BI-NSIGHT – Power BI (Power BI Universal App, Power BI Video’s) – Data Insights Summit (Sessions)

I have no doubt that by the time I wake up tomorrow morning there will be a whole host of updates to Power BI.

So this week it will be short and sweet!

Power BI – Power BI Universal App

I am delighted to see that Microsoft have finally released a universal app. This is what some of the promise was with regards to having to create an app once, and then be able to leverage all the different platforms on Windows 10.

I think that this will lead to a greater adoption of not only the Power BI app, but also with Windows 10. As this then means that the users can use whatever they have at the current time to view their data.

You can find out more details here: Power BI Windows 10 universal app for desktops, tablets, and smartphones now available

Power BI – Video’s

I was recently thinking about what if there is someone new to Power BI, or new to data analytics and they want to get started using Power BI.

Whilst there are a lot of tutorials out there, I find that often watching a video puts everything into context, as well as seeing someone do something often makes the learning that much easier. Also you can stop, pause, slow it down to follow what they are doing. And this is an easy way for people to start using Power BI at their own pace.

You can find the YouTube Channel here: Microsoft Power BI – YouTube

Data Insights Summit – Sessions

Microsoft have released some more details around the data insights summit and what you can expect.

It is great to see that they have gotten some of the world’s best conference speakers to be there to talk about a subject that they are passionate about. And I have no doubt that there will be some great details and deep insights into Power BI.

I do think that this will be one not to miss, to get the inside scoop.

You can find more details here: Just announced: Details of sessions at the inaugural Data Insights Summit

BI-NSIGHT – Power BI (Widgets, Pin Custom Visuals to Dashboard, Mobile App Update, Content Pack Azure Search, New Visual Sankey BarChart, Best Report Contest)

Another week has almost gone by and the wonderful people from Microsoft Power BI are back at work!

Power BI – Widgets

As with my previous tweet, I had a sneaky suspicion that they were up to something with the widgets. And I am glad that I was right. And right in a good way.

It is great to see that now not only can you add an Image or Text Box, but also Video’s and Web Content. This will further enrich your Power BI dashboard.

Simply go into your Power BI dashboard and click on the Add Widget to get the above picture.

Power BI – Pin Custom Visuals to Dashboard

I know that I been waiting and hoping that this would be released sooner than later.

There are some amazing visuals and to have them on your dashboard just means that you can have a quick view, and see the valuable insights into your data immediately.

It still amazes me over and over again, how the people from the Microsoft Power BI team, are actually listening to what we are saying and voting for. In this case it was that every time you had a custom visual you had to click on the button to enable them. And now that is a thing of the past!

You can read all about it here: Pin custom visuals to your dashboard

Power BI – Mobile App Update

It is great to see that they are also consistently updating the Mobile App, because that is one of the key selling features and wow factors for when using Power BI.

In this update they have made some great improvements, I really think that it is key to have real time data in your dashboards. This ensures that you get the right data at the right time to make the best decisions.

Also having an indicator to let you know you are offline is great, so that you know how fresh your dashboard is.

At this current time, I am not looking to use R, but I have no doubt in the near future this will be something that we will be using and to have it available in the Mobile App, just makes it that much better and another great selling point to the business.

This week the all the updates for IOS, but I have no doubt that in the coming weeks it will cascade down to Android and Windows Mobile.

You can find out all the details here: Power BI Mobile Apps Update – January 2016

Power BI – Content Pack Azure Search

This week’s content update is for Azure Search. Which is another great content pack to have to better understand your traffic to your Azure Search service. This can give you some great insights to see what the users or people are searching for. And possibly even be able to assist them with their requirements.

You can find out the details here: Visualizing Azure Search data with Power BI

Power BI – New Visual Sankey Barchart

As with a content pack being released almost every week, it is great to see what new and interesting visuals are being released.

And this week’s visual is one that I think is really great. It gives you the ability to view your data, as well as put in a great wealth of related information. And it appears that you can put in comparison’s which make it look really good.

You can find all the visuals here: Power BI Visuals

Power BI – Best Report Contest

Don’t forget to enter the Power BI Report Contest. To be totally honest I would have loved to have had the time to put in an entry.

But between work and family life I am extremely busy! But I have no doubt that there will be a lot of amazing and WOW type of reports from the people out there.

There is still time to enter by clicking here: Power BI – Best Report Contest

BI-NSIGHT – Power BI (Publisher for Excel Public, New Visuals) – SQL Server 2016 (Temporal Tables)

It would appear this week that there is not a lot of news in the BI world. Which is a welcome change. I have no doubt that by the time I am finished this blog post or wake up tomorrow morning there will be some updates!

Power BI – Publisher for Excel Public

It would appear that I started this blog post just in time.

And it now appears that you can now install an add-in for Excel, and then tale your table, Pivot Table, chart or any Excel element and pin it directly to a dashboard in Power BI.

You can find more details here: Cloud Platform Release Announcements for January 13, 2016

Power BI – New Visuals

This is the first of two visuals that you can now get for Power BI.

I do think that this first one is really useful as it often is very handy to see a breakdown on how your data is as it goes through the different stages.

Next is the Percentile Chart, which is also a great visualization to have for specific questions or data that you want to visualize. And can often very quickly show where the drop off is, or the uptake!

You can find these visualizations as well as all the Power BI Visualizations here: Power BI Visuals

SQL Server 2016 – Temporal

This is a new addition to SQL Server 2016 which is most welcome.

I already have a server installed with SQL Server 2016 CTP 3.2 so I quickly read the blog post and got straight into the details. And tested it out based on the blog post.

I have to admit that it was really simple and almost effortless to enable the temporal support for the related tables. Either doing it with a totally new table or an existing table.

And then to query the data across both tables was once again super easy. I have to say hats off to the guys at Microsoft for making something that in the past especially in data warehousing has been so complex to implement and manage that now it will be really easy and simple.

I also honestly think that the performance impact will be so small that it will not have a direct impact on performance.

What this does mean is that going forward we will simply just have to query the data, and by default it will be slowly changing.

I also see the opportunity for doing snapshots of the data at a point in time, which if I understand it correctly could mean that potentially there will no longer be a requirement to snapshot the database every day. (Well as long as you have enabled Temporal support on your related tables that are involved in the snapshot.)

You can find out about the details here: Effortlessly Analyze Data History Using Temporal Tables

BI-NSIGHT – Power BI (Q&A for SSAS Tabular, Weekly Service Update, Lithium Content Pack, Mobile App for Windows 10 Mobile) – Azure (SQL Server Virtual Machines) – Power BI and Leveraging the Cloud

Even though I think a lot of people took time off over the Christmas period it seems that the Power BI team at Microsoft was full steam ahead.

Which is a great thing to come back to work and have all these updates and new things to look into.

Power BI – Q&A for SSAS Tabular

The reason for me starting with this, is that currently I really enjoy the capabilities that you have when using Q&A within the Power BI service.

My only gripe was that when I am directly connecting to an On-Premise SSAS Tabular database I was not able to use Q&A. And often the On-Premise SSAS Tabular databases are where a significant amount of time and development has been spent getting it with all the required information.

And don’t get me wrong it is great to connect directly and create reports and have real-time queries running.

But in order to really showcase what it is capable of until now I felt that Q&A was the missing piece. And it is great to see that this is something that they have started working on. And I have no doubt that this will be a welcome feature and something that I will put to use as soon as it is available.

You can find out about it here: Add Q&A capability for datasets based on Analysis Services Tabular Models

Power BI – Weekly Service Update

This past week’s update was once again a big update with a whole host of additions.

Once again I am only going to highlight what I think is significant from the list below.

Dashboards

Collaboration

Reports

Connectivity 

Excel Reports

Other

With regards to the Dashboard and Reports section I do think that the ability to export the data is really something that people have been asking for, for a long time. And it does give the report consumer the ability to use and interact if required with the raw data.

How often do we hear the question, can we export this to Excel? Well now we can from Power BI!

Adding the image to Text box as a Widget is another great addition. I think more so, that this now means that there will be the ability going forward for more Widget type of applications to be added into the dashboards. Which can only lead to some really great ideas and implementations on the dashboards.

Printing and knowing the last time a Dashboard tile was refreshed is also very welcome. This gives the users to take the information to a meeting, or to showcase the dashboard. As well as quickly identifying if the data is current and up to date.

Under connectivity it is great to see that you can now connect to Files on SharePoint Team sites. I know in a lot of companies where they utilize SharePoint team sites for all their documentation and related files. And they are often working directly with those files. Now with this capability it means that as soon as the file gets update, within the timeframe the report will be updated also.

Under Excel it is great to see that you can now open and pin the Excel Charts to a dashboard. This is very welcome as often your chart tells a very interesting story and instead of having to try and re-create it, you can use all the hard work that has already been done.

You can read all about it here: Power BI Service Update

Power BI – Lithium Content Pack

Another week another great content pack. This week it is Lithium, which enables brands and customers using social media to get the answers that they need as well as share their experiences. Which in turn leads to more revenue.

You can find out the details about it here: Analyze your Lithium community data in Power BI

Power BI – Mobile App for Windows 10 Mobile

This is without doubt the one mobile app that has taken some time to be released. And whilst I do understand that Microsoft’s direction is Mobile and cloud first and that there are a LOT more users using iPhone and Android devices I thought that they would have gotten this out sooner.

But without doubt it is a welcome addition for people who are using Windows 10 Mobile phones. And it looks to have the same great features as what has currently been released on the other platforms.

I am looking forward to see how this improves over time.

You can find out about the details here: Announcing the Power BI app for Windows 10 Mobile

And you can download it from here: Download from the Windows Store

Azure – Preconfigured SQL Server Virtual Machines

It is great to see that in Azure you can now have some help setting up a preconfigured SQL Server Virtual Machine.

In my mind there is almost no one better to aid with this process. I think they are managing the entire Azure SQL Server, Azure Data warehouse platforms so they will have a vast amount of experience as how best to configure the virtual machine. And I have no doubt that by doing this, they too can make customers get better returns.

You can find out about all the details here: Introducing a simplified configuration experience for SQL Server in Azure Virtual Machines

Power BI and Leveraging the Cloud

This is a quick plug on a previous blog post that I did this week.

It is just my personal view in terms of how Power BI is leveraging the Azure Cloud platform and how it all fits together. And it is quite interesting how well they have put it all together and how quick it really is.

You can read the blog post here: Power BI and Leveraging the Cloud (Microsoft Azure)

Power BI and Leveraging the Cloud (Microsoft Azure)

Whilst there is a lot of information about Power BI and Azure I thought it would be good to see how Power BI leverages the cloud namely Azure.

Personally I have read up and am well aware of what Azure has to offer.

I am sure that I am not alone, in that often I think is Azure really as fast as my own servers, in which I know what the actual hardware is, as well as having personally installed and configured the software. So what I plan to do here is to touch on each of the area’s that Power BI leverages in Azure and gain a better understanding of how it works. I will also give an explanation of each component and what it has to offer relating it to the Power BI Service. And I have no doubt that each component could be used individually.

I am sure we can all agree that once you start to use the Power BI service, it is really quick and responsive. Which in turn means that the Azure offerings or infrastructure is well configured and installed to both scale and perform for the required workloads.

In this blog post below I am primarily going to focus on the Back End.

Below is an image of the components that I am going to be talking about.

Web Front End (WFE)

The Web Front End (WFE) is responsible for the initial connection and authentication. Once the connection and authentication has been established everything is then managed by the Back End, which is where the majority of the Azure services are utilized.

It does use multiple components to complete the initial connection and authentication as briefly explained below.

ASP.NET

This is the web page that you come to when either looking to log into the Power BI service or interact with Power BI via the web browser or mobile application.

This website is part of Azure and once again it shows to me that Azure is designed to perform and scale really well. I have always had really quick interactions with Power BI, which shows that if you had to build your website and it became the new Facebook, Twitter or Uber it would be able to handle the required load.

If you want to read more about what you can do with the ASP.NET you can read the information here: ASP.NET

Azure Active Directory (AAD)

The AAD is where your user account gets authenticated and management of your AAD account. I would go as far as to say that this is very similar to your traditional Active Directory, but that it is all hosted and managed by Microsoft.

You can find out more details about AAD here: Azure Active Directory

Azure Traffic Manager (ATM)

The ATM is where it uses your IP address to direct you to the closest data center that hosts all the Power BI static content. What this means is that after you have been authenticated it will then point you to the closed data center to provide you the static content as quickly as possible.

You can find out more about how ATM works here: Traffic Manager

Azure Content Delivery Network (CDN)

What then happens in the background is that the CDN is responsible to ensure that all the static content is replicated to all the Azure data centers. This ensures that the static information can be located and served from data center that was advised from the ATM. This ensures that you get the required data from the closest location as quickly as possible.

You can read more about the CDN here: Content Delivery Network

Now that all the authentication and connection has been established we can now look into the Back End.

Gateway Role / Azure API Management

This is the first layer in the back end. The Gateway Role (or eventually the Azure API Management) is the interface between the public or internet and the back end Azure services. Users and people from the internet will never directly access any of the services directly.

As you can see from the image below, the Azure API Management is where you can create your own APIs, leveraging the Azure platform to ensure that your API is always available, secure and can scale when needed.

At the last time I can remember Power BI had released some numbers it was over 500 000 unique users from 45 000 companies. And that was at July 2015. I have no doubt, that the numbers have grown significantly since then. Related Article (Over 500,000 unique users from 45,000 companies across 185 countries helped shape the new Power BI)

I know that when I log into Power BI and it is using the Gateway Role / Azure API Management that it is really quick, which shows how well the Azure API Management works.

If you would like to find out more information about the Azure API Management and what it can potentially do for your business, please follow this link: Azure API Management

Data Storage Architecture

When it comes to how the data is stored, moved or accessed for Power BI, this is where we can reference the above image which shows the two Azure services that are used, namely Azure SQL Database and Azure Blob storage.

Azure SQL Database

Once again as we can see from the above image is that there are quite a few components of the Power BI service that utilize Azure SQL Database.

It is truly amazing that when you log into the Power BI service and start to use it, that all this information is stored, retrieved and access so quickly from the Azure SQL Database. Which as I have said so before, shows that using the Azure cloud services is really fast, scalable and optimized to do what it does best and to do it quickly.

Another thing that I would like to highlight with regards to the Azure SQL Database is that often they release new updates and new functionality into Azure SQL Database, which will take some time to filter down to the On-Premise versions. As for example they now offer In-Memory tables, as well as Row-Level Security, Dynamic Data Masking etc., which you can use as soon as it has been rolled out. Which I think is a great way to always ensure that you are on the bleeding edge.

I have no doubt that there is a significant amount of data stored in the Azure SQL Databases.

Below is a brief explanation of each of the area’s in the Azure SQL Database

  • Power BI Service
    • This is where all the Power BI Service related data elements are stored.
    • As we can see this contains all overall information with regards to each tenant.
  • Dataset
    • This relates to all the dataset credentials information in the specific areas where of the Power BI Service.
  • Reports
    • This stores the new style of reports called Minerva.
    • As well as it stores the caches for the reports on the last save operation.

You can find out more information with regards to Azure SQL Database here: Azure SQL Database

Azure Blob

To be totally honest I have not had a lot of experience with Azure Blob and blob storage, but as I understand it, blob storage is a mechanism to store any time of information as a blob. After which you can then access it in a variety of methods.

When we relate this to the image above, we can see that all data that is stored at rest is stored in Azure Blob storage.

And based on the initial numbers that every user who uses the free version gets 1Gb of data, that is roughly 500 000 GB of Azure Blob Storage. And that does not factor in all the new users, as well as the Pro Version users who will get 10 Gb each. Whilst I know that these numbers are not significant, what I want to point out is that they are potentially storing a lot of data as Azure Blob Storage.

Which goes to show that it is stored and used in a very efficient manner, because when you are using the Power BI service, and it has to take your data from rest and then put it into the SSAS Tabular database, and then show that to you in the browser it all only takes a few seconds. Which is once again a great engineering effort and result from the guys at Microsoft.

Below is a brief explanation of each of the area’s in the Azure Blob Storage

  • Dataset
    • This is where it stores all the Power BI data that has been uploaded and is at rest (Rest meaning that is not currently being used)
    • It also stores all the metadata and credentials related information.
  • Reports
    • Here it stores the older style VRM reports. Which I have no doubt they moved that to the Azure SQL Database to get some performance gains.

You can find out more information about Azure Blob Storage here: Blob Storage

In-Memory Analysis Services Database

Let me start by pointing out that currently you cannot get an In-Memory Analysis Services database in Azure. And by that I mean currently you can use Azure SQL Database as a Software as a Service (SaaS), but there is no option for In-Memory Analysis Services database.

I have no doubt that this is something that must be on the Azure roadmap somewhere. In my mind this would be the next great thing to be released, which would complement not only Azure but also the Business Intelligence offering in the cloud.

Yes, they are already doing this with Power BI, but I know that I would definitely be using it if it was available for me to utilize in quite a few scenarios’.

So I am hoping that sooner than later there will be some details released or some information on how this can be used as a SaaS.

Dashboard Tiles Refreshed

Whilst once again there has been no direct mention of how they achieve this in the Power BI service, it would be interesting to know how they achieve this, when moving data via one of the Power BI Gateways, and storing it on the Azure SQL Database, which stores the dashboard related metadata, but then also has to move this data to the Azure Blob Storage for the actual reporting requirements.

However, they are doing it, they are doing it once again at scale and at the end looks like a very efficient and simple process. Which means to me that they have done their homework and made something that could be quite complex (and I am sure it is rather complex) and made a simple solution.

I would wonder if they are using Azure Data Factory??

It is interesting to note how they go about refreshing the Dashboard Tiles as shown below:

So in conclusion the Power BI Service is utilizing quite a few Azure services, and when I look at the entire Azure offering I have no doubt that in the near future more of the Azure Services will be incorporated into the Power BI offering.

We can already see this with the Cortana Analytics Suite, which is leveraging even more of the Azure services in such a way that it is seamless for the people using Cortana Analytics Suite.

And it does really impress me with what Microsoft have done in such a short amount of time, and it excites me to be working in this space, because it can only get better as time goes on.