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Category: PowerPivot

Announcing the new ITUnity web show: BIFocal

Announcing the new ITUnity web show: BIFocal

BIFocal LogoI was sitting in the speaker room at SharePoint Fest Seattle having a Skype chat with John White. We were collaborating on some Business Intelligence content that we could deliver at conferences either together or independently, but still ensure that we were providing a consistent message. At some point during this chat one of us suggested that this amusing & informational back and forth that we were having would make for a pretty decent podcast. Dan Holme, CEO of ITUnity, overheard the comment and said “It would make an even better web show on ITUnity!” Thus an idea was born.

I am excited to announce that a mere 5 months later we are ready to go live with our new monthly web show, BI Focal. We are going to keep you up to date on all of the latest news in the BI space, provide Tips & Tricks, have interesting guests, take viewer questions, and even do some cool demos.

We hope that you will join us for our inaugural show “Select * from Hosts” on January 28th, 2016 at 1:30PM Eastern Time on ITUnity. Check out our promo below:

A summer of fun & SharePoint

A summer of fun & SharePoint

I am sitting in the Toronto City Airport after speaking at #SPSToronto yesterday and realized that I hadn’t posted anything about my upcoming talks.

Yesterday was a day of BI. I did Heavy Metal PowerPivot Remastered in the morning, followed by John White doing SharePoint for Business Intelligence, and then I did Business Intelligence in SharePoint 2013. The whole day built nicely and the attendees grew in numbers from session to session. All it all it was a great collaborative day of BI. I have to give a ton of credit to Eric Riz, Kanwal Khipple & Ruven Gotz for putting together a terrific day for the attendees. It was great to see the hall completely packed at the end of the day with people who really loved what they got.

Next up for me is #SPSNYC this coming weekend (7/27) where I will be giving my SharePoint Performance: Best Practices from the Field talk.

Following that I will be speaking at SharePoint Fest DC (8/5 – 8/7) & SPTechCon Boston (8/11 – 8/14).

After those two I am taking a few weeks to rest up before we put on SharePoint Saturday New Hampshire, for which we have an open call for Speakers & Sponsors.

4 conferences in 4 weeks… let the insanity commence!

SQL Server 2012 SP1 is here & it’s huge for SharePoint 2013 BI

SQL Server 2012 SP1 is here & it’s huge for SharePoint 2013 BI

This is a massive deal for SharePoint 2013 BI.  Here is an excerpt from What’s New in SQL Server 2012:

Business Intelligence highlights (with SQL Server 2012 SP1, Office and SharePoint Server 2013 )

Business Intelligence highlights (with SQL Server SP1, Office and SharePoint Server 2013 Preview) are:

  • Enable self-service BI as a natural part of users day-to-day activities in Excel 2013:

  • Access and mash-up data from any source (PowerPivot). Documentation related to PowerPivot in Excel 2013 (http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/p/?LinkID=255958).

  • Stunning visualizations and data discovery (Power View). Documentation related to Power View in Excel (http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/p/?LinkID=255957).

  • Work with hundreds of millions of rows of data (powered by xVelocity in-memory technologies).

  • Discover, assess and audit user created spreadsheets via SharePoint Server 2013 Preview.

  • A new version of the Reporting Services add-in for SharePoint and an updated SharePoint mode report server that supports SharePoint 2013. For more information, see the following:

  • A new architecture for SQL Server 2012 SP1 CTP4 PowerPivot that supports a PowerPivot server outside a SharePoint 2013 farm. A Windows Installer package (spPowerpivot.msi) that enhances the PowerPivot for SharePoint experience. Additional features include PowerPivot Gallery, schedule data refresh, and management dashboard. For more information, see the following:

  • Share and collaborate on self-service BI assets via SharePoint Server 2013 Preview and SQL Server 2012 SP1.”

The key takeaway and true game changer is that the SQL SSAS engine for PowerPivot is no longer required to be on a SharePoint box.  This means you no longer need a SQL license for your SharePoint App server to be able to run PowerPivot.  Don’t miss understand, you still need to license SQL to run PowerPivot, but you can do it on a separate box that can support multiple SharePoint farms and multiple Tabular BISM solutions.  Pretty huge shift.

You can download SQL Server 2012 SP1 & SQL Server 2012 SP1 Feature Pack from these links.

Enjoy… I know I will!

Hooray, it’s a book!: “Developing Business Intelligence Apps for SharePoint”

Hooray, it’s a book!: “Developing Business Intelligence Apps for SharePoint”

book

Over the past year I have been spending my night’s & weekends working on a book with my co-author, Dave Feldman, and I am proud to say that we have completed our draft of “Developing Business Intelligence Apps for SharePoint”

Through the book you will learn to create dynamic Business Intelligence solutions for SharePoint, using Microsoft Visual Studio LightSwitch, SQL Server 2012, and other tools and technologies. This hands-on book shows you how to create data-rich BI applications with SharePoint faster and with more capabilities than previously possible. You’ll learn the entire process, from high-level concepts, to low-code development and deployment, to setup and configuration.

  • Quickly build a robust schema and applications with Visual Studio LightSwitch
  • Leverage PowerPivot v2 to build a business intelligence semantic model
  • Create reports with Excel Services, Report Builder, and Power View

The happy thing about our book is that we saw the CSOM model of SharePoint 2013 coming down the road and architected our solutions in the book so that they are relevant to both the 2010 & 2013 platforms (and hopefully many versions of SharePoint to come).

The book is available for pre-order on Amazon now and will be available via O’Reilly Early Release.   Dave & I will be at the SharePoint Conference in Las Vegas where O’Reilly will have a form of the book available (not quite sure if it will be a few chapters or what at that point, but there will be something!). 

I will say that Dave & I were warned by Andrew Connell & Scot Hillier when we started talking about writing this book that taking on a book project is much like having a child.  9+ months of long uncomfortable sleepless nights to give birth to something that you hope goes on to do good things in this world (I am paraphrasing a bit here… basically they both said it was going to suck something awful, but we would be happy when it was all over).  Well gents, you were right on all counts.  The fun part is that while I have 2 kids and sort of had an idea of what something like that was going to be like, Dave’s wife is pregnant with their first child and is due this SUNDAY.  Needless to say, we are glad to be done before Baby “Cookie Monster” Feldman arrives. smile

Getting PowerPivot & Power View working in Office 2013

Getting PowerPivot & Power View working in Office 2013

One of the many exciting features of Office 2013 is that PowerPivot now comes as a part of the installation & Power View is now available in the client for Excel 2013 , rather than being an post installation add-in for PowerPivot and web resident only for PowerView.  PowerPivot is still a COM add-in, but is not more tightly integrated with the product & Power View is now a COM Add-in.

I upgraded to Office 2013, removing the 2010 version, on Monday night and immediately I was faced with a problem.  PowerPivot showed in the ribbon, but was not clickable! After attempting to click in the greyed out bar for about 5 minutes I started digging in.  I found that PowerPivot was active in the Add-ins section, but something didn’t seem quite right:

1

This Add-in was the SQL 2012 version.  Once I unchecked this and went back to the Add-ins section I found the newer version of PowerPivot was now available.  There was a conflict with the older version blocking the newer version from being able to be activated.

2

Once I checked “Microsoft Office PowerPivot for Excel 2013” (and Power View since I was already here and excited to check it out) the Manage option in the ribbon lit up and I was off to the races.

3

Since I still need to do work with PowerPivot v2 models and am not willing to upgrade everything to the beta version yet, I did re-install Office 2010 and now have the fun experience of two PowerPivot tabs in my ribbon in Excel 2013 (doesn’t happen in Excel 2010), but if I disable the older version of PowerPivot in 2013, it disables it in 2010 as well. 

4

5

I have yet to have an issue with having both add-ins active at once since reactivating the older version, as the active add-in is the only one that lights up.

6

More to come on the great new features of PowerPivot, Power View and Inquire, but for now its time to get back to my vacation smile

PowerPivot & Claims Based Authentication–Is there hope in SQL 2012?

PowerPivot & Claims Based Authentication–Is there hope in SQL 2012?

I promised an update on this in my previous article and it is time to share what I have learned.

The issue:

As many of us have painfully found, PowerPivot v1 on a Claims Based Authentication web application is not supported in SharePoint 2010.  I had a case open with Microsoft last year that had the aspirations of rectifying that situation.  We had hoped that working with the PowerPivot team (a part of the SQL Server Product team) and the SharePoint Product team that we would be able to find a way for Microsoft to change their stance and provide us a way to allow PowerPivot v1 to be supported. 

The answer for v1:

Sadly, the changes that would have to be made were too drastic for Microsoft to make in the middle of PowerPivot v1’s existing product lifecycle. 

The new and improved question:

That begs the question: Is there hope that PowerPivot v2 will be able to work on a Claims Based Authentication web application?

The caveated answer:

Keeping in mind that the product has not launched yet and things can still change (they won’t, but lets keep hoping) and that all of the SQL 2012 TechNet that are posted currently have the following statement at the top of them:

[This documentation is for preview only, and is subject to change in later releases. Blank topics are included as placeholders.]

The answer is still no.  In the TechNet article entitled “Hardware and Software Requirements (PowerPivot for SharePoint and Reporting Services in SharePoint Mode)” you will find the section under PowerPivot Sofware Requirements says in reference to SharePoint web applications:

PowerPivot for SharePoint only supports SharePoint web applications that are configured for classic-mode authentication. If you are adding PowerPivot for SharePoint to an existing farm, be sure that the web application you plan to use it with is configured for classic-mode authentication. For instructions on how to check authentication mode, see the section “Verify the Web application uses Classic mode authentication” in Deploy PowerPivot Solutions to SharePoint.“

Well damn.  Is there any hope that this is ever going to change?

Keep your chins up.  Rumor in the interwebs is that there is going to be a new version of SharePoint coming in sometime soon.  I can tell you that Microsoft has heard and continues to hear our cries out about this matter.  The more we raise this up as an issue, the more real it will be to Microsoft and the more likely they will be to invest in making the change.  If there is no perception that this is an issue, then there is no attention that will be paid and no investment dollars that will be spent.

If this is an issue for you, make sure that your Microsoft reps hear about it.  I talk about this with every Product Team member that I can get to listen to me for 5 minutes and I have never met with anything other than a warm reception and a sincere desire to know the feedback on how to make the product better.

Is this going to stop you from deploying PowerPivot v2 and Power View?

Not a snowman’s chance in the hot Jamaica sun.  I cannot wait for the final bits to drop so that I can get this amazing new product suite into the hands of every customer who wants to do BI.  The new BI story is too game changing not to get on the bus, and if I am riding it why not be driving smile

Update: PowerPivot in Windows with Claims Authentication on SharePoint 2010 case

Update: PowerPivot in Windows with Claims Authentication on SharePoint 2010 case

We had a second great discussion with Lee Graber and Venky Veeraraghavan and our MS Account Team today.  They are actively working on getting a solution to allow PowerPivot to work with Windows Claims Authentication in SharePoint 2010, as I talked about in my previous post.  They are expecting to down select an approach, from 4 down to 1, by the end of the week and give us an update on what the timeline will look like.This has been a great experience working with the two product teams, SharePoint and PowerPivot.  Everyone at Microsoft is very dedicated to getting a solution that will not only work for this one customer (us), but for the general population as well.I will update again once I have more to report!

All PowerPivot Features supported only in Classic Mode Authentication

All PowerPivot Features supported only in Classic Mode Authentication

Surprised?  I was this week as well.  I have had a case open with Microsoft since October that we have been playing with back and forth trying to figure out why automated refreshing of a PowerPivot workbook wasn’t working.We let the case go off and on for a quite a while because in the opening days we found that if we ran the PowerPivot Service Application Pool in the context of the farm admin account, that manually refreshing the data would work.  Having a work around in hand threw this issue to the back of the queue for a while.

After much diagnosis, discussion, and many weeks of thinking that the Secure Store Service wasn’t working properly, along came a very simple explanation: PowerPivot requires Classic Mode Authentication.  FBA and Claims are not supported for doing data refresh or usage data collection scenarios.

The answer to our question came via 3 references:

PowerPivot Data Refresh – Everything you always wanted to know  – Page 14 is a good place to start.  Section called “Anatomy of PowerPivot Data Refresh” – written by Mariano Teixeira Neto

Plan PowerPivot Authentication and Authorization – “To support data refresh and usage data collection scenarios, PowerPivot for SharePoint requires Classic mode authentication. PowerPivot requires a Windows domain user to be the identity behind the SharePoint security token, which it will use to create a history of user activity and document ownership, and to connect to external data sources during data refresh.” – quoted from Technet

Why PowerPivot requires ‘classic-mode’ web applications – “The second one (i.e. ‘b’ above) is a bit trickier and it is the core issue for this blog entry. In PowerPivot, when connecting through our front-end web services (aka, the PowerPivot Web Service, or PWS in our architectural design) the underlying protocol is the same as the one that earlier versions of Analysis Services used for the ‘data pump’ feature (http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc917711.aspx). That protocol does not know about claims – it relies on getting a Windows identity.” – quoted from Dave Wickert, aka PowerPivotGeek

One of the answers that we got regarding this is that PowerPivot is a part of SQL Server 2008 R2 and not a part of SharePoint 2010, so it wasn’t really a SharePoint authentication problem.  ((Does that sound right?))

We have gone back to Microsoft and are looking to see if this is something they are going to be able to fix so that Claims Based Authentication can truly be the end-all-be-all solution that we are all hoping that it can be, or if this is just one of many things that we are going to run into that aren’t yet supported in CBA mode.  For those keeping count we are now up to 2 major issues that have come back to CBA as the root cause, the other being the Site Directory issue (which we are still waiting to hear if they are going to accept our hotfix request or not… last update from the engineer was yesterday).

I have to give a ton of thanks to the MS TAM (Mike Mitchell) that I work with, the engineer (Jason Haak) who worked on this case with us, and the 2 guys who seem to be the experts in the world on PowerPivot, Dave Wickert and Lee Graber.  We spent so much time focused on the technology of the platform and how cool PowerPivot was to work with, that we forgot rule #1 (which they kindly reminded us of)… RTFM.