As my good friend Ken so astutely observed, a supported scenario with PI OLEDB 4.0 Beta 2 is for use in PI WebParts. This allows folks to bring more AF data into PI WebParts, than it currently supports through its native AF data access. For example, PI OLEDB supports more AF data references such as Formulas and Tables, as well as UOMs and other AF functionality. If you have been waiting for thin client visualization of AF, here is your chance to leverage the powerful combination of PI WebParts with PI OLEDB.
Question: Are there other PI Clients that can take advantage of this technique? Answer coming in a moment...
For those of you who watch the Engineering Plan like hawks (you know who you are), you may have noticed a name change for PI OLEDB 4.0 to PI OLEDB Enterprise (aka PI System OLEDB). This change implies that PI OLEDB Enterprise is designed for use with AF (as well as some PI data), and is a separate product from the existing PI OLEDB 3.x Provider. In addition, PI OLEDB Enterprise will be licensed under the new PI System Access (PSA) license, which was announced at vCampus Live (this was also renamed from PAL to PSA). Unfortunately this reverses my earlier statement on licensing; however, you should find that the PSA provides much, much more. Since this is not a forum to discuss sales issues, I encourage you to watch the PI Data Access product page for the Datasheet and PSA FAQ document, then contact your Account Manager for any follow up questions.
Answer: Given the ubiquity of OLEDB integration in Microsoft tools, it is also possible to bring AF data into Excel/Excel Services using PI OLEDB Enterprise. The External Data feature of Excel makes it relatively easy to write SQL queries and bring in tables of AF data, where this can be combined with DataLink/DataLink for Excel Services to create reports, charts, and dashboards with PI/AF data.
Bonus: Any idea how to do this with ProcessBook? (Hint: use ODBC datasets). If you figure this out, please test it out and post your results in the Comments section.
UPDATE 5/25/10: Full credit goes to Matt Ziegler (DataLink PM) for putting together a nice video ( Jay Lakumb) showing how to use PI OLEDB Enterprise in Excel 2010 and PowerPivot. Note, this approach of accessing external data works in previous versions of Excel as well.