Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Ted Kummert at PASS Summit: “Data Explorer” Creates Mashups from Big Data, DataMarket and Excel Sources

Microsoft Corporate Vice President Ted Kummert described a new business intelligence (BI) tool codenamed “Data Explorer” for integrating data in on-premises SQL Server, cloud-based SQL Azure, Marketplace DataMarket and overlaying it on Excel worksheets. From Microsoft’s press release of 10/12/2011:

Today Kummert also demonstrated Microsoft code-name “Data Explorer,” a prototype that provides a way for customers to easily discover, enrich and share data to gain competitive advantage in today’s business climate. When combined with Windows Azure MarketPlace, now available in 26 worldwide markets, Data Explorer will help customers realize their data’s full potential. Customers are encouraged to begin testing and to provide feedback when CTPs are made available in the SQL Azure Labs later this year at

From the new SQL Azure landing page, which features a brief animation:

Microsoft Codename "Data Explorer"


The video is a bit more explicit on the CTP’s release date:


This new experience provides a new way to organize, manage, mashup and gain new insights from the data that you care about. Microsoft Codename "Data Explorer" provides capabilities for data curation, collaboration, classification and mashup, opening new capabilities and opportunities around the data that you own or want to work with.

The “Data Explorer” page offers additional information:

Gain new insights from your data

Have you ever had trouble finding data you needed? Or combining data from different, incompatible sources? How about sharing the results with others in a web-friendly way? If so, we want you to try Microsoft Codename “Data Explorer”.
With "Data Explorer" you can:

  • Identify the data you care about from the sources you work with (e.g. Excel spreadsheets, files, SQL Server databases).

  • Discover relevant data and services via automatic recommendations from the Windows Azure Marketplace.

  • Enrich your data by combining it and visualizing the results.

  • Collaborate with your colleagues to refine the data.

  • Publish the results to share them with others or power solutions.

In short, we help you harness the richness of data on the Web to generate new insights.

Start here
Discover Enrich Publish
Automatically discover data, as we recommend datasets and data services from the Windows Azure Marketplace. Rather than spending your time looking for data, let us bring the data to you. Easily enrich your data by combining it with data from other places. Use visualization tools to gain insights into your business. Seamlessly publish your results and share them with colleagues. Generate data feeds that can be consumed by other tools. Continue your analysis in other tools, such as Excel or PowerPivot. Control what you share with whom, securely.

Clicking the Invite me link opens an Account Signup page which promises “provide your email address and we’ll send you a code when we’re ready to accept new accounts.”

Actually, Kummert introduced Tim Mallalieu and Nino Bice who demonstrated a five-way join of business, geographic and demographic data for a fictitious Contoso Frozen Yogurt chain overlaid on Excel in a few simple steps:

Classify and select Recommendations for your mashup:


Add lookup tables:


Merge the added tables:


Overlay the data on an Excel worksheet:


Merge data or publish to an Excel worksheet, PowerPoint slide, Mashup, or connect to an OData feed:


The Data Explorer Team’s (@DataExplorer) Announcing Microsoft Codename "Data Explorer" first post of 10/12/2011 adds more details:

You can get started with “Data Explorer” by identifying the data you care about from the sources you work with (e.g. Excel spreadsheets, files, SQL Server databases, Windows Azure Marketplace, etc.).

You can then discover additional data which you may need, as new datasets and data services from the Windows Azure Marketplace are automatically recommended for you. Relevant data is recommended based on semantic analysis of your data, your profile and the context of your task. Rather than spending time looking for and acquiring data, “Data Explorer” allows data to find you!

But that’s just the beginning. “Data Explorer” then enables you to easily enrich your data to find insights by combining your data from multiple sources including the data you have discovered. You can easily refine, organize and mash up data that is in differing formats and also use visualization tools to generate insightful views and charts.

Finally, “Data Explorer” brings the ability to seamlessly publish and share your results in order to collaborate with colleagues or to power other applications. “Data Explorer” can generate data feeds in open RESTful standard (Open Data Protocol) to be consumed by other applications and tools. Additionally, you can create results in Microsoft Excel or PowerPivot to continue your analysis in the tools you are familiar with. “Data Explorer” also allows you to retain control of what to share and with whom, in a secure way.

I’ve asked Roger Barga how “Data Explorer” relates to Microsoft Research’s forthcoming “Excel DataScope” project that I described in my August 2011 Microsoft's, Google's big data plans give IT an edge article for If and when he replies, I’ll update this post. I asked the same question in a Relationship between "Data Explorer" and Microsoft Reasearch's "Excel DataScope" Project? (first) thread in the Microsoft codename Data Explorer forum.