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Excel in the Clouds

By Steve Jones,

I think that no matter what happens with Windows, SQL Server, and many other Microsoft products, Excel will be with us forever. It seems as though this quote is true: "Excel is a leading tool for data analysis today" (From Excel to the Cloud). Almost everyone that works with data uses Excel, including business users, and even Powerpivot didn't bother to try and build a better interface. It's built on Excel as an add-in.

Microsoft Research has built a new way for Excel to interact with data sets in the cloud, with an add-in that brings various analysis algorithms to data using cloud computing. It's built more for research and development, and not necessarily business, but it's an interesting idea. I know that there are often scale issues with analysis systems, and computing resources can be expensive to maintain full time.

The cloud , however, brings a more flexible way to scale up computing resources for specific problems. If you are involved in the analysis of large amount of data, this could be a great way to provision resources for people that need to analyze very large amounts of data. I don't know how the economics would work for large transfers of data, but the scalability of buying CPU power only when you need it can be very attractive.

The interface choice of Excel is another concession that it's just the best way to look at data. It also is very familiar to most computer users, and removes the need to construct any type of application for users. I know that most of the time that I want to analyze lots of data, I drop it into Excel because it's easier to manipulate and play what-if games; it's certainly easier than using T-SQL aggregates.

It also means that Excel is likely going to be with us forever. Between Windows and OSX, it's got to be one of the most used applications in the world.

Steve Jones


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