Chris Webb's BI Blog

Analysis Services, MDX, PowerPivot, DAX and anything BI-related

Two client tools – Bonavista Dimensions and Varigence Vivid – and yet more idle speculation

with 8 comments

In early September I attended two webcasts introducing new client tools. I’ve been meaning to blog about them ever since but haven’t got round to it until now (so I have some apologising to do); as I’ve said before, I’ve given up writing reviews on this blog but both products have some interesting features and are therefore worth a closer look.

First of all, Varigence Vivid. It’s an Excel addin that does all the kind of complex query things that a proper SSAS client tool does but which Excel pivot tables don’t do; which is all very well, but there are plenty of Excel addins like this already. However its key selling point is this: unlike every other Excel addin client tool for SSAS, instead of trying to replace the native functionality completely it actually builds on and extends existing Excel pivot table functionality. This means that users who don’t have Vivid installed can still use worksheets and pivot tables created using it, which I think is pretty cool.

Second up, Bonavista Dimensions. It’s another Excel addin that can connect to SSAS but it can also create SSAS local cubes from a variety of data sources (I suspect if/when PowerPivot gets an API it will make sense to add support for creating PowerPivot models too). The main differentiating feature in this case is visualisation, and it supports a wide variety of Tableau-like charts which look very impressive; you can also export dashboards created in Excel up to a server to allow for web-based consumption, rather like Excel Services without the cost and hassle of Sharepoint.

Talking of Tableau, ever since it was launched I’ve thought Microsoft should buy the company – it would catapult MS into a genuine leadership position in BI, and almost incidentally solve the whole client tool problem for SSAS, PowerPivot and BISM (and incidentally, has anyone else noticed how much exposure Tableau is getting on Azure Datamarket?). The topic came up on Jen Stirrup’s blog recently in relation to Project Crescent and was dealt with very intelligently; unlike Jen, though, I don’t think Crescent is a reason for Microsoft not to buy Tableau. For a start Crescent comes from the SSRS team and if anyone in MS was going to buy Tableau it would be the Office group – and I don’t think they’d change their plans just because of what the SQL Server guys are doing. Can you imagine what a big deal it would be if Tableau appeared as a new tool in Office 2010? It would certainly be a major reason for many companies to upgrade, and therefore generate more cash for MS than Crescent will ever make – not that Crescent is bad, on the contrary it looks quite promising, but Office revenues are on a different scale to SQL BI. Hmm, however much sense it makes I’m not sure it will ever happen though…

Written by Chris Webb

November 23, 2010 at 10:45 pm

Posted in Client Tools

8 Responses

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  1. Hello Chris,
    Thank you for your input regarding Tableau. I really think it would be world-changing for so many business users if MS bought Tableau, who still bill themselves as an ‘R&D’ company. It’s so clearly aimed at business users, and simple to use.
    Given that it’s usually business users who hold the budgets to sign-off to software purchase, it becomes hard to understand why Tableau hasn’t been purchased by MS.
    I didn’t see the different relationships internally to Microsoft, so thank you for making that clear.
    BTW if you ever want to come along to a Tableau User Group meeting, please let me know, it would be nice to see you there.
    Jen

    Jen Stirrup

    November 24, 2010 at 9:29 pm

  2. Hello there,
    I’ve just tweeted about your blog. I am very sorry but I cannot find you on twitter to name you. I can be found at http://twitter.com/jenstirrup in case you want to pick it up.
    Thanks once again!
    Regards,
    Jen

    Jen Stirrup

    November 24, 2010 at 9:39 pm

  3. I think Chris is still in UDM mode (like web 1.0). Chris, upgrade to BISM and join us on twitter! :)

    Marco Russo

    November 24, 2010 at 10:41 pm

  4. The reason I’m not on Twitter is that I know I’d spend too much time on it if I was. And then I’d have even less time for real work, family etc. But I may change my mind at some point…

    Chris Webb

    November 25, 2010 at 8:05 am

  5. In reality, I had the same concern, but using it only whenever I’m not at PC (i.e. traveling, waiting in line, during commercial watching TV, and so on) I found it affordable! :)

    Marco Russo

    November 25, 2010 at 2:53 pm

  6. I’ve been using Tableau/Microsoft for a long time now (since Tableau 3.0) and the thought of MS acquiring Tableau has crossed my mind on a number of occasions. However, one of Tableau’s strengths is it’s database agnostic, which has worked well as a selling point to every company I’ve been in that uses it. It supports Oracle, Teradata, Hyperion, and of course Microsoft Excel, Access, SQL Server and SSAS. Their latest version 6 also has a competing comulmn oriented database that would compete with PowerPivot. I’m afraid if Microsoft did acquire them, they would slowly stop supporting other platforms, which wouldn’t be a good thing in my opinion.

    Kory

    November 28, 2010 at 8:39 pm

    • I don’t agree with you on this point, Kory – think about the data sources that SSAS and SSRS officially support: Oracle, Teradata, Hyperion, Excel, Access, SQL Server and SSAS. If Tableau was in Office I’m sure it would retain its current level of support for other data sources. It does have a competing column store too, but I’m sure that could be swapped out for Vertipaq and I’d welcome the addition of a new bunch of developers to the SSAS team to help work on data storage since it would free up the SSAS team for other work… It’s probably true, though, that MS would mess up an acquisition in other ways (eg by taking it off the market for three years while it got rewritten).

      Chris Webb

      November 29, 2010 at 4:10 pm

  7. Seems like I’m not the only one who has thought of Microsoft buying Tableau. Would have been a better acquisition than ProClarity IMHO. Tableau is one of only a few companies that understand data visualization from a perspective of applying research done in this area.

    It is possible for Microsoft to extend charts and (particularly) PivotCharts to gain much of the functionality of Tableau without a massive effort, I think. A lot of the plumbing is already there in Excel.

    Colin Banfield

    December 22, 2010 at 2:05 pm


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