Creating a SharePoint Server Farm on Azure from the Gallery

16 10 2014

As many of you know creating a SharePoint farm for testing can be a daunting task. I volunteered to help troubleshoot an issue that was working with SharePoint Excel Services and it couldn’t be done in Office365. So, my first attempt was to grab the SharePoint Server 2013 Trial from Azure’s VM Gallery.

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However, once I created the VM, it turns out that SharePoint is not installed, which is what I really wanted. To complicate matters further, the download stopped because IE was blocking file downloads. You can change that setting in Internet Explorer options on the Security tab. Select the Internet Zone and click on the Custom Level button. Scroll down to the Downloads section and enable File download. Restart IE and you can get the file downloaded. Of course, we have to ask, why isn’t it already enabled on the VM since that would be the obvious goal.

As I was troubleshooting that issue, I happened to check out the Azure gallery on the Azure site and found a SharePoint Server Farm gallery image that I could use.

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I clicked on the Farm icon to see what it was. It does the multi-server farm install in Azure.

You start the process by clicking the green Create Virtual Machine button in the middle of the screen. And then you are off to the configuration parts. The next few screen shots will show you the basic configuration points used during the install. Click the button… and your journey will begin.

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This will open up the preview portal from Azure with a blade for configuring your farm.

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Add a group name and work your way through the configuration steps on the blade. It will create 3 VMs by default unless you select the Enable high availability checkbox under the password textboxes.

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Each configuration step will open another blade in the portal allowing you to configure the various servers to be added to the farm.

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Once you have configured the settings you are ready to create your farm. Click the Create button and the “magic” starts to happen.

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You will see the following tile added to your Startboard.

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It took a little more than an hour to set up the three servers required – domain controller, SQL Server and SharePoint server.

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If you click on the new tile, you will get an overview of what was created including resources and estimated spend. The next step is to log into the instance and check out what is set up. If you click the Deployment history button and then the Microsoft.SharePoint.Farm tile, you can see the SharePoint Central Admin URL and the SharePoint Site URL. Each of these blades provide additional information about your environment.

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Log in to Central Admin or the SharePoint site. And you now have a functioning SharePoint Farm in Azure. If you are using this as a testing platform be sure to manage your VMs (e.g. shut them down) to reduce costs.





Exploring Excel 2013 for BI Tip #14: Sparklines and Pivot Tables

7 01 2014

As I mentioned in my original post, Exploring Excel 2013 as Microsoft’s BI Client, I will be posting tips regularly about using Excel 2013.  Much of the content will be a result of my daily interactions with business users and other BI devs.  In order to not forget what I learn or discover, I write it down … here.  I hope you too will discover something new you can use.  Enjoy!

Sparklines and Dashboards

There are a lot of visualization possibilities with Excel. When creating dashboards, sparklines are a good visualization of what happened over a data series. My goal was to add sparklines to a pivot table so it could be added to a dashboard. After many failed attempts, I was able to get the following to work.

On the INSERT tab, you will find the Sparklines options. In my pivot table I am going to add Line and Column Sparkline visualizations using the MyVote submission counts.

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Here are the steps that I used to add this visualization to my pivot table.

First, I created a pivot table with Submission Count as the measure, the rows were the Poll Categories, and the columns are the quarters of the year. Here is what the original data looks like.

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In this case, I kept the Grand Totals for both columns and rows turned on. I am going to use these areas as the targets for the sparklines. I am going to use lines for trends over time on the Grand Total column. Then I am going to use the column visualization to show the category distribution on Grand Total row.

Adding the Line Sparkline

To add the line sparkline, select all of the data cells (no grand totals). Next, select the Line Sparkline option. This will open the Create Sparklines dialog. In the dialog, you can see the Data Range is already populated with the highlighted cells. The Location Range is empty as shown below.

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Next, you select the columns in the Grand Total column, and that cell range will be added to the Location Range field. This will put the sparklines in those columns and they will match the data trend. For clarity, the final step would be to change the column name to “Trend” and change the font color to white so the text is not seen. Here is the result.

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Adding the Column Sparkline

Next up, we will add the Column Sparkline. Highlight the same cells as before. Once the cells have been highlighted, select the Column Sparkline option. Select the Grand Total row for the location. This will show the distribution within the quarter for the categories. Changing the font to white does not hide the value in this case. I actually reduced the font size to 1 to make it nearly invisible. (There is no transparent font available.) Here is the result.

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I also added lower right corner by selecting the Grand Total column cells as the data and that cell as the location to get a consistent look at distribution. One other note, the Grand Total row is called “Trend” as well because they have to have the same name. But, overall, this was the look I was working toward.

Limitations and Nuances with Sparklines

Now for the stuff that doesn’t work as you would like. Sparklines are technically not part of the pivot table. As a result, the table needs to be static in shape. This means rows and columns need to stay the same in count and position.

I am going to add a category slicer to my example. When I select the Entertainment category, all of the sparklines are “stranded” in space. Quarter 2 disappears because it has no data and as a result the trendlines are no longer in the table. This is also true for the columns as four categories are eliminated by the filter. Worse yet, if you look at the filter, you will notice we have no poll submissions in the News category. When that is added the sparklines will end up in the last data row as opposed to the Grand Total sections.

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Sparklines are a nice tool to have, but you need to understand what is the best way to use them in the context of what you are doing.

Reference and Credit

I ran across this during my search for how sparklines work in pivot tables: http://answers.microsoft.com/en-us/office/forum/office_2010-excel/how-do-you-insert-a-sparkline-into-a-pivot-table/e072570d-b367-41f1-b2d6-2dbe939db311.  As I note with the limitations to my solution, the forum post above calls out some alternatives which allow for more dynamic approaches, but they also involve coding. Furthermore, the comment from Andrew Lavinsky (MVP) confirmed that this was possible and that it is supported in SharePoint Excel Services.





The Changing World of BI, A New White Paper for Magenic

19 06 2013

MagenicLogo2012x70tallIn the ever changing landscape that is Business Intelligence (or is that Business Analytics?), a fellow business analyst from Magenic, Chuck Whittemore (B), and I authored a white paper based on our experiences over the past months.

What I think makes our work unique, a BI architect and a business analyst came together to show our worlds colliding in the age of modern BI tools.  While the goal has always been to bring the data to the users and let them work with it as creatively as possible, the tools to do this were IT focused.  What we see now is that with the advent of in-memory, client-side BI tools, users are now able to get to this on their own.  Microsoft has invested heavily in Excel to make it a first-class BI tool.  Our paper discusses this disruptive nature of the new tools and how Excel is being pushed to the next level.  After all, Excel is everywhere already.

Enjoy the read and I welcome your feedback.

The Changing World of Business Intelligence: Leading with Microsoft Excel








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