Chris Webb's BI Blog

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Last thoughts on Gemini for the moment

with 6 comments

Despite the worldwide financial meltdown, all talk on the MS BI blogosphere has been about Project Gemini this week. Even though no-one knows much about it – and certainly no-one knows everything about it either, as we’ve been told there are more announcements to come – the reaction has been pretty clear: the back-end technology looks cool, but the strategy of putting Gemini in Excel on the desktop is an invitation to bypass the data warehouse and create spreadmart hell whatever MS says about Sharepoint-based management of Gemini models. I’ve already linked to just about everyone who’s expressed this opinion apart from Mick Horne, whose three posts here, here and here are well worth reading as they put the case against Gemini in its currently proposed form very clearly. Choice quote: "Where is the single version of the truth in this architecture? I’ve just spent 4 years of my life trying to convince users to stop using Excel as a data store and here are Microsoft positively encouraging it. Hell will freeze over before this capability is used responsibly in most organisations".

So what would I like to see MS actually do with Gemini? From the comments on Marco’s blog, at the moment it sounds like the priority is to get the Gemini storage mode working for local cubes and Excel rather than put everything in place for the full server version of Analysis Services. I would prefer the emphasis to be reversed and have Gemini storage mode ready as soon as possible on the server side. It’s clearly going to provide a massive performance boost when it does arrive (and let’s not forget it’s at least two years away), and with other COP databases and data warehouse appliances improving every day there’s going to be significantly more competitive pressure on Analysis Services and SQL Server-based data warehouse projects in the future. I’d hate to see current MS BI shops start abandoning their Analysis Services implementations because they can get better query performance and scalability elsewhere.

But whatever us bloggers say I’m sure we’ll get Gemini in the form we’ve already been shown. The reason is that whatever the rights and wrongs of it from a BI consultant’s point of view, the people who use Excel will definitely want this and so there will be an overwhelming commercial case for it. This kind of desktop, DIY BI is in a way similar to illegal drugs: there are always some people that want it, a certain number of them are always going to do it even though they know they shouldn’t, so you’ve got two choices – either legalise it and then hope to control it, as with Gemini, or throw all your efforts into outlawing it. With the first option you run the risk of encouraging what you wanted to discourage and ending up with a worse problem, with the second option you run the risk of people resenting your rules so much they end up being widely ignored. What’s the best option?

UPDATE: one last link for you – Nigel Pendse of the OLAP Report gives an unreservedly positive review here:
http://www.olapreport.com/Comment_Gemini.htm

Written by Chris Webb

October 12, 2008 at 10:48 pm

Posted in Analysis Services

6 Responses

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  1. Hi Chris,
    thank you for sharing your thoughts.
    A point of view of an analyst could be:
    Sometimes the picture is not that big to get interest from
    IT-People and maybe he do not want to discuss a business modell with them because
    it is secret or it is difficult to explain.
    The Analyst may have not good feelings that people which are mostly not in charge
    are concerned about his work.
    I think this could be a reason that TM1, MIS ALEA, SAS and at least Qlickview ;-) is still
    favored by Power users.
    I like the Idea that the Analyst wants to promote his work to SSAS and ask me how he can
    achieve this. And at least i cant wait to have a gemini partition to build the one and only,
    lets say ultimative planning application.
     
    Thank you
    Joschko

    Bi Ultras

    October 13, 2008 at 8:33 pm

  2. In many ways, today\’s BI world behaves very much like a 1920\’s centralized communist regime. The central BI government owns all of the legal supply side. It believes it knows better than anyone what the citizens needs and wants and set up to provide everyone’s needs. While it does not have the capacity to handle anything close to the full needs of the population, it prefers that some will go hungry and barefoot rather than let them supply their own needs. In fact, it will prosecute anyone who shows any enterprise spirit offering an alternative supply route. It will demonize the free enterprises, call them “capitalist pigs”, “traitors of the cause”. The central goverment believes its suppression of the free enterprises is for the “common good of the motherland”, even at the cost of the suffering of the citizens, without realizing that the motherland is supposed to serve the citizens first and foremost.
     
    The central regime will find itself with an endless attrition war against the population. The black market will thrive unless ruthless measures are taken. Back to our BI world – these iron fist measures are mostly unacceptable in today’s enterprises. Therefore the central IT government often finds itself without much teeth. It can wage a propaganda war but the citizens will mostly ignore it and will continue with their black market activities.
     
    Gemini is the “glasnosts”. It is the relaxation of the central monopolization of the supply taps. It is about allowing free enterprises to operate, as long as they are not overstepping reasonable bounds. It is about oversight rather than suppression. Gemini is about trusting the citizens to do the right things once given a chance (presumed innocent unless proven guilty). In such a market the citizens and the government work together for the benefit of the population. This new marketplace is about creating efficiencies and encouraging creativity. It is about letting new ideas float and let the market pick the winners. The government will still hold firm control over the most essential services: military, judicial, education and healthcare. But at the same time, it will allow almost everything else to be generated by the free population. It will hold a regulatory and police force to verify that the bounds are not stepped over but at the same time, will be non-intrusive until violations occur.
     
    Chris, which regime do you endorse?
     
     Amir.

    Amir

    October 14, 2008 at 5:50 am

  3. As I said in my first post on this subject, Amir, I\’m a BI consultant (like just about every other blogger out there) so of course I\’m an apparatchik with a vested interest in the status quo. And I believe wholeheartedly in the philosophy I espouse!
     
    You\’re right that oversight is the key, and I think the problem is that I\’m not sure that the tools we\’ve seen for that so far will be used properly or effectively – and probably not at all. What happened after Glasnost? We don\’t want to see a swing to the other extreme of robber-baron capitalism, where certain well-placed individuals can use the new system to their advantage and create their own information-based kingdoms within an organisation, continually at war with each other, at the expense of the ordinary user. Stable, free market deomcracy is a difficult thing to achieve and while I do accept that freedom of choice and and encouragement of individual entrepreneurism is a good thing, they don\’t magically appear overnight and even when they are in place tight regulation (perhaps tighter regulation than many people like) is still necessary. I can forsee a time after Gemini when some organisations have reached a state of informational crisis and the IT department has to step in to effectively nationalise the supply of data… 

    Chris

    October 14, 2008 at 12:10 pm

  4. Not a bad argument Chris. But it fails in the face of history.
     
    Two examples of "glasnosts" – the Russian and Chinese. One done wrong and one done right. The Russian one lost control and led to a period or chaos. The Chinese one was done moderately and was completely successful.
     
    However, in both cases the end result is the same – two major economical superpowers are born because to the economic freedom. They both now display unbelievable advancement, riches, creativity and a level of competiveness that could not have been there in the old communist regime.
     
    Long term – you cannot stop the winds of freedom. You can choose – be a Brezhnev and try to fossilize your country with an iron grip or be a Gorbachov, recognize that change is inevitable and lead your country through the period of transition, navigating the treacherous waters of the old-guard and the young popular radicals.
     
    “…Mr. Chris – TEAR DOWN THIS WALL!”
     
    Amir.

    Amir

    October 14, 2008 at 5:28 pm

  5. You\’ve been in America too long, Amir…

    Chris

    October 15, 2008 at 10:08 am

  6. Amir,
    try to explain the successful Chinese "road to freedom" to people in Tibet or to people still censored when they access the web…
    And please… we were talking about BI, don\’t you?

    Silvano

    October 30, 2008 at 1:13 pm


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