One feature of Excel 2007 that I think is really cool, and also a little hidden, is the “Offline OLAP” feature.
If you insert a pivot table connected to an OLAP cube into Excel 2007, and go to the PivotTable Options Ribbon Menu, You will see the “OLAP Tools” Button. Click on that and then “Offline OLAP”.
Once you go through the Offline OLAP Wizard, it will create a .cub file for you. What this ends up being is a local disconnected “cube” you can analyze in Excel, if you are on the plane, or in some remote area with no internet connection.
Other uses for the offline .cub files that I have found is this. Let’s say you want developers to develop Web based reports using .NET, maybe using the Dundas OLAP Services controls. If you don’t want to have to load SSAS or set them up to connect to any server so they can just develop locally, the .cub file is the way to go. In their .NET code, they can just change the connection string to point to the local .cub file, and then later when you are ready to go live, you can just change the connection string to the live cube. That way, if you are developing the cube at the same time reports are being developed, you don’t have to worry about uptime, etc. Just send them an updated .cub file every once in a while.
I don’t know much about the details for upcoming releases, like Microsoft Project Gemini, but I have a feeling that it might feel a bit like this, using Offline OLAP, or local analysis.
On a final note, if you really want to get geeky, you can actually create the .cub files from .NET, but that is another blog post 🙂