One of my favorite products of the year was Microsoft's
free add-in for Excel 2010, PowerPivot
. The tool, which adds a new sort of
spreadsheet option to Excel, first grabbed my attention for the way it enables
users to work with much larger sets of data than is possible with Excel alone.
In one case, I used PowerPivot to load and browse through a data set that ran
3.9 million rows-about four times Excel's existing upper limit-and I had no
more trouble scrolling around in the set than I would with a spreadsheet of
only several hundred rows.
Typically, bumping up against the row limitations of your
spreadsheet application indicates that a database is probably a better tool for
the job. But PowerPivot provides users with a great way to take care of
business without surrendering the familiarity of their favored tool. I used the
product to tap data in Access databases, in flat files and in MySQL databases,
through an ODBC driver, and in all cases the tool performed excellently.
What's more, the tool's SharePoint integration element
gives users an easy way to share their work with others in their organizations.
Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6
Linux and open-source software is looming larger than ever
in the enterprise space, and no product casts a longer shadow in these quarters
than Red Hat Enterprise Linux
. Whether it's consumed directly from Red Hat or
in the form of one of its downstream incarnations, such as the freely available
CentOS or Oracle's Unbreakable Linux, the innovations and enhancements that go
into RHEL have a major impact on the IT world.
RHEL 6, which began shipping last month, stands out for
its core improvements around scalability, resource management and
virtualization, highlighting Linux features such as Control Groups and the KVM
(Kernel-based Virtual Machine) capabilities now baked into the kernel.
What's more, the system ships with a slate of updated
open-source software components that stand to make life easier for developers
and system administrators who wish to take advantage of recent features without
leaving Red Hat's support and certification umbrella to do so. And even for
those operating outside of Red Hat's service umbrella, the 10-year support term
that Red Hat has pledged for RHEL-and the nature of open-source
licensing-offers a strong assurance that products and projects can count on
these components for some time to come.