The case FOR Excel Services

I’ve seen plenty of disinterest and negativity towards ES. I said I would ignore it for a while, which I have. But always with this nagging doubt that maybe I’m missing something major.

Excel Services in MOSS 2007, is a way to recalculate a spreadsheet on a server. You can also get that spreadsheet to suck in data from the traditional range of data sources. You can also supply values in a manual input stylee via the browser.

First off I think the browser aspect is a complete lemon, but you knew that already right?

I guess where ES + browser makes sense is say insurance premium calculations, where there is a lot of calculation required but only a handful of input parameters. And I really think that is where the 2007 version is aimed.

It will be interesting to see where the 14 (officially twenty-ten now) version goes. If its more browser client nonsense that will be a shame, but if it is a richer interaction with a more powerful server that would be appealing. I can say with 90% certainty that ES will never run VBA, as I’m pretty sure MS have promised never to run VBA on a server. But it does do dynamic ranges – as I demoed at the UK XLUC.

But for ES to succeed IMO it needs some User accessible way to add some command based interaction. Eg running a Monte Carlo simulation 500 times on a range of inputs – users do that now in Excel/VBA – If they could move that directly to ES then I think it could take off. Perhaps VSTO/VSTA will fit in here somewhere? Or what about resurrecting XLM ?(yay! go XLM hoo-rah!) (as a server safe sub language). Whatever, but not Visual Studio as business folks are very unlikely to get access to that.

The other thought was the workflow designer from sharepoint, something like that for Excel would be great, especially if server safe.

What might also work well is being able to wrap a call to an ES workbook on some server, passing in the params and retrieving the resultset into the grid, all from a simple to write UDF, that is also simple to distribute.

As it happens I wrote a bunch of xll annuity calcs for a client a while ago, but I can see how an actuary could model it in Excel but maybe not have the time or inclination to re-write it in C# so it can run as everybody’s favourite tech – the web service.

I have done a couple of presentations on ES and there seems some real interest from business users. But there are a few systems/IT/admin roadblocks on the server/licencing side. I hope that gets sorted, even an easy to manage 3/6 month free trial would ease take up.

Anyone else working in ES?

cheers

Simon

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6 Responses to “The case FOR Excel Services”

  1. Dennis Wallentin Says:

    In my experience corporates need to have ES defined (=Excel Web Access, Excel Web Services and Excel Calculation Services) together with case studies before it’s possible to discuss how to use ES and implement it.

    What seems to be a real trap for many small corporates is that they are not aware of the need of the Enterprise version of MOSS in order to run ES.

    Another aspect is that MOSS requires Windows Server, Active Directory and SQL Server which not every corporate find acceptable.

    Yes, I work with ES but only with one large client.

    Kind regards,
    Dennis

  2. HPY Says:

    Hi,

    I’m actually pushing our financial firm to use SharePoint. I believe excel services has great potential. I understand the concerns about out business users (research team) not being able to write C# and use visual studio. All that aside, let’s make believe we are willing to hire an army of C# developers to create the code we need. We would like to convert our current VBA models to C# and deploy them into SharePoint Excel Services. The only obstacle we foresaw was the use of Solver functions but with http://www.solverfoundation.com/, I think we’ll be alright.

    I have posted questions about this approach to get some constructive feedback from people that may have tried this. Amazingly, I haven’t received responds. I was asking myself the same question. Am I missing something? Can’t this be done?

    Has anyone out there done something similar?

    Regards,

    HPY

  3. Harlan Grove Says:

    Begs the question what ES provides that Excel itself doesn’t.

    With regard to Solver, it’s lightweight optimization compared to what’s in stats packages like R or S-Plus or math packages like Mathematica or Maple. If one really needs numerical optimization, Excel and ES are the wrong way to go.

    Sharing data objects is possible without SharePoint via database connectivity against central data stores. As for user access, it can be done with file server user and group permissions plus some udf functions wrapped around some Windows API calls.

  4. Govert Says:

    Hi Simon,
    When the first version of Excel Services was being tested, I put support for the ES managed UDF libraries into ExcelDna(http://exceldna.codeplex.com). So an ES managed UDF library can run in the Excel client without any changes, using ExcelDna for the client integration. ExcelDna picks up the [ExcelUdf] attributes and exports these to Excel.
    However, I have not had any interest in this functionality, and every time I ask your question about who is working with Excel Services I get (at best) some vague comment about future interest. I think it will be a long time before it gets significant use.
    But, if anyone is interested, I’m happy to support ExcelDna for seamlessly running your Excel Services managed UDF’s in the client.
    –Govert–

  5. Govert Says:

    Oh yes – the attributes are [UdfMethod] and [UdfClass].

  6. Jack Jokinen Says:

    Strange this post is totaly irrelevant to the search query I entered in google but it was listed on the first page. – Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed. – Benjamin Franklin 1706 – 1790

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