New Gemini Demos Dissected
On the BI Blog on Monday a new set of Gemini demos were posted; they’re also available on YouTube. They look like the same demos I saw at PASS Europe a few weeks ago and while they don’t show much in the way of different functionality compared to what was shown late last year, I think there are a few interesting points to note. Unfortunately the quality of the picture is so poor you can’t make out much detail on the screen, so I can only really comment on what Donald Farmer (who’s presenting) specifically points out.
Let’s step through each demo and I’ll give you a running commentary on them…
- 0:11 Note that Gemini isn’t built into Excel, it’s an Excel addin. I’m not sure whether it will work in Excel 2007 or only Excel 2010 (or whatever it’s called) but this is significant for another reason: it means that Gemini release cycles are not tied to Office release cycles, so potentially new releases of Gemini can appear reasonably regularly.
- 0:35 We start off with sourcing data from a data warehouse – probably intentionally, to forestall some of the hostility that was seen when Gemini was first announced, when Gemini was seen as being yet another “you don’t need a data warehouse” type tool.
- 1:05 Arggh, why can’t I see the buttons on the Data-Cleaning ribbon? It looks like there’s a lot of stuff there, although it might not be all working properly yet.
- 1:45 The obligatory boast about how much data you can work with – in this case 20 million rows – on a regular desktop machine. In my experience that’s the average number of rows I see in a fact table underneath SSAS (though of course it can handle way more than that), so the number was probably deliberately chosen for that reason, as well of course to get the Excel users out there salivating. Suddenly posts like this seem less funny, more like a chilling prediction of things to come…
- 2:48 You can copy data into Gemini from the clipboard. Note that you don’t seem to be able to link to the data directly in Excel, at least not yet. Donald also mentions that ‘other data sources’ will be supported – it’ll be interesting to see which ones.
- 3:18 Creating a pivot table. We seem to be back in regular Excel here and out of the Gemini addin, although Donald says that ‘in Gemini we have some cool pivot tables we can handle’. Perhaps what we’re seeing here are Excel 2010 pivot tables.
- 3:50 Pointing out the inferred relationship between tables. I suspect this relationship was inferred well before this point; we already know you are going to be able to set these relationships up manually.
- 4:26 Showing data as a percentage of total. There seems to be a big button to do this; are there going to be any other easy calculations available? Where are the calculations taking place, and how are they expressed – in Excel or the underlying Gemini cube?
- 4:50 New slicer bars – mentioned as a ‘new feature in Excel’, specifically for Gemini but also available for other Excel users. So this must be new generic Excel pivot table, rather than Gemini functionality. This looks really good; I like the way they are aware of each other too, and aware of what data is available, though I wonder how exactly they know whether data is available and how this would work with cubes containing calculations etc.
- 0:20 Set theme – whoa, so you can apply a theme to an Excel spreadsheet? Hmm, turns out you can already do this. But it is a powerful feature when you want to create a report.
- 0:30 Publishing to Sharepoint, but notice how Donald mentions that publishing a model containing 20 million rows would take a bit of time. How long exactly? Minutes? Hours?
- 0:40 The Sharepoint report centre. OK, so we can rate reports with stars, yeah that’s going to be useful… but other ‘social tools for collaboration’ might be interesting.
- 1:03 Setting a refresh rate. Basically how often the local cube underneath Gemini gets processed, I suppose. How long will a refresh take though?
- 1:21 Seeing the report in a thin client. This is Excel Services, I think…? This will only make it harder to choose between Excel/Excel Services/Gemini on one hand and SSRS on the other. It would be nice if there was some kind of story linking the two.
- 2:57 The operations dashboard – again, I wish I could see more detail of what’s on screen. I can see some of the stuff you’d expect, like metrics on CPU usage and query response times. It’s all done in Excel Services again – I wonder if there’s a cube behind it all storing the performance data?
- 3:46 Upgrading and formalising a popular app. But notice that the option is ‘upgrade to PerformancePoint’…? The focus is on upgrading for better maintenance and management rather than performance; I guess in PerformancePoint you’ve got IT control over the report design. Possibly, when server-side SSAS gets the Gemini storage engine, you’ll be able to push the Gemini cube into an instance of SSAS. But when you’ve done this will you still be able to use the performance metrics dashboard we’ve just seen?