Project crescent is a new application in the Microsoft Ad hoc reporting group.
Project Crescent is a online ad hoc reporting experience. The main goal with project crescent is to enable more simplified ad hoc reporting without the need of a client side applicaion.
In this blogpost I will show you what Crescent looks like and how it fits in with the other ad hoc applications microsoft offers.
The linking pin
Microsoft is pushing SharePoint to be their main platform to host the Microsoft BI stack and thus, suprisingly, Crescent only works with SharePoint 2010 (with SP1). After many late (very late .. or early depends on how you look at it) hours I managed to install and configure SharePoint 2010 with all the new SQL denali CTP 3 features.
Through SharePoint you are able to create a crescent report directly on a hosted Excel PowerPivot workbook (in the PowerPivot Gallery library) or through a BISM connection file. You can create a BISM connection file and configure it to point to a Excel PowerPivot workboook or a BISM (Business Intelligence Semantic Model) hosted in SQL Denali Analysis Services Server.
Both actions, shown above, will open Crescent in the current browser window:
Draging items on the section “Table fields” will create a table which you can transform to other representation types like a chart, table or card.
Adding more charts or tables will make them interact with each other without the user to have to “configure” anything.
There even is a “playable” scatter chart type which allows you to see, let’s say, sales by year interactively:
Who should use Crescent ?
With the birth of Crescent Microsoft now offers three applications in the ad hoc reporting group:
- Reporting Services Report Builder
- Office Excel
- Reporting Services Crescent
Report Builder is the light weight substitute for Visual Studio. Vizual Studio was formerly required if you wanted to make reports. Report Builder supports all of the features that Visual Studio does. With SharePoint, Report Builder can be offered to users as a “click once” application. But, in my humble opinion, Report Builder is the least “ad hoc” of the three. You still require technical skills in order to make any interesting report. I see Report Builder mostly being used as a “sand box” tool for power users. He or she would create a report and then hand it over to IT for further development. The IT department typically integrates it in a existing solution and save it to a source control (like Team Foundation Server).
Office Excel has come a long way from a business intelligence point of view. Ever since it started to support “Pivot table” integration with OLAP cubes it became the Ad hoc reporting application within the Micorosft BI stack. With each release of Office Excel the integration with OLAP cubes tightend and new features grew. With the release of PowerPivot and BISM, Excel has become a professional tool which users can use to create professional data models as well as ad hoc models (meant just for the reporting need of that moment). To use Office Excel the end user will need Office Excel application installed on his or her computer.
Crescent is a new data visualisation tool by Microsoft which is brought to the user using the browser. With Crescent users can make highly interactive reports without the need of any client application. Crescent reports are based on Microsoft Silverlight. At the moment Crescent only works in combination with SharePoint 2010. In my opinion Crescent is not meant for advanced analytics but for quick visual reports. One nice feature I am looking forward to is the integration of Crescent reports in Office PowerPoint presentations. But, coming back to the question “Who should use Crescent?”: I feel that Crescent is meant for non power users. Users which just want to do quick analysis without the need of installing a client application.