BI-NSIGHT – Power BI (Embedded Preview, Data Insights Summit Day two, Desktop Update, Power BI Publisher for Excel, KPI App for Apple Watch, R in Power BI Webinar, Content Packs Intelliboard & Ziosk) – Azure Data Catalog (Generally Available)

So after my last blog post the Data Insights Summit came to a close with a whole host of new features and future things to look forward to. As well as then Microsoft already releasing what they had promised in the typical Power BI fast paced manner. So here are this week’s updates in the world of Business Intelligence

Power BI – Embedded Preview

I literally saw this just before I was about to publish by blog post.

And what you can see from above is that they now are providing the ability to enable application developers to add interactive Power BI reports into their own applications.

I think that this is a great option to have if you already have existing Power BI reports or data sets. It means that you can leverage this into your own application. Which makes it another option on how to integrate Power BI.

You can find out the details here: What is Microsoft Power BI Embedded

Power BI – Data Insights Summit

No doubt one of the highlights of the Data Insights Summit was Nate Silver delivering a great overview around the future of the so called “Big Data”. I have not had time to watch the video yet, but I do plan to very soon.

The second day I found was more around how the new features which were explained in my previous post can be used and integrated into Power BI and leveraged by both the users and customers.

It is great to see that you did have the ability to stream some of the sessions live, which is great for people who could not make it to the actual summit. As well as them providing the ability to watch them later (which I plan on doing)

You can find all the sessions to watch on demand here: Microsoft Data Insights Summit

And if you want to read about the second day of the Data Insights Summit you can read it here: Microsoft Data Insights Summit Livestream: day two

Power BI – Monthly Desktop Update

After the past week’s excitement around Power BI, it was great to see that it did not stop them from releasing the Power BI Desktop update.

It is good to see that they made some improvements in the Report View area with regards to the ability of where to publish your Power BI report, as well as respecting the model settings from SSAS MD.

They are always improving the data modeling experience and it is great to see the focus on direct query with regards to changing the data type of a column in your Power BI Desktop. As well as referential integrity on relationships. And finally the ability to direct query for Oracle and Teradata (Interesting to see how Microsoft have leveraged the offer to Oracle customers!)

And finally they had quite a few data connectivity improvements, most noticeably the R Scripts connector.

You can read up all about the updates here: Power BI Desktop March update feature summary

Power BI – Analyze Power BI in Excel

As it was announced last week I will not go overly into too much detail, but more along how important I think that this update is.

What this means and it is what I have been alluding to and waiting for in anticipation is that we are now starting to see in my opinion SSAS Tabular as a Software as a Service offering. Yes, this is just the start of it, but I have no doubt in my mind that soon you will be able to have SSAS Tabular as you do with the Azure SQL Database or Azure SQL Data Warehouse.

By enabling the people to connect directly to your SSAS Tabular Model via Excel you are connecting to your SSAS Tabular Cloud database.

I also think that as they have mentioned before there are so many people who use Excel and will want to continue using Excel that this gives them the ability to continue using their favorite tool.

I also think that is really great because you can have one source of the truth, which you can then leverage for Power BI and for the Excel Users. Which can also mean that it gives the user the ability to look at a Power BI report and then do their own custom drill down to understand what the Power BI report is saying.

You can find all the details here: Analyze in Excel

Power BI – Publisher for Excel Generally Available

Even though this was released a while ago, it is great to see that it is now Generally Available.

So now you can quickly and easily take your work that you have done in Excel and Pin it directly to your Power BI Dashboard.

Here are the details: Announcing General Availability of Power BI publisher for Excel

Power BI – KPI App for Apple Watch

It is great to see that they have created an app for the Apple watch so that for the people who want to have the KPIs always on hand, it is almost literally on their hand.

You can find out the details here: Always have your KPIs on hand with the Power BI for Apple Watch

Power BI – R in Power BI Webinar

This is just a quick note if you are interested in how you can leverage R in Power BI then there is a demo session happening on 14 April 2016

You can find all the details here: [Webinar] – The Power Of R In Power BI

Power BI – Content Pack Intelliboard

In this content pack from Intelliboard it gives you access to Moodle learning management system.

Which will enable the people to understand how to track and analyze their learning performance.

If you are an Intelliboard customer then you can find the details here: Explore your IntelliBoard data with Power BI

Power BI – Ziosk Content Pack

This is another great content pack from Ziosk which provide an unique dining experience. By using the Ziosk Survey Analytics the restaurants that use Ziosk tablets can gain valuable insight into the survey data. And I am sure that they will also be able to understand who ordered what, when and at what times. Which can provide some amazing insights.

You can find out all about Ziosk Content Pack here: Analyze your Ziosk® data with Power BI

Azure Data Catalog – Generally Available

It is great to see that the Azure Data Catalog is now Generally available. I have no doubt that this can be a key driver in enabling users to find the data that they need quickly and easily without having to send an email or go and ask someone.

It is great to see that they have added additional features and functionality, which will only be improved over time.

You can read up about it here: Announcing the General Availability of Azure Data Catalog

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.

BI-NSIGHT – SQL Server 2016 (CTP 3.1, SSAS Tabular) – Power BI (Cortana, Mobile App, Enterprise Gateway, Bing Content Pack, API Updates, Sentiment Analysis) – Data Insights Summit – Power Apps

Once again this week there has been a lot of activity in the BI space. Which is great and is definitely keeping me on my toes!

SQL Server 2016 – CTP 3.1 & SSAS Tabular

This week Microsoft released a small update to SQL Server 2016, and one of the features that I am looking forward to testing is upgrading an existing SSAS Tabular project to SQL Server 2016.

I am hoping that there will be some performance improvements, as well as making it easier to use the model now that it is based on JSON.

There were some additional updates that were released as part of the SQL Server 2016 CTP 3.1 which will be in the links below:

You can find out about the Analysis Services Updates here: What’s new for SQL Server 2016 Analysis Services in CTP3.1

And you can find out about what is new in SQL Server 2016 CTP 3.1 here: SQL Server 2016 Community Technology Preview 3.1 is available

Power BI – Cortana Insights

Once again the Microsoft amazing machine has released a whole host of changes since last week.

The first one that I am going to talk about here is the integration with Cortana. I think that this is a good move, as it seems that the world is moving towards using speech to do things, instead of having to type things out.

This is also another great wow factor for showing how powerful Power BI will be. And this means another way to quickly and easily find out insights from your data.

I also have no doubt that this will link up with the Cortana Analytics suite and will make things even easier in the future.

You can read all about it here: Announcing Power BI integration with Cortana and new ways to quickly find insights in your data

Power BI – Mobile App Update

Once again there is another batch of updates to the Power BI App, which is great to see. I know personally from my side that this will be used a great deal going forward.

What I like about this update is that they are focusing on both the iPhone and Android platforms. The one thing that still amazes me that they do not have an app for their Windows Phone which I would think would be good to have.

Along with this having the charts showing a more detail I think is the way to go. The resolution of the phone screens are often higher than what you can get on many monitors. So it can easily and clearly visualize your data and insights.

The other feature that I also like is the welcome page, as often people who are starting to use the app or are wanting to find information often need a starting point from which they can navigate from. I think this is especially the case when there is the potential to have a lot of dashboards. And this would make the experience seamless.

You can find out about the Mobile Updates here: Power BI mobile apps update – November 2015

Power BI – Gateway for Enterprise Deployments

I am very excited to see that as promised or eluded to there now is a Gateway for Enterprise deployments. I can already see in my organization that potentially having to have multiple gateways installed, and then to still configure who has access to what could very quickly spiral out of control.

This is where the Enterprise gateway over time will come into it’s own. I also like the feature that you can see the usage. Which will be very useful, because in my mind if this shows the usage stats as to what cubes or SQL Servers are being used will mean we can see if it is actually being used or not at all. As well as simplifying the deployment of how we manage the connection between the cloud and on premise.

I know that right now it is in Preview as well as only allowing a direct connection to SQL Server, but I have no doubt that over time this will become the required gateway and the Analysis Services Gateway will be replaced by the Enterprise Gateway.

You can find out the details here: Announcing preview of Power BI gateway for enterprise deployments

Power BI – Bing Content Pack

The Bing Content pack is a genius creation from the Power BI Team.

And the reason that I say this, is due to the fact that you can use any search term and it can quickly show you what searches have been happening relating to your search term. As well as showing some related news information.

I have already put it to use within my organization, and it just means another data source which in turn you can then use to quantify your data and what you are working on!

What I also enjoyed about this content pack is it is something you can put into use with immediate effect. It is quick and easy to get it up and running.

You can find out about the Bing Content Pack here: Search Analytics from Bing on your Power BI Dashboards

Power BI – API Updates

There are some great updates for the Power BI API, and whilst I am no developer it does mean that for the development team that I work closely with we can easily and quickly take our Power BI Reports and dashboards and integrate them into our existing applications.

This will mean that we can leverage all the hard work that we have done and have it in an application. Which then means that there is no need for the users to leave their application. As well as having the functionality that Power BI brings to the table.

The new API that was released today was the “Report integration API”

You can find out all about the Power BI APIs here: Power BI for Developers: Reports API and a simple App Registration experience

Power BI – Sentiment Analysis

I came across this blog post by Patrick Leblanc and I thought this was a really amazing blog post.

It really delights me to see how there are really quick and easy ways to integrate other solutions into Power BI, which then enriches your data. And I do think that having sentiment analysis is a great tool to see how people perceive your company or your product.

You can find out how Patrick got this done by viewing his blog: Sentiment Analysis with Power BI

Data Insights Summit

I really wish that I would be able to attend the Data Insights summit.

We are planning on using Power BI as our starting point for our BI journey and I do think that these two days in March would be invaluable not only to find out directly from the Microsoft team what is currently happening, but also what is coming and what is planned for the future.

As well as having the ability to network with fellow people who are also implementing Power BI solutions.

You can find out about it here: Data Insights Summit

Power Apps

Finally, but not lastly I do think that Power Apps is going to drive and change the way we get data from different sources as well as from different content area’s into a digital format.

I can already see how we can leverage this, to make things easier and simple for the users in my organization.

The other thing that I really like is that you can create the app once, but can leverage it on all the different platforms (Web, Mobile, Tablet). And to me this means that the adoption and the use of the app will be that much better used and will ensure it succeeds.

You can read about it here: Introducing Microsoft PowerApps

BI-NSIGHT – Power BI (Pin Excel Range to Dashboard, Weekly Service Update, New Custom Visualizations, Power BI Community, R, VMOB Content Pack) – Azure (Data Science Virtual Machine)

So I have been offline for a little while, quite a few things going on, but I am back on track and here are the latest BI-NSIGHT updates that I have been looking into!

Power BI – Pin Excel Range to Dashboard

It is really great to see that the Power BI team is realizing that having the ability to put Excel sheets and charts into Power BI is something the existing Excel users will absolutely love, as well as use. And this in turn will get the people to see how best they can leverage all the other Power BI Features.

I personally think that it is a great way to showcase a lot of work that people have already completed in Excel. And as I am sure we all can agree is that sometimes it is easiest as well as best way to show some actual figures in a simple and efficient manner.

As well as the dashboards themselves updating if the Excel files are stored in OneDrive for Business.

You can read about it here: Pin a range from Excel to your dashboard!

Power BI – Weekly Service Update

It was another big release of updates in the Power BI Service.

I have already touched on the ability to Pin an Excel Range to a dashboard.

Some of the other updates which I would like to highlight is having the Full screen mode for dashboards and reports. I am certain that already in a lot of organizations, as well as my own workplace we will be leveraging Power BI to have dashboards on big screens. And this makes it really easy to get this up and going!

I also think it is something very small, but it is always good to know where your data is stored. So that if you need to know this for compliance reasons you can rest assured if it can or cannot be stored in Power BI.

Along this line it is always great to see that they are improving the performance of the Power BI service. I know in the past that I have seen some products where the performance is good, and it pretty much stays the same. I am sure that Microsoft are learning a lot from the Power BI implementation. And it is great to see that they are putting what they have learnt into practice!

The other updates which you can read about in the link below are Sharing Dashboards directly to Another users Workspace, Improved Google Analytics Connection and the ability to close your Power BI account ( I have no idea why anyone would want to do that.)

Here are the Weekly Service Updates: Power BI Weekly Service Update

Power BI – Custom Visualizations

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Since my last blog post, Microsoft as well as other providers have been releasing new custom visuals very quickly.

I have to say once again, to me this is a big game changer. I know that in my current work environment we have been looking at Power BI, and with the ability to incorporate Excel sheets, and all the custom visuals we are not at the point where we can leverage Power BI as our starting point for our users to start looking at their data.

And I believe that this is a quick win for us, because by having it in Power BI we will be able to having it available to the people who are mobile, as well as to the end users. All that they will need is an internet connection and browser and they are good to go. No need to download, or install software.

You can see all the custom visualizations here: Power BI Visuals Gallery

Power BI Community Blog

This is another smart move from Microsoft with the Power BI Community blog.

What I see is that Microsoft is already a great community driven company. And this just once again shows how we can leverage off each other’s experience. Which in turns means we all can get things done quicker and smarter and learn something in the process.

I have no doubt that in time to come this will be one of the areas to find out how to do some really cool and amazing things in Power BI.

To find our more details and what has been blogged you can find the details here: Microsoft Power BI Community

Power BI – R

The guys at Power BI are moving at such a rapid pace that at times it is difficult to keep up. But I prefer to have new information and to be challenged, than to have to wait 6 months or a year or even longer for a product to be released.

And as I have said before they are enabling more features and integration, which in my mind will make Power BI the go to destination for organizations.

And whilst I currently do not use R, I have no doubt that it will be something in the near future that I will be looking into. And to know that Power BI has the capability means that we already have our front end, graphics completed. It will just be a matter of getting the data we require along with the R script!

You can read about it here: Visualizing and operationalizing R data in Power BI

Power BI – Content Pack VMOB

Once again this week there is another great content pack for people who use the Vmob for their personalize marketing campaigns.

If you are interested in VMob or are an existing customer, then you can find more details here: Visualize your VMob data in Power BI

Azure – Data Science Virtual Machine

From what I can see and the way that BI is moving in the future, a big part of that going forward is going to have the ability to be able to try and predict what is going to happen in the future.

Along with this, one of the ways that you can be successful at this, is in my view is to start taking your data and starting to play around with Machine Learning and even R. And often in the past I can remember having to first find hardware, install the Operating System, then install the tools which you had to find and download as well as often configure. Which is very time consuming and often quite complex.

With the advent of the cloud as is shown here, you can simply click a button and in a few minutes you have what you need and can begin working or starting to see what can be done.

I have no doubt going forward there will be more BI specific Virtual Machines available to use.

You can read all about what is part of the Data Science VM here: Announcing the Availability of the Microsoft Data Science Virtual Machine

BI-NSIGHT – Power BI – (Pin to Dashboard, Extending Power BI Pro Trial, Mobile App Update, All About Dashboards, comScore Content Pack) – Cortana Analytics (Azure Data Catalog) – SQL Server 2016 (SQL Server Analysis Services (SSAS) Tabular Parallel Partition Processing) – Office 2016 (Official Release Date 22 Sep 2015) – Project Prajna

Once again there was a lot of updates from Microsoft, as well as some other really interesting information within the BI Space. So let’s get going!

Power BI – Weekly Service Update (Pin to Dashboard, Extending Power BI Pro Trial)

I have to say that they are rolling out service updates almost every week now. Which is great to see and shows the commitment from Microsoft to roll out changes and requirements from users.

In this week’s update it is good to see that there are now some additional options when creating new items to Pin to the dashboard. I do know in the past that I have often found it a little difficult to get the right dashboard item on the correct dashboard.

Also it is good to see that in some cases Microsoft will extend the trial by a further 60 days. As I have experienced in the past, you either do not have the dedicated time to try out a service when you sign up. Or you have not tested out all the features to make an informed decision. And I am pretty sure that after 120 days it will become clear that Power BI is fantastic and a great investment.

You can read all about the Weekly Service Update here: Power BI Weekly Service Update

Power BI – Mobile App Update

It is great to see yet another update with the Mobile App for Power BI. They have made some great additions and improvements. I am looking forward to trying out the collaboration. As I often see that this is a feature that when used can really lead to some great conversations or a great way to promote some great work.

It is also great having the Single Sign On. As even though it does not take a lot of effort. We all enjoy not having to put in our username and password one additional time.

You can read about the additional details, updates and fixes here: What’s new on the Power BI Mobile apps?

Power BI – All About the Dashboards

The Power BI Dashboards provide a great platform for showing valuable information which can very quickly show you information that is important. As well as the dashboards can give you some insights into the underlying data.

And I do think that if you design a great dashboard, you are almost inviting the user to have a look around and interact with your data.

The blog post listed below, explains, shows and gives some great advice on how to build the ideal dashboard depending on what you are trying to display.

You can find out more details here: All About Dashboards

Power BI – Content Pack comScore

This week’s Power BI Content pack is comScore. It is another great content pack for customers and users who use comScore.

I do think that due to it being available on many different platforms there is the potential to provide some great insights into their data.

You can read all about it here: Visualize your comScore Digital Analytix data with Power BI

Cortana Analytics – Azure Data Catalog Overview

Even though Azure Data Catalog is currently available in preview, I do think that this is something that will be integrated into Cortana Analytics.

This is really a great and informative blog post by SQLChick (Melissa Coates) in terms of seeing and understanding how Azure Data Catalog works. This is something that I am interested in, as well as going to look into and see how we can leverage this within my work organization.

I have to say that it looks really good, simple to use, but at the same time making it really powerful at the same time. I also think that once this has been implemented it can really enable an organization to leverage off all their data investments, and allow the users to consume this data. Which in turn can lead to the business gaining more insights, which in turn will lead to better results!

You can find out more information here: Overview of Azure Data Catalog in the Cortana Analytics Suite

SQL Server 2016 – Tabular Model Parallel Partition Processing

Looking ahead to SQL 2016 they are putting in a lot of effort into the different BI components.

This is yet another great update and something that I am sure a lot of people have been asking for and hoping for it to be completed. As well know when we can do things in parallel it means that everything runs that much faster. And who does not like things going faster?

The great thing is that in SQL Server Analysis Services Tabular, there is nothing extra that you have to do in order to run it in parallel. As long as you have created your partitions you are good to go.

You can read all about it here: Parallel partition processing available for Tabular Models in SQL Server 2016 Preview

Office 2016 – Official Release Date 22 September 2015

I have to say that I cannot wait for Office 2016, in particular Excel 2016.

They have done some amazing updates and new additions specifically in Excel. I do know that as soon as I can get my hands on it, I will get it installed and working. And then try and get as many people as I can to also upgrade.

It is great to see that it is being released so soon, and I am sure that a lot of people have provided a lot of feedback and details for Microsoft.

So I am eagerly waiting for 22 September 2015.

You can find out more details here: Microsoft’s Office 2016: The new rules for the rollout, starting September 22

Project Prajna – Big Data Analytics Framework

The final thing to chat about today is Project Prajna.

It is good to see that the Microsoft Research’s Cloud Computing and Storage (CCS) group is working on getting the best out of the big data analytics as well as leveraging the big data storage all within one system.

This in my mind will make it easier and faster to gain really good insights into your big data investments.

It is interesting that they are building a platform where people can accesses it and develop using any .NET programming language. Which I am sure that there are a lot of developers who have experience in .NET, which means that they can leverage their existing experience directly into Project Prajna.

You can read more details about it here: Microsoft forges ahead with ‘Prajna’ big-data analytics framework for cloud services

BI-NSIGHT – SQL 2016 Preview (CTP2) – SSAS Partition Manager – Power BI Quickbooks Connector – Excel 2016 Updates

What started out as a rather quiet week in terms of news and what is going on within the Microsoft space, when I started going through my daily routine today there was some pleasant updates!

SQL Server 2016 Preview (CTP2)

After the Microsoft Ignite conference it was announced if I can remember correctly that there would be a SQL 2016 preview out by Summer (Living in Australia this means Winter). And it would appear that they are ahead of schedule.

I was very eager to install and see if there were any significant changes in the current CTP version of SQL Server 2016. For me this relates to the updates in SSRS, SSAS OLAP and SSAS Tabular.

I was also pleasantly surprised to see that you could create an Azure SQL Server 2016 VM. I thought this is fantastic, because I would not be required to download the 2.5Gb ISO file. I looked into my Azure Account, and at the bottom of the list under SQL Server I could see the option for SQL Server 2016 CTP2 Evaluation. So off I went, created the VM, assigned it some decent resources, and I think it total it took 10 – 15 minutes and my VM was ready for me to log in. This is a real pleasure and so easy and simple to get my hands on testing out the latest version of SQL Server.

One of the first things that I did was to see if there were any changes in SSRS. I had to quickly configure the ReportServer database, and then the URL, and I was good to go. Unfortunately when the page finally loaded it was the same look and feel that we have been used to since SQL 2008! So it is not there yet, but I am sure it is coming sooner than later!

I then also did a quick search to see if there was an updated version of SSDT, which from what I read would be part of Visual Studio 2015, and no luck here either. My thoughts were that they might have the new design interface for SSRS.

Next I went and installed SSAS Tabular, as this is not installed by default and on the Analysis Server Configuration page, I saw the following below.

After doing some quick reading, the PowerPivot Mode, is for when you want to install SSAS Tabular for SharePoint.

Another quick note, which I really thought is worth mentioning is that they are now going to provide the ability to have Ongoing Preview Updates. This is great, because if you have a found a bug or they release some new functionality you can then get this via an ongoing update.

You can read about the announcement here: SQL Server 2016 first public preview now available!

You can read all about what is new in SQL Server 2016 here: What’s New in SQL Server 2016

So that is where I am at currently with SQL Server 2016 CTP2.

SSAS Partition Manager

I have been following this for some time, as in the past I created my own framework and process in order to dynamically add or remove SSAS Partitions for SSAS OLAP.

They now have updated their software to make this process very simple and easy for you to use, but also can be done on either SSAS OLAP or SSAS Tabular. When I get the chance and opportunity I will definitely be looking into using this. A great, clean and easy way to create and manage your SSAS partitions.

You can get all the details here: SSAS Partition Manager for Tabular and Multidimensional Cubes

Power BI – QuickBooks Connector

Just a quick note, that there is another great connector for Power BI.

If you are currently using QuickBooks online, you can now use Power BI to gain some valuable insights into your data.

This is another connector that is adding to the growing list of automated connectors in Power BI! Really great to see how much momentum it is gathering.

You can find all the details here: QuickBooks Online content pack for Power BI

Excel 2016 – Updates

Just an update on what I have found when I updated my Excel 2016 preview.

Initially I did not see anything that struck me when looking at Excel. So I thought I would just use it as I currently am, and I am sure using it on a daily basis something will pop up.

And it sure did when I created a Power Pivot workbook and then dragged in a Date column into my Pivot Table, after which I then had the following automatically created for me as shown below.

I then was inquisitive and went into my Power Pivot model and I could then see the following columns below, where they were dynamically created as well if I wanted to, see the DAX that they used.

I was amazed to see that after watching it so recently online via the Channel 9, that they had already implemented it into the Excel 2016 preview version.

Continuing on using my same Power Pivot example above, I then put in a Pivot Chart, as I find that it is always easier to view the data than try and read the data.

Now if you look at the picture below in the bottom right hand corner you will see that there is a at first I was unsure what this did.

I then clicked on the Plus and what happened was is that it expanded my Date Hierarchy to the next level down which was the Hour. So both the Pivot Table and Pivot Chart was expanded. As you can see below.

I know that this is not ideally something that is way out there or over the top. But it is really useful and makes it that much easier to interact with the data. Ideally when you just have the Pivot Chart. It means that the user can drill down or drill up without having to leave the Pivot Chart!

That is it for this week, lots to still go and look at and test out thanks to the SQL 2016 CTP2!