HOUSTON—Microsoft has announced new business intelligence functionality in the form of Power BI for Office 365, a new self-service BI offering delivered through Excel and Office 365.
At the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) 2013 here, Satya Nadella, president of the Server and Tools Business at Microsoft, announced the new offering that builds on Microsoft’s cloud-first data platform. Power BI for Office 365 provides information workers with data analysis and visualization capabilities to identify deeper business insights from their on-premises and cloud data.
“Power BI for Office 365 brings self-service BI solutions to everyday business users through the familiar tool they already use—Excel,” said Eron Kelly, general manager of SQL Server at Microsoft, in a blog post. “By betting on Excel, we can bring the power of big data insights to the people who are closest to the business—not a specialist with an expensive, specialized tool—but everyone in the organization can find deeper insights that will help them make better decisions. By delivering this service from Office 365, we can reach thousands of organizations who already trust Microsoft as a cloud service provider—one in four of our enterprise customers now has Office 365—with a cloud service that deploys in minute.”
The public preview of Power BI for Office 365 will be available this summer. Users can sign up now at www.office.com/powerbi to be notified when the preview is available.
Businesses today are feeling the impact of some important trends that are converging in the enterprise: the growth of cloud services, a marked increase in data volume and processing needs, and employee demand for more simplified, intuitive connections with that data, Kelly said. “In response to these trends, we’ve created Power BI for Office 365, a solution which dramatically reduces the barriers for businesses of all sizes to use and deploy self-service BI tools.”
Microsoft a few years delivered data modeling and visualization capabilities with Power Pivot and Power View, according to Kelly. These tools create flexible models, process hundreds of millions of rows of data in split second times, and help business users discover and share new insights with colleagues through interactive charts and graphs. To complement these existing Excel capabilities, Microsoft has introduced Power Query (formerly Project code name “Data Explorer”) and Power Map (formerly Project code name “GeoFlow”).
“Power Query helps customers easily discover, access, and combine their data while Power Map allows users to create rich 3D geospatial visualizations in Excel,” Kelly said. “This comprehensive set of capabilities in Excel gives the over one billion Office users the ability to do more with their data through quick, easy-to-use, familiar tools. Business users can now search for new data sets both inside and outside their company that can be combined and analyzed within Excel. These new tools not only make it easy to connect to traditional structured data, but also allows business users to easily connect to a Hadoop cluster in a company’s data center or to Windows Azure HDInsight in the cloud.”
The new tools provide a data management gateway that enables IT to build connections to on-premises data sources and schedule refreshes, Kelly said. This enables business users to always have the most up-to-date reports, whether on their desktop or over their device. Meanwhile, the new BI Sites feature provides dedicated workspaces optimized for BI projects, which allow business users to quickly find and share data and reports with colleagues and collaborate over BI results. And users gain real-time access to BI Sites. Customers can access their data through the browser in HTML5 or through touch-optimized mobile applications for Windows 8, Windows RT, Surface and iPad devices, Kelly said. In addition, there is a new natural language query experience called Q&A that allows users to ask questions of their data and receive immediate answers in the form of an interactive table, chart or graph.