Data Access and Consumption with WCF Data Services and PowerPivot

It’s been a while since my last post but I’ve changed job a few weeks ago and I was in the process of adapting to the new environment 🙂

OK! It is time to sit back, relax a bit, have a cold beer, put some music on, and start writing!

A few weeks ago the number of visits on my blog exceeded the number of 50.000! So I decided to write a rather big article with a “celebratory” flavor 🙂

Though, before proceeding with the article, I would like to say a huge thank you to the SQL Server community and to each of you for supporting my efforts by visiting my blog, reading and referencing my articles, and commenting my posts.

As Data Access and PowerPivot are my favorite topics, in this article I will talk about a combination of two great technologies; WCF Data Services and PowerPivot.

To this end I am going to build a WCF Data Service that will be exposing data from a SQL Server 2008 R2 database as an RSS feed, then consume the data using PowerPivot and see how the data in PowerPivot is updated when the RSS feed is updated too.

Let’s begin by taking a look at the database schema that is used for this post:

Data Access and Consumption with WCF Data Services and PowerPivot

 

Now let’s start building that WCF Data Service!

We launch Visual Studio 2010 and we start building an ASP.NET Web Application:

Data Access and Consumption with WCF Data Services and PowerPivot

We then add a new item to our solution of the type “ADO.NET Entity Data Model”:

Data Access and Consumption with WCF Data Services and PowerPivot

We choose to generate the data model directly from the database:

Data Access and Consumption with WCF Data Services and PowerPivot

We set up the data connection:

Data Access and Consumption with WCF Data Services and PowerPivot

Data Access and Consumption with WCF Data Services and PowerPivot

 

We then select the database objects to be included in the data model that will be generated:

Data Access and Consumption with WCF Data Services and PowerPivot

The data model is ready:

Data Access and Consumption with WCF Data Services and PowerPivot

We then add another new item to the solution of the type “WCF Data Service”:

Data Access and Consumption with WCF Data Services and PowerPivot

We also modify the source code as follows (this is only for demo purposes, in real-life you should be careful with the level of access you provide to your data):

Data Access and Consumption with WCF Data Services and PowerPivot

Well, that’s it! We run the solution and this is what we get in Internet Explorer:

Data Access and Consumption with WCF Data Services and PowerPivot

The data is exposed as an RSS feed!
The data service is now ready.

We copy the URL to the clipboard:
http://localhost:1336/dataService.svc/

Now, for consuming the data service we are going to use PowerPivot.

We launch Excel 2010, and then the PowerPivot dialog. We then click on the “From Data Feeds” button on the ribbon and we use as the Data Feed URL the URL we earlier copied to the clipboard (that is the URL for the Data Service):

Data Access and Consumption with WCF Data Services and PowerPivot

We test the connection and we see that everything works well; our RSS Feed is up and running:

Data Access and Consumption with WCF Data Services and PowerPivot

We click on “Next” and we then select the tables to be imported:

Data Access and Consumption with WCF Data Services and PowerPivot

We click on “Finish” and we see that all the records were imported successfully:

Data Access and Consumption with WCF Data Services and PowerPivot

We then click on “PivotTable” on the ribbon and we select to build a “Chart and a table (vertical)”:

Data Access and Consumption with WCF Data Services and PowerPivot

And this is what we get after visually building a simple query in the Excel Workbook using PowerPivot:

Data Access and Consumption with WCF Data Services and PowerPivot

Now here comes the fun part. I am going to modify the contents of the “Customers” table so that most of the customers have as location the value “NIC” (yes, this stands for Nicosia :).

So 16 out of the 20 customers will now have “NIC” set as their location and each of the rest of the customers will have a different, unique location. After the data modification this is what we get in SSMS:

Data Access and Consumption with WCF Data Services and PowerPivot

 

But how are these data modifications reflected in PowerPivot? It is actually very easy. We just enter into the PowerPivot dialog again and click on the “Refresh” button:

Data Access and Consumption with WCF Data Services and PowerPivot

Then back in our Excel Workbook, we perform again the aggregation and we see that the chart is also updated:

Data Access and Consumption with WCF Data Services and PowerPivot

 

What exactly happened when we clicked on the “Refresh” button was that PowerPivot communicated with the database in SQL Server via the RSS feed and tracked that the data contained in the “Customers” table was modified. To this end, it re-imported this data into the workbook. This is quite cool, isn’t it 🙂

 

Data Access and Consumption with WCF Data Services and PowerPivot

 

Summing up, in this post we saw how we can build a simple WCF Data Service for exposing data via an RSS Feed, how can this data be imported into PowerPivot, and how can PowerPivot track any data changes thus reflecting them on its charts.

Until next time!

 

 

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