Farewell to the Excel 2003 addin and the BI Accelerator

Reading the SQL Server technical rollup mail I get sent as an MVP (the same information’s also available at http://blogs.technet.com/trm/archive/2009/10/01/october-2009-technology-rollup-mail-sql-server.aspx) I noticed that two old products have just been retired: the Excel 2003 Analysis Services addin, and the BI Accelerator. A little more information on this is available on the download pages here:

I quote from the Excel addin page:
”The Excel Add-in for SQL Server Analysis Services has been removed to avoid customer confusion about support for this component. As noted in the details that accompanied the release of this product, Microsoft does not provide any support for this add-in and has no plans to release future versions. Newer versions of Excel include most of the functionality that is provided by this add-in; these newer versions are supported according to the Microsoft Product Lifecycle.

To be honest I’ve not even looked at either of these products for years, but at least in the case of the Excel addin I wonder how many people are still using it? If you have no choice but to use Excel 2003 (and I’m sure a fair proportion of Excel users still are) then it was an invaluable upgrade for Excel 2003’s built-in SSAS support. More to the point, the BI Survey 8 (which collected data from mid 2008) had 21.8% of Analysis Services users claiming to use it, more than double the number that were using Panorama Novaview and only 5% less than were using Proclarity. At first that seemed an improbably high number to me, but on reflection I think it could be more or less accurate: as BI consultants and developers we tend only to see ‘new’ BI projects, but what about all those projects we delivered 4+ years ago and haven’t seen since? They’re chugging along happily, ‘just working’ with no obvious need to upgrade, and their users are the people who are likely to be using the Excel addin. They won’t stop using it because of this announcement, but it might start them thinking about what they should upgrade to – probably Excel 2007, but maybe something else.

And Proclarity users are in the same situation: they have an ageing tool that is no longer supported, and need to think about upgrading to something. But what? At least with the Excel addin there’s Excel 2007 but in the case of Proclarity there’s no obvious answer – it’s not just that PerformancePoint/Excel Services/SSRS don’t have the same functionality, but if you’ve got several hundred briefing books your users aren’t going to be happy about rebuilding them in some new tool. I don’t want to go off on yet another rant about Microsoft’s idiotic client tools strategy, but I’m worried that we’ll start to see a series of migrations away from the Microsoft BI platform as a result of this issue.

9 responses

  1. Chris, I\’m a big fan of your blog. Could you elaborate on what you know of ProClarity\’s future? Perhaps a rant? MS Support Lifecycle states it\’ll have mainstream support until 2012…however, as you eluded to, we\’re not necessarily comfortable doing a lot of future development with this tool. Thanks for any info you can share!

  2. Excel 2010 will include many of the ProClarity features that you have listed. But it is a very late wake up for MS regarding SSAS browsing since the aquisition of ProClarity in 2006.

  3. …and even in Excel 2010 (at least CTP2), I still don\’t get the same warm fuzzy feeling I used to get (well, and still do get) with Proclarity… I have yet to see PPS withing MOSS 2010 but I sure hope for something much better than 2007… I guess we are like a lot of other companies… there is a small spattering of 2007, but 98% of users are with 2003 and show no signs of shifting (at least not to 2007/2010… more likely something else)…

  4. Melissa – there is no future! It\’s supported, but it has seen no new development for around two years now, so I don\’t think it\’s wise for anyone to build a future around it. In fact I think anyone using it now should think about migration paths… not that I can think of any good options.Will – I\’m with you. Excel 2010 is an improvement over 2007, but it still lacks some functionality compared to Proclarity. And frankly, I\’d have liked to see some obvious migration path from Proclarity to another tool, rather than just telling everyone to junk what they\’ve built and start from scratch with something else.

  5. Will, I am also waiting on what will happen to the nice tools like Decomposition Tree, Perspective and the Performance Map. I also waiting to see the integration of 90 degrees into the BI platform. I think it is a strange strategy to not show anything yet, on the server side, 8 months before the release of Office 14 and Sharepoint 2010.

  6. We\’re pretty much in the same situation. We\’re using ProClaritys fat client for OLAP Browsing and Analytics Server as central repository for Briefing Books, shared Measures and Sets. So if some PC features will be (or are?) put into sharepoint and some others into Excel 2010 it sounds that in sum the solution will be less featurerich and integrated…So what could a working migration strategy be?

  7. Good write-up Chris. I must admit that as the guy behind the Excel Add-in (I ran this product when i worked for MS…. ) it saddens me to see it go. This product was widely used and despite all its flaws, was liked by many many users. it gave the basic functionality many people were looking for. As for Proclarity, Panorama is now working very closely with Microsoft (http://blogs.msdn.com/bi/archive/2009/07/15/bringing-panorama-back-into-the-big-tent.aspx) and our goal is to give customers that are looking for a powerful solution to continue what they did wtih Proclarity to work with us. We have ways to minimize the impact on users and give them a smooth transition. Our goal is to ensure customers don\’t leave the Microsoft platform and enjoy all its benefits while using powerful BI tools. Stay tuned for a lot more coming from that partnership.

  8. With the November security and patch updates, we have a number of computers where the Excel Add-in has stopped working now – it will not allow you to create a new pivot table. It seems that Microsoft is determined to make this tool go away.

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