VS 11 Experience

Today I decided to give it a go and install VS 11 Developer Preview (off the USB key I got from BUILD) onto my production machine. Whoa, Steve, that could be risky!!

Yeah, it could, but sometimes you need to live life on the edge. As much as a geek can.

There aren’t a ton of options when installing. The installer looks.. “beautiful” compare to other Visual Studio installers. It installed a few things, then reboot, then some more, then it was done. Easy. But of course, it installed SQL Express (Denali CTP3) which I really didn’t want to install since I already have 2008 R2 developer on my machine. Maybe in the advanced install I could have disabled it, but I didn’t dig through it all. Anyways, I just turned the service off and set it to manual start.

VS 11 is nice. Seems faster. Cleaner. Crisper. I LOVE the code clone feature. Found some good info there. I like the new TFS design (the work items, etc look nicer – almost a fat client version of the new TFS server and TFS azure experience).

The big app we work on compiled and ran, which was good. I didn’t try .NET 4.5 yet, that might be for another day. One thing that does stink about the dev preview is that you lose all your add ons. The VS productivity tools are baked in (at least some? I didnt try them all). But things like Resharper, etc aren’t there so you might be “missing” some things you are used to.

The solution file of the project changed on me, since I opened up a VS 2010 sln file. It added some comments and rearranged some things, but after I closed VS 11 and saved everything, I opened in VS 2010 and it still worked. Checked into source control and other devs with just VS 2010 opened it and it worked, etc. So MSFT wasn’t lying.. backward compatible!

Excited to dig into it more and for the future versions.

Where does PowerPivot Fit?

Now that SQL Server 2008 R2 is out, and Excel 2010 is out. You can get PowerPivot (http://powerpivot.com/) and create your own in memory cubes!

…. Or something like that.

I still haven’t figure out where PowerPivot fits in a business scenario. Why?

Well first you have what are now being called the “old school” BI users, that use Excel to connect to an SSAS cube and create fancy pivots and reports, maybe convert to formulas and create some nice reports/dashboards.. analytics.

Then you have people who only consume canned/standardized reports, through SSRS mostly, or maybe Excel Web Services… but they don’t create. Just consume.

You might even have power users, who take Report Builder and create those SSRS reports for other users. Awesome.

But then, you have this tool, PowerPivot. What can you do? Hit databases (mostly… cubes and other sources as well), bring back data, relate it, and create pivot reports/graphs off of it.

But you better be pretty dang advanced as a business user to use PowerPivot. I could count on one hand the users (that I have dealt with over the last 10 years) I would feel comfortable giving it to and not ending up with more of a headache.

What do I think is still missing from the Microsoft BI toolset? Looking at Business Objects, the Web Intelligence. Universes. You create a Universe off of a datasource and expose it out to the user, they can create reports/ad-hoc whatever off of it.

Kind of like the ever elusive “Report Model” in the Microsoft stack that no one ever uses, ever will use, or has no reason to use. But in BO, they make it useful.

I don’t see PowerPivot taking the place of a Report Model/Universe, so where does it fit? IT Analysts making “pre” cubes before you actually make cubes for your users that just want to hit it with Excel and not care about anything else?

Or people who just want to create their own cubes in silos. Tell me how that lends itself to “one version of the truth”?

Either way, we will see how it evolves and hopefully find some good use for it. 🙂