Blog Post

SQL Server “Denali”: Project Crescent


Project “Crescent” is a new interactive data exploration and visual presentation experience coming in the next version of SQL Server, code-named “Denali”.  It will offer a fun, visual, and powerful drag-and-drop ad hoc reporting experience.  It is an web-based end-user BI tool based on Silverlight.

At first glance it resembles the SSRS report builder, but the resemblance ends there as the features and functionality FAR out reach anything currently available.  Users are able to build and format reports based on “models” that are deployed to the server.  Each Crescent report is based on a PowerPivot model that can be created within Excel or Visual Studio 2010.  The models are deployed to SharePoint and from there users can create their reports through the web front end.

It is done all in a browser – there is nothing to deploy.  It is presentation-ready, meaning there is not a design mode.  It is not meant to replace SSRS or Report Builder as those are for creating sophisticated static reports while Crescent is for ad-hoc reports.  It is also not meant to replace PerformancePoint as that is for KPI’s and scorecards.

One of the interesting features in Crescent is called Storyboarding. This feature allows users to embed charts and graphs in Microsoft PowerPoint. The cool thing is it maintains a live link between PowerPoint and the underlying data.

Crescent uses the VertiPaq engine and DAX via BISM.  It requires SharePoint and SSRS and works in SSRS SharePoint Integrated mode (not in native mode).

You can launch Crescent multiple ways: 1) If you have a PowerPivot gallery that has workbooks that contain PowerPivot models, then select a workbook and click on “Create Crescent Report”  2) In the next version of PowerPivot you will be able to save PowerPivot models while in Excel to the SharePoint server in a shared documents site, then select the model in SharePoint and click on “Create Crescent Report”.  The data source type used will be the new BISM which uses stored credentials  3) In BIDS, create a BISM model and publish it to the analysis server, and then within Crescent select the BISM model.

Note that Project “Crescent” is not in Denali CTP1.  The first public CTP Crescent is currently planned for the next CTP of Denali, due this summer.

Another limitation in the upcoming CTP release is that in SSAS, models built using the multidimensional project will not support DAX queries (and thereby Crescent, which uses DAX to retrieve data from the model).  So Crescent will only work with a tabular project.  Microsoft has said they recognize that removing this restriction is very important for customers with existing Analysis Services solutions to be able to upgrade to SQL Server “Denali” and leverage Crescent.

More info:

A short demo was made at PASS Summit 2010 (requires PASS account – Day 1, about 1:30 mark.  8 Minutes long, presented by Amir Netz, Microsoft’s Distinguished Engineer)

Brief 4 minute interview with Amir Netz

Extended demo from TechEd 2011 called Abundantly “Crescent”: Demos Galore


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