This is going to be a very busy week for presentations Iam presenting with five sessions scheduled on the topic of data modeling!
Data modeling is the heart and foundation of a useful Power BI solution. If you can get the data model right, most everything else falls into place. Correct data modeling is relatively simple on the surface but can be challenging in practice. Evidence of the interest and importance of this topic is that I submit abstracts on a few different topics for these events and this is the one keeps getting selected.
Silicon Valley Microsoft Data Platform Meetup Tuesday, April 20 at 6:00 PM Pacific Time
Power BI Summit April 19-23 – multiple sessions and times
The session will be repeated three times for attendees in different time zones.
Supporting materials are available on the Presentations page on my blog here: Presentations | Paul Turley’s SQL Server BI Blog. In addition to to the material and demonstrations I present in these sessions, I wanted to share some additional thoughts which I have recorded in this short video:
This is an introduction to a series of posts and pages that will provide a comprehensive set of best practices for successful Power BI solutions. In previous posts, I have asked readers to suggest topics for future posts. Based on that and other feedback, I will be addressing questions and suggested topics. The topics list at the end of this post is a brainstorm list and I ask that you help me make sure it is complete. My goal is to provide a set of guidelines and practices that provide the best chance of success as you navigate many decisions about how to stage and transform source data, how and where to perform data shaping and calculations, how to model data and the best way to visualize the results. The biggest question of all may be how to make the right decisions so that the small project you design today will work when you add more data, more users and transition into a formal, managed solution.
There are many fantastic resources to learn about Power BI and rest of the Microsoft BI and reporting platform; but learning about Power BI and the choosing among design options can be like drinking from multiple firehoses at full pressure at the same time. I will be the first to admit that my “best practices” are “my opinions”. In many cases they work consistently for me but points are debatable and open for discussion. I’ll tell you when I have a very strong opinion about something being done a certain way, or when I have found a pattern that works for me and that I offer for your consideration. I’m not always right… just ask my wife :-). Please comment, ask and offer alternative points of view.
Rather than offering another training course or duplicating the contributions that so many others in the industry make through their blogs, courses, books and articles; this will be a condensed set of guidelines about the many choices you must make when designing a solution. In the posts to follow, I will reference other resources and discussions on various topics.
Best practice guidelines topics
The following topic list will serve as a link menu for future posts. Expect this list to be updated and completed:
Multi-developer and lifecycle management for Power BI
Certified reports, certified datasets & the self-service mindset
Just tell me what to do
Any attempt to apply universal best practices to Power BI solution design is a slippery slope. The tools are so flexible and powerful, and the requirements of each project are so varied that it is challenging to establish a set of steps or rules that, if followed, will always yield the absolute best design for a given scenario. With that out of the way, I’ll say this: In my job, I see a lot of poorly-designed Power BI projects. I’ve worked with dozens or scores (maybe even hundreds?) of consulting clients who bring us projects – some partially completed, some finished, and many that are just broken – to be fixed or completed. My reactions range from “that’s just downright wrong” to “hmmm… I wouldn’t have done it that way but I guess it will work for the time being”. I try not to cast stones and do, on occasion, realize that others have found a better way to solve a problem. I don’t have all the answers but I do have a lot of experience with Microsoft Business Intelligent solution design, and have learned many good practices and design patterns from other community leaders and many successful projects over the past twenty or so years.
A little less conversation and a little more action
Let’s start with a simplified flowchart and condensed decision tree. This first whiteboard drawing is the first half of the Power BI design process, ending with the data model, before measures, visualization and solution delivery. There is a lot more but I think this is a good starting point.
This is a question that comes up all the time. Power BI licensing is not complicated but a common challenge is that the person who sets up a new Power BI subscription and tenant within an organization is often not the same person who manages Office 365 or Azure service licensing for the organization. I’ve consulted on projects for several organizations where folks just didn’t know who to talk to or how to proceed after testing the water with Power BI. After setting up a new subscription, IT professionals and business data analysts often don’t know how to license Power BI for company use and share reports and datasets with others.
This post will show you how licenses are assigned to users and, more importantly, what to request from your support desk or administrators who may be unfamiliar with Power BI and Office 365 user licensing. Keep reading for background information about why this is important and necessary.
You can use Power BI in one of three modes:
1) If you’re a one-person organization or don’t need to securely share content online with anyone, you can just use Power BI for free. Yep, free. No feature limits.
2) If your organization has a few hundred users or less, you will need to buy a Power BI Pro license for every user to author or view reports. Unless you publish report content publicly to the web, every user must have a Pro license – period.
3) If you have several hundred users or you have so much data that you need to manage it with dedicated capacity, it may be cost-effective to purchase a Premium capacity tenant for a few thousand dollars a month. Pro licenses are still required to publish reports but anyone in the organization can view published reports online or an on-premises Power BI Report Server.
Power BI Subscription Basics
Let’s say that I work for XYZ company and my work address is Paul@xyz.com. Assuming that a Power BI subscription doesn’t yet exist, if I go to PowerBI.com and setup an account using my email address, I have created a Power BI subscription for my company that is a tenant within the Power BI service. I could be the janitor for a multinational corporation but I am now the administrator of the tenant.
By way of definitions; the Power BI Service is the entire Power BI offering within the Microsoft Azure cloud. At any time, it could encompass hundreds of virtual machines geolocated in data centers throughout the world. When you subscribe to the service, you are – in effect – renting some space within the service. The “space” that you rent and manage for your subscription is called a tenant. It’s sort of like renting some office space or an apartment in a large building. You don’t really own it but you are paying for the right to live there. You can read about these and other administrative concepts here.
After setting up a new Power BI subscription, you really have one of two options:
1) If you have the authority to purchase licensing and manage services on behalf of your organization, proceed to purchase and assign licenses for report developers and users.
2) Make a service request or contact the appropriate administrator within your organization to add and assign licenses. This might be your help desk, systems or operations admin or Office/cloud services administrator.
The Admin Take-Over
After a “less privileged” user sets up the first Power BI subscription for the organization, no one else can do the same. This can be a little confusing if some person in Finance sets-up a trial account and then a BI developer tries to do the same thing. If the organization plans to move-forward with a governed Power BI tenant, they can perform an “Admin Take-Over”. Contrary to what the name suggests, this is not the same as a government coupe with troopers storming the building in Kevlar vests and automatic weapons. It simply means that an administrator assumes control of the new tenant and transfers admin rights from the person who established the subscription the appropriate person(s). Adam Saxton describes who this works in this Guy-In-A-Cube installment.
Following the Power BI World Tour, Seattle event on Oct 30, please join me for a full-day of deep learning. That’s right… it’s on Oct 31st so put on your Wonder Woman or Captain America costume and get ready to exercise your super powers with Power Query and Power BI! You will learn to master Power Query extensively from Beginner to Advanced. The other session taught at the same time by Brian Grant is “Power BI: Enhance Your Data Model with DAX” but ya gotta pick one. You can learn more about the Power BI World Tour and the Academy by following these events on Twitter and LinkedIn using the links at the bottom of this post, or search these hashtags:
#PowerBIUG | #PowerBI | @pbiusergroup | #PowerBIUGAcademy | #PBIWorldTour
The foundations of a Business Intelligence solution are data transformations, data wrangling, data cleansing and ETL. A well-crafted Power BI project rests on Power Query and the queries that define the data model, calculations and report visuals. This full-day session will teach you how to lay the foundation for a Power BI solution with simple and advanced Power Query techniques.
Learn from Paul Turley, ten-year Microsoft Data Platform MVP and veteran BI Solution Architect. You will learn best practice design patterns, tricks, shortcuts and proven techniques to improve your skills and add immediate value to your projects. Power Query is everywhere – and growing.
The skills and techniques taught in this workshop apply to Power BI Desktop, the “Get Data” feature in Excel 2016+, SQL Server Analysis Services 2017+ (SSAS), Azure Analysis Services (AAS) and Data Flows in the Power BI Common Data Service (CDS). You will learn through exercises and instructor-led hands-on demos. Bring your laptop with the latest version of Power BI Desktop installed. The rest will be provided. We will cover material from basics through advanced. Each exercise is separate so you can absorb only what you need to learn, based on your prior experience, needs and skill level.
Power Query Basics
Quick tour of the Power Query interface & essentials
Creating and managing queries
Adding and editing steps
Recovery and project management
Essential best practices
Managing data sources
Working with folder paths, web URIs & database connections
Referencing & Duplicating queries
Consolidating queries, building base queries & dependency chains
Loading queries into data model tables
Basic error handling & debugging
Data Sources & Structures
Flat CSV files
Irregular text files (headings & totals)
JSON (complex, with nested & ragged hierarchies)
Excel (single sheet/table, multiple sheets/tables)
Folders & file collections
Web pages a page tables
Web APIs & web service endpoints
Essential Query Techniques
Managing data types
Applying correct naming conventions
Working with Date & Time values
Splitting & formatting columns
De-duplicating & grouping
Pivot, Unpivot & Transpose
Custom columns & expression basics
Extracting tables from a data sources to supporting essential modeling for Power BI report design:
Slicer & calculation-driver tables
Advanced Power Query Techniques
Working with M: The Data Mashup language
M function essentials
Prioritized learning (what’s most important)
Using & managing parameters
Using the #shared object for internal documentation, examples & code syntax
Understanding M objects (values, tables, lists & records)
Number, Date, Time & Text manipulation M functions
Create a Date lookup/dimension table using M & Power Query
Create a Time series lookup/dimension table using M & Power Query
Why do I need a Date dimension in Power BI?
Standard date parts & hierarchies
Columns to support time-intelligence calculations
Working with fiscal & special-purpose calendars (e.g. 4-4-5, ISO)
Working with query functions
Parameterized queries, API endpoints & user-defined functions
Putting it Together
Queries to support data model construction
Queries used to support report visuals
Deploy a report, configure the on-premises gateway
Use query parameters to schedule refresh in a deployed Power BI solution
This is a post about a post about a post. Thanks to those of you who are entering comments in the original May 12 post titled SQL, M or DAX? This is a popular topic. And thanks to Adam Saxton for mentioning this post in his Guy in A Cube Weekly Roundup.
This is a HUUUUGE topic and I can tell that I’ve struck a chord with many BI practitioners by bringing it up. Please post your comments and share your ideas. I’m particularly interested in hearing your challenging questions and your thoughts about the pros-and-cons of some less-obvious choices about whether to implement transformations & calculations in SQL, M or DAX.
This week, I have had engaging conversations on this topic while working on a Power BI consulting project for a large municipal court system. As a consultant, I’ve had three weeks of experience with their data and business environment. The internal staff have spent decades negotiating the intricacies and layers upon layers of business process so of course, I want to learn from their experience but I also want to cautiously pursue opportunities to think outside the box. That’s why they hired me.
Tell me if this situation resonates with you… Working with a SQL Server database developer who is really good with T-SQL but fairly new to Power BI & tabular modeling, we’re building a data model and reports sourced from a line-of-business application’s SQL Server database. They’ve been writing reports using some pretty complicated SQL queries embedded in SSRS paginated reports. Every time a user wants a new report, a request is sent to the IT group. A developer picks up the request, writes some gnarly T-SQL query with pre-calculated columns and business rules. Complex reports might take days or weeks of development time. I needed to update a dimension table in the data model and needed a calculated column to differentiate case types. Turns out that it wasn’t a simple addition and his response was “I’ll just send you the SQL for that…you can just paste it”. The dilemma here is that all the complicated business rules had already been resolved using layers of T-SQL common table expressions (CTEs), nested subqueries and CASE statements. It was very well-written SQL and it would take considerable effort to re-engineer the logic into a dimensional tabular model to support general-use reporting. After beginning to nod-off while reading through the layers of SQL script, my initial reaction was to just paste the code and be done with it. After all, someone had already solved this problem, right?
The trade-off by using the existing T-SQL code is that the calculations and business rules are applied at a fixed level of granularity and within a certain business context. The query would need to be rewritten to answer different business questions. If we take the “black box” approach and paste the working and tested SQL script into the Power Query table definition, chances are that we won’t be able to explain the query logic in a few months, after we’ve moved on and forgotten this business problem. If you are trying to create a general-purpose data model to answer yet-to-be-defined questions, then you need to use design patterns that allow developers and users to navigate the model at different levels of grain across different dimension tables, and in different filtering contexts. This isn’t always the right answer but in this case, I am recommending that we do as little data merging, joining and manipulation as possible in the underlying source queries. But, the table mapping between source and data model are not one-to-one. In some cases, two or three source tables are combined using SQL joins, into a flattened and simplified lookup table – containing only the necessary, friendly-named columns and keys, and no unnecessary clutter like CreatedDateTime, ModifiedDateTime and CreatedByUser columns. Use custom columns in M/Power Query to transform the row-level calculated values and DAX measures to perform calculations in aggregate and within filter/slicing/grouping context.
I’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas on this topic.
The results of last month’s Power BI Global Hackathon are in! The Hackathon was facilitated by our our PUG here in Portland with the goal of welcoming global contenders in subsequent contest. Five teams entered the contest using publically-available data to visualize and tell data stories using our favorite data analysis platform. Congratulations to Xinyu Zheng and Ron Barrett for winning the challenge with their entry, analyzing Yelp restaurant star ratings. These were all great entries and you can view the contest results in the Power BI report below.
Here are the published projects that were entered in the Hackathon:
Xinyu and Ron analyzed ratings from nearly 1200 restaurant Pittsburgh, Phoenix and Las Vegas. Results compare ratings and reviews by restaurant and food categories, sentiment and key phrases in the review comments
I loved the creativity of this solution from Jeremy Black and Kirill Perian who analyzed alcohol sales statistics using infographics and bookmarks to switch out visuals on the same page. The presentation concludes on the last page of the report with an auto-advancing variation of “100 Bottles of Beer on The Wall”. Nice touch.
I’m admittedly a bit biased because this was my design, with a lot of help from Brian, Ron and Greg. We used a series of tables to prompt a user for Power BI solution business requirements and recommend fitting solution architectures and components. We pushed some practical and technical limits in our project and I’ll write a separate post about it.
This entry from Ron Ellis Gaut is a nice, clean orchestration of county health data, measuring health and comparing personal well-being and program efficacy.
The entry from Daniel Claborne emphasizes machine learning predictions performed with R Script, commonly used in data science. He actually includes the annotated code and explains the technique and the approach using training and prediction data sets.
The Portland Power BI User Group was one of the first and continues to be one of the most active in the international community. We meet on the 4th Wednesday evening every month in Beaverton, Oregon. Today there are many active PUGs all over the world.
This first week of the new year has been a lot of housecleaning for me (literally and figuratively… my office desk and cabinet will be clean by the end of the day!). Three years into teaching classes and workshops on being productive with Power BI, it continues to be a product requiring a lot of work to stay current. New features are introduced in every Power BI Desktop monthly update; not to mention updates to the cloud service and on-prem server. You would have to be a child of the 80s to get the Never Ending Story reference. Otherwise, it’s just a really bad flying dog – and pop song, which are both hard to explain, so we won’t. The point is that it’s an ongoing effort to keep skills, courseware and presentation material up-to-date.
If you’re like me, sometimes all these updates can be a bit of a distraction (we’re talking about Power BI again – not the dog, movie or song… case in point). I’m excited by the continual innovations and improvements to Power BI. However, the foundational rules of good design don’t really change that much. Effective data curation, correct modeling and good core visualization design are as critical as ever. The trick is to know which new features may be used to improve foundational design and which ones you can leave as icing on the cake for minor enhancements. Updating courseware and workshop labs seems to be a never ending task and I’m hard at work revising older material and adding new content to prepare for new events this year. An important topic I will continue to revisit this year is how Power BI is used along with other Microsoft tools to create different types of solutions. I’m working on a new presentation to describe all of the incarnations of Power BI, used to deliver everything from self-service desktop reports – all the way up to enterprise-scale solutions for corporate users with governed and secured data – and most everything in-between.
The first workshop of the new year will be a one day preconference before the Redmond SQL Saturday, on Microsoft campus Friday, February 9. You can sign-up for this event here. I’m working on a few others in the following months and will update this and other blog posts when they are scheduled. I hope to see you there. You are welcome to send me questions or suggestions about specific topics of focus. Just add a comment to this post, or reach me through Twitter or LinkedIn.
Since starting the Guy In A Cube series over three years ago, Adam Saxton has become the front man for Microsoft Business Intelligence feature announcements and Power BI how-to tutorials. Joined by Patrick Leblanc last year, the Guy In a Cube series features over 200 short video tutorials with at least two new clips added every week. The Guy In A Cube YouTube channel currently has over 13,000 followers.
I always look forward to spending time with both of these guys at community events. I first met Adam several years ago when he was a Senior Support Escalation Engineer for Microsoft who helped with a number of tough BI server setups. Patrick did senior level consulting work for customers in the field before joining Microsoft as Data Platform Solutions Architect. Adam and Patrick are natural born entertainers. With their deep knowledge and expertise with database technology, security and the entire BI, analytics and reporting stack; they offer one of the top online resources for learning and keeping up with the rapidly-expanding Microsoft BI platform.
At conferences and events, I rarely see Adam without a camera in his hand and so was a real treat to get them in front of my camera for this interview. We chatted about how they got started and how they continue to use their series to highlight new and important features, and to provide guidance to support the Microsoft BI community.
In this interview during the 2017 PASS Summit, we continue to explore the topic of this series of blog posts on Microsoft BI solutions for the enterprise. Patrick and Adam share their guidance about managing large-scale solutions, version control and multi-developer projects using Power BI, Analysis Services and SQL Server.
Between sessions at the PASS Summit, I had the privilege of interviewing Alberto Ferrari and Marco Russo; SSAS Maestros and BI industry thought leaders. Alberto and Marco are revered as expert trainers and practitioners of SSAS and Power BI solutions. They are also well known for evangelizing best practices using the DAX calculation and query language. We spoke about some of the challenges and learnings they have gained from years of large-scale project implementations.
Both SSAS Tabular and Power BI Desktop share the same characteristic in that the semantic data model definition is described in a single file. Compared with older multidimensional model projects, the single file approach simplifies much of the development effort but it can be challenging to coordinate projects with multiple developers. They shared tool recommendations to assist with project integration, version management and development. Marco and Alberto recommend a number of community supported add-ins and other freely available software to enhance Visual Studio and Power BI Desktop.
I sincerely appreciate these two gentlemen taking the time to share their insights in this short interview, and their many contributions over the years that continue to improve Microsoft’s industry-leading Business Intelligence platform and the community that supports it. A comprehensive library of resources, training, tools and articles are available at: SQLBI.com.
During the interview we talked about several different tools that they adamantly endorse for any SSAS developer to have at their disposal. From my own experience, in rough order of priority, I recommend :
BIDS Helper / BI Developer Extensions – This Visual Studio add-in is an important tool for anyone developing Business Intelligence solutions in any version of Visual Studio or SQL Server. It includes several essential features and capabilities for SSIS, SSRS and SSAS projects. It has been a community-developed and community-supported tool for many years and is considered by most experienced BI developers to be a core extension of the Visual Studio SSDT (formerly called “BIDS”) add-in.
Community developed tools like this help to spur future enhancements to the officially-supported capabilities in later Microsoft development tooling. I suggest that you carefully read the documentation for SSAS Tabular features in this tool because some of the options only apply to certain versions of SSAS. Some of the BIDS Helper features for SSAS 2012 and 2014 have since been added to the officially-supported designer for SSAS 2016 and 2017. BIDS Helper was initially maintained on the Microsoft CodePlex site (here: http://bidshelper.codeplex.com/) and has since been moved to GitHub here: https://bideveloperextensions.github.io/. It can now be installed in the Visual Studio Tools > Extensions and Updates menu by search for “BI Developer Extensions” in the Online section.
DAX Studio – This is a stand-alone application and the most comprehensive DAX, SSAS and Power BI calculation script and query editing and performance tool available. It is an open source project managed and maintained by a collaboration of several community MVPs and industry leaders (coordinators are Darren Gosbell & Marco Russo). The latest version and codebase have recently been moved from CodePlex to http://daxstudio.org.
Tabular Editor – An open source, stand-alone SSAS Tabular model design tool that runs outside of Visual Studio. It is distributed through a GitHub repo at: https://tabulareditor.github.io. The source code is maintained at: https://github.com/otykier/TabularEditor. It is described as a lightweight editor for SSAS Tabular Models built in .NET/WinForms and utilizes the Analysis Management Objects (AMO) library.
DAX Editor – an extension to SSDT that makes it easier to edit DAX measures in a Tabular project. It includes: DAX Syntax Highlighting, DAX Formatting and Textual representation of measures defined in a Tabular project
Extracting/importing measures from/to a Tabular model file (.BIM). This add-in is developed and maintained by SQLBI. It can be found in the Visual Studio > Tools > Extensions and Updates menu or downloaded from SQLBI at: https://www.sqlbi.com/tools/dax-editor.
BISM Normalizer – An add-in for Visual Studio/SSDT that can be installed from the Visual Studio Tools > Extensions and Updates menu by search for “BISM Normalizer”. This is an essential tool if you need to compare multiple SSAS Tabular projects and databases (including workspace databases) and then manage the steps to selectively merge additions and differences between objects. I have found this useful for integrating parallel development work on the same SSAS Tabular project but I will warn you that if used routinely to merge multiple changes to a single project, it can be a complex undertaking and not something I recommend on a daily basis.
BISM Normalizer is developed and maintained by Christian Wade, formerly an independent consultant and now a Senior Program Manager on the SSAS product team. Although Christian works for Microsoft, this is still considered a community-supported, third-party tool not officially supported by Microsoft. It is, however, the only tool designed specifically to perform schema comparisons and object merging in SSAS.
In our discussion, we also refer to these tools and resources:
VertiPaq Analyzer – An older tool (actually an Excel Power Pivot workbook) created by Kasper de Jonge, Program Manager from the Power BI/SSAS product team, that imports SSAS DMV query results and reports object size, object data compression rates and optimization statistics. It has since been updated and enhanced. This is a convenient way to get information quickly about your SSAS or Power BI model. The same information can be obtained, with a little more effort, by running DMV queries in DAX Studio or SSMS. Links to the original and updated versions are available on the SQL BI site at: https://www.sqlbi.com/articles/data-model-size-with-vertipaq-analyzer/.
Tabular Modeling in Microsoft SQL Server Analysis Services – is a Microsoft Press book written by Alberto and Marco that applies mainly to SSAS Tabular 2016 and 2017 projects. This is an absolutely invaluable reference and tutorial on SSAS design best practices and design techniques. Previous books from our Italian friends include DAX Patterns and The Definitive Guide to DAX; all excellent learning resources that I have in my book library.
Shortly after this conversation, Marco and Alberto delivered two sessions at the PASS Summit conference about DAX best practices and performance optimizations. A little later, Marco sat with Guy In A Cube hosts Adam Saxton and Patrick Leblanc to chat about these sessions. You can find that interview here. I also had a chance to catch-up with Adam and Patrick in an earlier interview during the conference, which I will share in a later blog post.
Conversations with Julie Koesmarno, Olivier Matrat, Aaron Nelson, Seth Bauer and Robert Bruckner captured in video interviews below…
Continuing my video blog series of interviews from PASS Summit, I had the opportunity to catch-up with several Microsoft BI and Data Platform industry leaders amid the crowds and between sessions. Stay tuned to this station for many more interviews and insider information about the Microsoft Business Intelligence and Data Platform.
I caught up with Julie Koesmarno in the Community Zone, a few days after travelling together on the SQL Train (aka “Oregon SQL Party Train to Seattle”) from Oregon SQL Saturday the weekend before Summit. She’s been a non-stop community advocate for several years, and continues to speak at events all over. Julie was an Business Intelligence consultant and user group leader in Australia and Southern California before joining Microsoft as technical evangelist. You might recognize her from the executive demonstration during the opening keynote at PASS Summit last year.
Olivier Matrat, Principal Program Manager (that’s Microsoft job title code for “in charge of a lot of important stuff”), talks about how they are hard at work integrating several products in the “Power *” suite. This is the first time I’d heard of all the “Power…” prefixed product names unofficially referred to as “Power Star”, but it makes perfect sense. Olivier said that we can expect to see tighter integration between tools like Power BI, Flow and Power Apps with more embeddable features for developers and solution integrators.
Aaron Nelson, Data Platform MVP and hard-core PowerShell enthusiast, spoke about some new capabilities he presented in his session about PowerShell for Business Intelligence. The new REST API will let Power BI and report server admins orchestrate server migrations and task automation with PowerShell CmdLets. He seized the opportunity to promote the PASS PowerShell virtual group that he helps manage, at SQLPS.IO. I’ve promised Aaron a follow-up post to demonstrate how the REST API works with PowerShell and the new MSBuild integration, so please watch my blog for that in the next few days.
I chatted with Seth Bauer, BI consultant and Data Platform MVP, on the escalator in the Washington State Convention Center between sessions. Seth has been on the front lines of the Power BI advisors community since the product launched. He cites Q&A Natural Language and Explain the Difference as examples of the most compelling features. He participates in PASS Summit for professional networking and to stay current with BI technologies.
Robert Bruckner is a Senior Architect on the Power BI team and long-time developer lead for Reporting Services. He told me that there are many exciting capabilities on the horizon for Power BI and other integrated reporting technologies that are still under NDA. He mentioned a recent announcement that the On-premises gateway will soon support single sign-on, delegation, load balancing and high-availability. It is truly exciting to see such emphasis on enterprise-scale capabilities for these tools.
While attending PASS Summit 2017 in Seattle, I had a chance to catch-up of several friends and industry experts, and I will be sharing these interviews in a series of posts. On the 1st of November, Pinal Dave completed his 4200th post on SqlAuthority.com – a landmark by blogging once per day for eleven years. Pinal shares this success story and humbly discusses his secrets about being the world-renound authority that we all know, along with some advice about tuning SQL Server.
Thank you, Pinal, for your time and all you do for the PASS community.
During the month of April, I will be delivering three full-day Power BI hands-On workshops. Each of these events will be the Friday preceding these SQL Saturday events. Seating is limited and many of these workshops tend to book-up. Follow the links to register.
The format will be the same for each event. These are intermediate-level workshops. If you’re new to Power BI, just a little self-study should get you ready to optimize your learning experience.
In this Power BI hands-on Workshop, we will quickly review the essentials and learn some advanced techniques to transform, model and analyze business information with Power BI Desktop. Techniques and best practices presented are from several prior workshops and years of field experience. Learn to use self-service and enterprise-scale Power BI capabilities; gain valuable skills to integrate, wrangle, shape and visualize data for analysis.
If you’re just getting started, please pick-up an intro book or use online resources to familiarize yourself with Power BI Desktop so you can take your skills to an intermediate level in the workshop. If you have the basics, be prepared to take your skills to the next level; learn to address data and reporting challenges with advanced design techniques. At the conclusion of the workshop, you will have a complete solution built from real business data, shaped, cleansed & modeled; with a dashboard and interactive report visuals ready for analysis.
Topics & skills include: Power Query/M, modeling and calculations/DAX, standard & custom visuals, R visuals. Data sources: CSV, JSON, SQL Server; query folding, scheduled refresh & DirectQuery.
Attendees should have at least intro-level experience w/Power BI Desktop or Power Pivot. Bring laptop w/latest Power BI Desktop ver. installed (PowerBI.com), 64-bit Windows & 4 GB of RAM (8 GB recommended), 2 GB free storage. Power BI subscription recommended, not required.
This just in from the Reporting Services product team:
“Power BI reports in SQL Server Reporting Services: January 2017 Technical Preview now available” This feature addition will allow Power BI reports to be published to a local SQL Server Reporting Services server, entirely-on-premises without using the Power BI cloud service.
NEWS FLASH: Power BI reports can be deployed to SQL Server Reporting Services web portal. The production-ready release is targeted for mid 2017. This is much sooner than most folks in the community were anticipating. An installable technical preview is targeted for January of 2017. This announcement was just made on the SQL Server Reporting Services Team Blog.
From the announcement:
Which Power BI capabilities do you plan to add to SSRS?
We’re focusing our efforts on adding Power BI reports to SSRS and on supporting the features Power BI Desktop offers for use within these reports, including a variety of data connectors and visualizations. Beyond the current Technical Preview, we plan to add support for
Additional data connectors (besides Analysis Services), cached data, and scheduled data refresh
Power BI mobile apps (viewing Power BI reports stored in SSRS)
Given our focus on Power BI reports, we have no current plans to add other Power BI features (such as “dashboards,” Q&A, Quick Insights, and others) to SSRS.
What can we expect in the next Technical Preview of Power BI reports in SSRS?
With the current Technical Preview, we used a pre-configured Azure VM to offer you a preview that’s quick and easy to try. Our focus for the next Technical Preview is on a version you can download and install on your own VM or server, a necessary next step toward a production-ready version. Aside from this aspect, the functionality will be similar to the current Technical Preview’s.
When will we have this next Technical Preview?
We’re targeting January 2017 to release this next Technical Preview.
What’s the release vehicle for a production-ready version?
We plan to release the production-ready version in the next SQL Server release wave. We won’t be releasing it in a Service Pack, Cumulative Update, or other form of update for SSRS 2016.
When will we have a production-ready version?
We’re targeting availability in mid-2017.
Can I deploy SSRS 2016 today and migrate to SSRS with Power BI reports when it’s available?
Yes, we aim to make it easy to migrate to SSRS with Power BI reports from SSRS 2016 and previous versions.
As I visit businesses, consulting clients and training classes, to teach data reporting and analytics; there is a recurring conversation. It is one that I have had for eighteen years. The audiences change and the technology implementations are a little different over time, but the essential conversation is still the same.
This happened again last week as I was trying to explain the unique characteristics of Multidimensional and Tabular storage to a client. I’m developing a training course where I needed to explain the concepts once again – and then it hit me! …these unique data storage and analytic technologies do what we dream about in science fiction stories and achieve capabilities we imagine existing in the distant future. Channel surfacing on television this week, I watched an episode of Timeless, a Star Trek rerun and a Star Wars movie – where time-travel, space-warp travel and teleportation were commonplace realities. Although fictional as they were portrayed, I think these concepts are very real in our technology landscape. Please indulge me as I explain.
We live in a Linear world. We reside in a place, work in a place, store and move stuff from place to place. Centuries ago, if man needed to move something (perhaps just himself) to a distant place, he would walk, ride a horse or take a sailboat. In weeks or months, he would arrive in another place. Today, we get in a car, navigate the streets, perhaps highways and Interstates and then arrive in a different place within minutes or hours. For longer trips, we board a large metal tube, sit very close to several complete strangers as we climb up into the sky; some period of time goes by and then we somehow arrive in a distant place along with our stuff. At 35,000 feet where the air is very thin, a jet airplane can travel many times faster; leaving an altitude where certain physical laws restrict speed, only to re-enter that atmosphere after it has arrived. To someone from the distant past, this experience would seem fictional.
On a daily basis, I sit or stand in front of my computer monitors, and see and speak with people in distant places. We have live conversations about the weather in their time zone or hemisphere. Through some strange but now common process, technology converts our speech, images, directions, documents, effort and thoughts into 8-bit network packets and electrons that travel almost instantly through space; leaving the earth for a short period, to be transported and reassembled somewhere else.
Years ago, when I wanted new stuff, I would drive to the store. If they didn’t have what I wanted or if it was too expensive, I would spend the day driving to different stores. Today, I “go” to the store on my computer and the very next day, my stuff arrives on my doorstep. We are continually inventing ways to bend space and teleport things within the changing confines of reality.
Data storage is much like the real world. We store terabytes and petabytes (numbers we can’t even explain) in a small space. But, to navigate through the linear storage structure of relational databases and files, the data might as well be thousands of miles or kilometers apart. In order to perform time-variance and statistical calculations, program code must access a group of records in one location to aggregate them, and then find a related group of records – perhaps millions of rows apart – to perform another aggregation. The query might need to perform this operation dozens, hundreds or thousands of times; before it can calculate the final results. One of the best examples is a time-series calculation where a query must “visit” records for each time period to perform an aggregation. The effort is compounded when the goal is to compare aggregate values and variances for parallel and relative periods (e.g. “one year ago”, “three years ago”, etc.) and then perform forecasting or regressions.
In relational storage, the query engine must “drive” from place to place, navigating the streets (file groups, files, pages and rows) to find the records. In an analytic structure (like an Analysis Services cube, or SSAS Tabular model or Power Pivot/Power BI in-memory model), the query engine performs a calculation operation and then teleports to a new location to find a different group of related records.
In a multidimensional cube, the storage processing code quite literally folds space to create the cube structure and pre-calculate some of the aggregate values. Rather than leaving all the data in a linear table, it actually moves data segments close together, reshaping the data structure (thus, the term “cube”). This approach required a great deal of complexity in both the software and the resulting data structure. Advances in computer hardware and software techniques helped simplify the approach. The in-memory tabular model exists in linear, yet fragments of compressed space – where the actual distance between adjacent records is much closer than it appears to be. When the query process is done looking up a group of records it warps to the next group of related records using a memory address. Instead of traveling through space, it steps out of it, like the jet airplane leaving the atmosphere, to re-enter in a different location. It takes much less time to run queries because it is not moving through all the rows of linear tables.