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Excel Services Being Replaced with Office Online Server, Microsoft BI Stack 2016 Update Release

An update to Microsoft’s Excel Services and BI in SharePoint 2016 on-premises services include architecture changes to the SharePoint-based on-premises Microsoft BI Stack is released as on Monday, Nov 21st.

Over the years, Excel services from an optional add-on for SharePoint Server 2007 is evolved as an inherent part of Office Online Server (formerly Office Web Apps Server) for on-premises. As a result “Excel Services is being replaced with Office Online Server,” writes Office team.

In addition, with simplified licensing model, SharePoint Server 2016 now comes only in Standard and Enterprise SKUs, with Standard CAL and Enterprise CAL licenses. The following points summarizes key facts about SharePoint Server 2016 licensing changes: “Refresh, OLAP connectivity and Data Model interactivity are now supported in all SharePoint SKUs.” “SQL licenses still apply, where necessary. (There is no change in this respect.)”

See the list below summarizes key facts about on-premises offering in Microsoft BI Stack 2016 release (verbatim):

  • All Excel web functionality including BI, viewing and editing of workbooks is now under one roof. Capabilities that were previously provided by Excel Services are now provided by Excel Online in Office Online Server.
  • Office Online Server is now a prominent member of the MS BI Stack. It requires a machine of its own. Deploy Office Online Server with Excel Online and bind it to SharePoint Server for SharePoint BI features to work.
  • SharePoint Server 2016 performance and scalability are no longer impacted by Excel Services footprint. Instead, Excel Online is deployed and scaled alongside other Office web applications using an Office Online Server farm.
  • 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.
  • If possible, we recommend 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 bottom-up. To leverage advanced SharePoint BI features provided by its add-ons, on-premises MS BI Stack 2016 should be deployed in its entirety. Otherwise, if you only need the ability to access external data (e.g., use data model, connect to OLAP/Tabular DBs), it will be sufficient to upgrade your SSAS (in PowerPivot for SharePoint mode) and deploy the Office Online Server. SharePoint Server itself does not have to be upgraded in such a case.
  • 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.

Here is a look at the history of Excel web solution on-premises and architecture of the Microsoft BI Stack 2016 for on-premises:

Diagram: History of Excel Web Solutions On-premises

History of Excel Web Solutions On-premises

Diagram: Architecture of Microsoft BI Stack 2016 for On-premises

Architecture of Microsoft BI Stack 2016 for On-premises

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