The tool formerly known as "Project Gemini" has been officially dubbed Microsoft PowerPivot for Excel 2010. This data analysis tool will enable Excel 2010 users to analyze very large data sets in seconds. And they mean very large: about 4 minutes into this video you can a demonstrator filtering 20 million records in an Excel spreadsheet. A second video provides a deeper look into this functionality and shows how you can sort, filter, and analyze millions of records just about instantaneously, even on a netbook computer.
PowerPivot works its magic through a new expression language known as DAX (Data Analysis Expressions). This language is very similar to Excel's worksheet function language, and allows users to create pivot tables based on multiple tables, such as vendor data from a Vendors table and purchase data from a Purchases table. DAX also allows you to use Excel-like functions, such as this
This formula would sum the Amount column from a table named Purchases. Some DAX functions are more complex, but in essence you refer to columns in a database table rather than worksheet ranges. PowerPivot links to Microsoft SQL Server 2008 and will link to other data sources as well. Users can choose to publish their work to Microsoft Sharepoint 2010. In turn, other users can use a web browser to view the data results.
The PowerPivot add-in has an engine that allows it to do massive number crunching not previously possible in Excel. As an added benefit, Excel 2010 users will be able to work with previously unfathomable data sets in a familiar Excel environment.
You'll be hearing much more about PowerPivot in the coming months. In the interim, you can keep up with the latest developments: