Over the past few weeks, I’ve been playing with the latest CTP of the new Business Intelligence offering from Microsoft, Power View (formerly known as Project Crescent). Power View is a powerful new ad hoc reporting and data visualization tool that comes with SQL Server 2012 (formerly known as Project Denali).
Power View is a web based report authoring tool built entirely in Silverlight. It is aimed at business end users, and as it is entirely web based, you only require a browser to run it. Power View builds on Excel’s PowerPivot, with a similar interface that offers:
- powerful drag-and-drop functionality.
- highly interactive data display.
- use of storyboarding to tell and share a story with the data.
The storyboarding functionality includes the ability to export an ad hoc report to PowerPoint, allowing users to update and interact with the data in the generated presentation.
Being web based, Power View will (eventually) be accessible from mobile devices such as iPads, Android tablets and Windows 7 Phones. Planned touch-centric features of Power View will be released a few months after the release of SQL Server 2012. This forms part of Microsoft’s Mobile BI roadmap, which was announced in the recent SQL PASS 2011 conference.
Power View requires SharePoint 2010 and SQL Server Reporting Services. This may put it beyond the reach of smaller companies who do not want to manage a SharePoint installation. It is also worth noting that Power View is not meant to replace SQL Server Reporting Services or Report Builder. These tools are for creating more complex static reports, while Power View is designed for ad hoc reporting.
It is worth noting that while using Power View, I found that some of the data transformations and visualization options were not as intuitive as might be expected. This will hopefully be resolved by the RTM release. Even so, despite the similarity to PowerPivot, even the power users that this tool is aimed at will require additional training and support in using the product. Also, the server setup for Power View required a server with a minimum of 8GB RAM just for a responsive demo. Obviously, significantly more RAM would be required for the servers in a production environment. Again, this hardware constraint pushes Power View out of the reach of smaller organisations and companies
Power View is the latest in Microsoft’s Service Service BI Tools range, which are designed to allow business users to create and share powerful business intelligence solutions through familiar applications in Microsoft Office and SharePoint 2010.