Microsoft Announces Updates For Excel Services And BI In SharePoint 2016

Microsoft has announced some new updates with SharePoint Server 2016 BI. This update includes architecture changes to the SharePoint-based on-premises Microsoft BI Stack along with the way in which you will be able to take advantage from upgrading your BI farms to SharePoint Server 2016, SQL 2016 and Office Online Server with Excel Online. You will also be able to examine several aspects, such as upgrade-ability, backward compatibility, and licensing.
The diagram, provided below, will be able to help you understand that Excel Services has evolved from an optional add-on application for SharePoint 2007 to an inherent part of Office Online Server for on-premises. However, in the latest 2016 release, Excel Services capabilities are now moving to Office Online Server, which earlier was known as Office Web Apps Server, and as a result Excel Services is being replaced with Office Online Server.
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Let us now look at the main advantages of moving to Office Online Server along with the latest version of Excel in your BI deployment, as per the official blog:
  • More Excel features—Additional features include the ability to search in Pivot Table filters, number formatting, ability to view and insert comments and the addition of Excel JS APIs.

  • Robust, unified deployment—You can deploy it with other Office Web apps. Use it for viewing, editing and BI.

  • Basic Excel BI capabilities with SharePoint Standard CAL—Use data model and/or access external data. Refresh and save your refreshed workbooks.

  • Evergreen service—Always stay up to date, get many of the same features and improvements as Office 365.
Let us now have a look at the architecture of the Microsoft BI Stack 2016 for on-premises. The list given below provides you with the summary on the key facts about the on-premises offering in Microsoft BI Stack 2016 release, as per the official blog:
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  • Now, all Excel web functionality goes on to include BI, viewing as well as editing of workbooks under one roof.

  • Office Online Server is now a prominent member of the MS BI Stack. SharePoint Server 2016 performance and scalability are no longer impacted by Excel Services footprint.

  • Workbooks created in previous versions of Excel desktop client are fully supported and can be published.

  • Working with a data model requires SSAS (in PowerPivot for SharePoint mode) but doesn’t require PowerPivot for SharePoint add-in. The latter is available only with SharePoint eCAL.

  • Microsoft recommends upgrading the on-premises environment before upgrading desktop clients. This will allow new workbooks taking advantage of new features of Excel 2016 to be fully supported by the BI farm.

  • MS BI Stack 2016 on-premises should be upgraded from the bottom-up.

  • Office Online Server is evergreen. Meaning, it is now possible to keep end users on the latest and greatest functionality through frequent upgrade cadence. A lot of Office 365 improvements will now find their way to your on-premises environment.
Microsoft concluded by saying,
“With the new SharePoint 2016 release and Office Online Server, we’ve completed the move toward a unified architecture for viewing and editing Excel workbooks using Office Online Server. Moving to the new architecture provides users with access to the latest and greatest Excel features and adds new BI-specific features, such as search in PivotTable filters, and helps IT unify the deployment around one farm of Excel servers instead of two. In addition, we’ve simplified the licensing model, and you can expect Excel to be evergreen and keep getting new capabilities on a regular basis.”
For more information, check the official Microsoft blog.

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