In a nutshell the Microsoft Gemini project is about two things:
- Giving end users more powerful desktop-based OLAP capabilities.
- Giving IT departments the ability to better control organizational data assets.
Desktop-based OLAP capabilities will be achieved as an extension to Microsoft Excel. Better control of organizational data assets (and spreadmarts) will be achieved via tight integration of Gemini spreadsheets with SharePoint Server. Better control means better visibility into previously isolated data sets, improved ability to established authoritative data sets and analytics, and improved sharing of information. Much has been written about Gemini so I’ll leave it to you to Google (or Bing) Gemini.
What I really like about the Gemini project is the approach, or philosophy if you want to call it that. Rather than “fight” the spreadsheet users, join them. Someone involved with the Gemini project must have recognized that continuing to slap users on the wrists for contributing to spreadmarts is the wrong approach and counter-productive. Instead, why not provide an easy mechanism to capture their data/analytics in a controlled server environment without confronting them with policies and lectures that force Excel users “underground” and exacerbate the rifts between IT and the business. At the same time, embrace the popularity, agility, and ubiquity of Microsoft Excel by providing powerful new OLAP features the further increase a user’s ability to quickly capture, model and analyze business data.
The Gemini philosophy of emphasizing user business agility (desktop OLAP) and centralized data capture (SharePoint integration) over rigid data control mechanisms is a refreshing approach. An approach that will hopefully see wider adoption in IT. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Microsoft address the proliferation of Access databases in the same manner.
Not to be treated lightly is the area of records management and the need to ensure that organizational records/data (whether they exist in Excel spreadsheets or Access databases) are governed in an effective and timely manner. Gemini helps facilitate a solution to that problem for OLAP data by providing tight integration with SharePoint where information management policies can be applied to published Gemini spreadsheets. But it doesn’t solve the entire problem. If Gemini spreadsheets contain records that need to be governed by disposition policies, and the users do not publish those spreadsheets to SharePoint … well … you obviously continue to face the risks of having uncontrolled data scattered about the company on users’ desktops.
Update (Sep 11, 2009):
Found this suite of YouTube videos explaining Gemini: http://www.youtube.com/user/geminute. I haven’t watched any of them yet. Drop me a comment and let know what you think.