Power BI is architected to consume data in a dimensional model, with narrow fact tables and related dimensions. Introducing a big, wide table in a tabular model is extremely inefficient. It takes up space and memory resources, impacts performance, and complicates measure coding. Flattening records into a flat table is one of the worst things you can do in Power BI and a common mistake made by novice Power BI users.
Table partitioning has long been an important task in semantic model design using SQL Server Analysis Services. Since SSAS Tabular and Power BI models are built on top of the SSAS architecture, the pattern of partitioning remains the same as it has been for twenty years. However, the specific methods for implementation have been fine-tuned and improved. The reasons for partitioning large fact tables mainly include:
Improve refresh speed,
Prevent reloading historical records,
Capture updated history,
Reduce database resource load
You don’t have to have massive tables to benefit from partitioning. Even tables with a few hundred thousand records can benefit from partitioning, to improve data refresh performance and to detect source data changes. There is little maintenance overhead, so the benefits usually outweigh the cost, in terms of effort and management.
When planning a Power BI solution, how can we plan for scale and growth? Like any technology, Power BI has limits but Power BI can manage a surprising large value of analytic data. We also have tools and companion technologies capable of handling workloads of data that alongside Power BI.
The Right Tool for the Job
You wouldn’t use a screwdriver to hammer a nail and you wouldn’t use a chainsaw to assemble an Ikea cabinet; so why would you use Power BI Desktop to create a detailed shipping manifest? It’s not the right tool for the job. The Power BI platform contains tools that are appropriate to use for different reporting scenarios and using them together will yield far better results than forcing tools to behave differently than they were intended.
Colleagues: if I have sent you to this post, it is because I respect you and want to make sure…
Even for small, informal BI projects, shaping the data into a dimensional model alleviates complexity, speeds up slow calculations and reduces the data model storage size. I conclude this post by reviewing seven data architectures and the data shaping methods with different degrees of scale.
If you are in the Chicago area and haven’t already registered for the Data Insights Summit, please join me. I…
A Gantt chart is an excellent example of where Paginated Report & SSRS were an ideal choice for the purpose. It is a running list of activities with the duration for each displayed as a horizontal bar depicting the beginning and ending day along a horizontal scale. The challenge is that this is not a standard chart type in either Power BI or SSRS/Paginated Reports. Furthermore, project planners may prefer to see activities as rows in the format of a printed page.
I started a series of blog posts back in 2020 about best-practice guidelines for planning and designing enterprise reporting solutions with Power BI. To make the topics covered in this series of posts easier to find and follow, they are listed on this page: Doing Power BI The Right Way – for Enterprise Reporting | Paul Turley’s SQL Server BI Blog which you can access from the main menu on the blog. We have a few more topics to go so check back and subscribe for notifications.
When should we use Power BI vs Paginated Reports for our reporting needs? You can use either tool to create different styles of reports for different purposes, but should you? Just because you CAN doesn’t mean you SHOULD.
- Can we use Power BI to create operational or transactional style reports?
- Can we create scorecards and dashboard-style reports with SSRS/Paginated Reports?
- Should we use a Power BI dataset as a data source for a Paginated report?
The following diagram depicts the relative capabilities and design purpose for these two reporting tools. See the overlap? On the left, you see that Power BI is optimized and best used to create interactive, visual reports, scorecards and dashboard-style reports. Contrast this with Paginated Reports on the right side, which is best used for “list-type” reports that continuously flow across multiple pages. SSRS/Paginated Reports was architected and works ideally with SQL queries, where filter values are passed into the query using parameters.
The December 2021 Power BI Desktop update introduced a long-awaited upgrade to the partitioning and Incremental Refresh feature set. The update introduces Hybrid Tables, a new Premium feature that combines the advantages of in-memory Import Mode storage with real-time DirectQuery data access; this is a big step forward for large model management and real-time analytic reporting.
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I just wanted to give a big big Thank You to Adam Saxton and Patrick Leblanc at GuyInACube.com for inviting me to participate in the Power BI Livestream yesterday. It was a blast and an honor to be hang with you the Saxton clan (even the sheep and the great dane!)