internet Explorer.


And that's not all, Kobielus (who sure seems to know a lot about what Microsoft is doing) says it's using technology recently acquired from DATAllegro to build a BI-centric version of SQL Server 2008 called Project Madison. As IT Business Edge blogger Art Cole wrote in August, it's Microsoft's bid to take advantage of the massively parallel processing (MPP) capability of DATAllegro's platform, which far out-paces the offerings of rivals such as Oracle. The result, says Kobielus, will be a data warehouse that could store a petabyte or more of data.