BI-NSIGHT – Power BI (Desktop Update, Service Updates, API Updates, Mobile App Update, Visual Contest Results, Content Pack – Stripe) – Office 2016 (Excel Updates, Power Query Update, Excel Predictions) – SQL Server Analysis Service 2012 Tabular Update – SQL Server Analysis Services 2016 Extended Events

So this week there was once again a whole host of updates with Power BI, as well as finally the official release of Office 2016.

It sure is a busy time be in Business Intelligence space, especially in the Microsoft space.

So let’s get into it…

Power BI – Desktop Update

So I woke up this morning to see that there has been a massive release in the Power BI Desktop application. I immediately downloaded and installed the update. I have already used some of the features today.

And there was a whole host of updates, too many to go through all of them here, but I would just like to highlight the ones which I think are really great additional features.

I am really enjoying the Report Authoring features, and I have mentioned it before but the drill up and drill down features are really great and allows for more details to be in the report which you will not initially see on face value.

Then under the data modelling section I have to say that I am currently not any DAX guru, but I do appreciate how powerful it is, and how you can really extend your data with so many DAX functions. In particular is the Calculated Table, which Chris Webb has already blogged about and has some great information here: Calculated Tables In Power BI

And there are some great new features with regards to Data Connectivity as well as Data Transformations & Query Editor improvements, which all forms part of Power Query. Which once again enables the author of the reports to enrich the data, which in turn will create great visualizations.

You can find out all about all 44 updates here: 44 New Features in the Power BI Desktop September Update

Power BI – Service Updates

So yet another great update on the Power BI platform.

I think that finally being able to customize the size of the tiles is really good. So that you can fit more meaningful information on your dashboard.

Another great service update is to be able to Share Read Only dashboards with other users. This is great because often you create dashboard and reports, which you want to share with users and let them interact with your data, but not make any changes.

As well as having more sample content packs which will be a great way to showcase how powerful Power BI is.

You can read about it and all other updates here: Power BI Weekly Service Update

Power BI – API Updates

There is no pretty picture for the API updates, but there are some great new features.

The one that I think is really good is the ability to be able to embed a Power BI tile into an application. So at least it gives you the ability to have the great features of Power BI in your application without having to go directly to Power BI.

I also see that there is the ability from what I can see to pass some filters or parameters into the Power BI report via the URL which is really good and can prove to extend the functionality.

These are the details in the API updates

  • Imports API
  • Dashboards API
  • Tiles and Tile API
  • Groups API
  • Integrating Tiles into Applications
  • Filtering Tiles integrated into your Application

You can find out all about it here: Power BI API updates roundup

Power BI – Another Mobile Update

The Microsoft team must be working 24 hours a day with the amounts of updates and additions that are coming out from Microsoft.

They have released some additional updates into the Mobile application which are great, as we all are well aware that having a mobile application really can help showcase your solution. As well as ensure that it gets to the right users and that they can see the related information.

You can find out about the updates to the IOS, Windows and Android details here: Power BI mobile Mid-September updates are here

Power BI – Visual Contest Results – People’s Choice Awards

As you can see above this is the first people’s choice award for the Visual Contest result, which I can see myself using that with my existing data.

You can find out about it and the other entries here: Power BI Best Visual Contest – 1st People’s Choice Award!

Power BI – Content Pack Stripe

Once again this was another great content pack update this week.

There are a whole host of people who are using the Stripe platform payment for their online business. From the really small guys to the big guys. And this gives everyone a really great and easy way to understand and visualize your data. As well as what payments you are getting.

You can find out more about it here: Monitor and Explore your Stripe data in Power BI

Office 2016

I am very happy to see that Office 2016, has been released before the actual year of 2016.

I have mainly been focused on all the features in Excel, due to being in BI. But there are a whole host of updates, fixes and new additions in Office 2016.

You can read all about it and all the details here: The new Office is here

Excel 2016 – Features

With Office 2016 being released this blog post from the Office team shows a lot of the great features that are available in Excel 2016.

It does showcase a lot of great features focused on Business Analysts, as well as how people can leverage all the new features in Excel 2016.

You can read up all about it here: New ways to get the Excel business analytics features you need

Power Query Update

With so many things going on within Power BI, there has been another great release with Power Query.

As you can see with the picture above it is great to finally have the ability to write your own custom MDX or DAX query to get the data which you require from your SSAS source.

Another great feature is the ability to extract a query from one of the steps within your current Power Query query, and then you can use this in another Power Query window. As they say it gives you the ability really easily use the same code over again, without having to do it all over again.

You can read all about it here: Power Query for Excel September 2015 update

Excel Future Prediction

I recently came across a really interesting article from some of the Industry experts within the BI space, and for them to predict how they see Excel’s use as well as where they see it fitting into the BI space in the upcoming years.

There were some really insightful and interesting details, which made me think about how Excel has evolved over the years, and with the current additional investments going into Excel, how this is going to be leveraged and improved in the years to come.

You can read all about their thoughts here: 27 MICROSOFT EXCEL EXPERTS PREDICT THE FUTURE OF EXCEL IN BUSINESS INTELLIGENCE

SQL Server Analysis Service 2012 – Tabular Update

There has been a CU update for SQL Server 2012, and one of the great updates relates to SSAS Tabular for columns that have a high cardinality. Which was a performance issue before this release.

It is great to see that this has been addressed, especially due to the fact that in SSAS Tabular there will be cases when columns will have a high cardinality. And even though it is often super quick, we would like everything to be as fast as possible.

You can read all about the updates to SQL Server CU 8 here: Cumulative update package 8 for SQL Server 2012

SQL Server Analysis Services 2016 – Extended Events

I think that it is great to see that we are finally getting some additional features and updates to Analysis Services.

When I read up about the extended events, this is something really great to see. I actually have been in an exercise to monitor what has been going on our SSAS instance both in terms of performance, as well as which users are accessing the cubes and what they are doing. And currently there is not a super elegant solution to achieve this.

With the extended events this makes it a lot easier and gives you the ability to quickly get the information that you require.

I also love it that you are able to have a live query, which you can use to see if you are specifically running something. As well as if you want to ensure that you are capturing the right events.

This is definitely something that I will be looking to use when we finally can install and use SQL 2016.

You can find out about all the details here: Using Extended Events with SQL Server Analysis Services 2016 CTP 2.3

BI-NSIGHT – Multiple Power BI Announcements – Cortana Analytics – Particle and Microsoft – Azure Data Catalog – Power Query Update

So the past week has been filled with a whole host of announcements, particularly in the Power BI space, but as well as with Microsoft’s cloud based solutions.

A lot of the information that I have found due to the current World Partner Conference!

So as we do every week, let’s get into the amazing details.

There is quite a bit of content this week, so please scroll down and then down again.

Multiple Power BI Announcements

So there was a whole stack of Power BI Announcements, which has been fantastic news for the BI community

Power BI General Availability – 24 July 2015

There has been a whole host of activity with regards to this fantastic news, as well as the blog post from Microsoft detailed below. So I will quickly give my personal view of this news.

I do think it is the perfect time for Microsoft to from a Preview product to General Availability (GA). It ties in with their release of Windows 10, and being summer in the United States I am sure it is an amazing time there. Also by Power BI coming out of Preview and into an actual product this gives it some additional credibility and traction within a very competitive market.

In terms of Power BI as a whole it has been a whole new way that Microsoft have released a product. Along with this they have actively engaged with the customers and end users and actually listened and often taken the advice from the community and put this into the product. I find this amazing and something that has not been done in the past. And this is where I feel going forward is where Microsoft will leap frog the other vendors.

I also think it is a VERY smart move to open the Visualizations and give the power to the developers. This will result in a massive increase in new charts that were previously never used or never thought of. And this all lends itself to people who want to implement their own charts to start looking at Power BI. Along with this it also continues with the Microsoft community, as I pretty sure without doubt that people will share their visualizations with each other. This means not only does Microsoft benefit, but also the customer or end user.

I might have totally misunderstood all the hype around the above, but I am sure somewhere that there was a hint that there might be a content pack for Twitter data. Now that would be something that would be amazing!

If you want to read about all the details and updates, please read their blog post: Announcing Power BI general availability coming July 24th

Power BI New Capabilities

Microsoft have been super busy and they have released a great blog about the new capabilities that have been released with the General Availability coming up on 24 July 2015

Below are the sections, and you can read the blog post afterwards for more details.

I would just like to highlight the Q&A Visual formatting. I think that this is another great feature. Due to allowing you to be able to format a Q&A question. And the reason that this works so well, is that you will have some questions that will be common amongst the business people. And in my mind you would want this to look really great. As well as potentially really POP when the question is asked. And this now gives the report developer the ability to do this.

  • Office 365 App Launcher
  • Custom URL Support
  • Storage Management
  • Q&A visual formatting

Read here for more details of the above: New capabilities added to Power BI

Power BI – Spark

Once again Microsoft have released another Content pack which I personally think keeps on elevating Microsoft in terms of competing with the likes of QlikView, Tableau etc.

By integrating directly with Spark on HDInsight it allows customers and end users to easily view their data that they have been processing within the Spark. In terms of Spark on HDInsight, that already has made the barrier of entry to use an appliance and software like Spark that much easier and quicker to deploy. Then along with this they plug this into Power BI, which then means that it is a great and powerful interface to visualize their machine learning algorithms and graph computations.

You can read more details here: Visualize big data with Power BI and Spark on Azure HDInsight

Power BI – Acumatica Content Pack

Here is another great content pack from Microsoft and Power BI.

Acumatica Cloud ERP is a cloud based platform that provides business management applications such Financials, Distribution, CRM and Project Accounting.

You can read more about it here: Analyze and Explore your Acumatica Cloud ERP data with Power BI

Power BI – Development of content pack for tyGraph

I read about tyGraph analytics getting a development pack for Power BI. This is really good news as it appears that tyGraph is used by a lot of customers. And by using Power BI it will enable the existing tyGraph customers to leverage Power BI for the reporting requirements.

You can read more about it here: tyGraph Analytics Is Announcing the Development of a Content Pack for Microsoft Power BI

Cortana Analytics

The Cortana Analytics Suite is once again why I really enjoy working within the Microsoft space. It appears to me that they are not only looking to create great cloud based products, but also innovate and create something that as a whole really makes sense for people to want to use and realize the potential of the data that they have, or data that they can create.

I really like the way they have integrated a whole host of applications, to make it easier and simpler for people to be able to use it as a product. And as with anything once you get to use a new product, get a better understanding of the product, you then want to be able to do more. And with Cortana Analytics Suite, they provide out of the box functionality, but going forward it also gives the customer or end user the functionality to dig in a whole lot deeper and create their own custom solutions.

I watched this video below and it is amazing to see how technology can enable people to make smart decisions which in turn makes us happier and healthier. In my view it also shows where this is going in the future. As well as how there are unbounding possibilities of how we can integrate things (IoT) and make quicker decisions than ever before.

Dartmouth-Hitchcock ushers in a new age of proactive, personalized healthcare using Cortana Analytics Suite – Watch the Video inspiring stuff

You can read more about Cortana Analytics here: Cortana Analytics

Particle and Microsoft

I think that this is another great partnership, especially the way we are starting to see the IoT happening and starting to gain some real traction. I also find that Particle is a great company that is enabling their customers to do things that previously were either too expensive to implement or were never thought about! And I am pretty sure further down the line, this will integrate with Power BI, or Particle will create an interface using the Power BI REST API.

You can read more about it here: Microsoft + Particle

Azure Data Catalog

This is another great cloud based product from Microsoft. The reason that I thought to put it in my blog, is that there are a lot of businesses that are looking to see how to manage their metadata catalog, as well as where the business information is stored. And this is where the Azure Data Catalog comes in.

This enables almost any business user to be able to put up some information about their data and where they got it from. As well as enriching their data source information with what they are doing with the actual data. This enables other people within the business to quickly identify where the actual source of their data is. I think that this will mean the more people that know where to get the data, the more the data will be used. Which in turn will lead to better insight into their data. Which will finally or potentially lead to business value!

You can read about it here: Announcing the Public Preview of Azure Data Catalog

Power Query Update

I just saw that there was another Power Query update for Excel.

There are a total of 6 updates listed below:

  • Improvements to ODBC Connector
  • Navigator dialog improvements
  • Option to enable Fast Data Load versus Background Data Load
  • Support for Salesforce Custom environments in Recent Sources list
  • Easier parsing of Date or Time values out of a Text column with Date/Time information
  • Unpivot Other Columns entry in column context menu

You can read about it here: 6 updates in Power Query for Excel

BI-NSIGHT – Power BI for Android Devices – Power BI Designer vs Excel – Power BI Refresh for On-Premise – Power BI Refresh from OneDrive – Power BI Interface Updates

Whilst I thought that this week might be a bit on the quiet side, I think that my previous suspicion is correct, and the wonderful people from Microsoft like to send out updates on a Wednesday.

Power BI for Android Devices

I was just browsing through twitter and I came across a tweet and clicked on the link, not entirely sure what it was about.

But it lead me to the Google Play store and I now could see the following below.


And here is the URL: Google Play Store – Microsoft Power BI

Power BI Designer vs Excel

I was reading another fantastic post by Rob Collie, where he gives some great insight for Power BI Designer vs Excel Where Rob mentions how Power BI can help out the Excel Pro’s, specifically in point number 7. What is assumed here by my interpretation is that in the future, Power BI Designer will be able to import a Power Pivot Model into Power BI Designer. I think that this would be fantastic as often I have created something in Excel, using Power Query and Power Pivot. And then a light goes off in my head, and I think this would be great to visualize in Power BI (Both for being in the cloud and mobile functionality). But when I have tried to import the Excel file, currently it only shows you any Excel tables. I do have a work around for getting your Power Pivot Model in Excel exposed within Power BI, which is the following and something that I have mentioned before. So here is the quick way to get this done.

  1. It is quite simple.
  2. All that you have to do is to create on Power View sheet within your Excel file, save your Excel file and then upload it into Power BI directly or via OneDrive.
  3. Once it opens and you go into creating your report, you will see the entire Power Pivot Model exposed!!

Give it a go, it is really quick and easy to setup. You can read Rob Collies post here: Power BI Designer vs. Excel: What’s Microsoft Up To?

Power BI Refresh for On-Premise

This is something that I have been waiting for as well as voted for some time ago. And it fills me with great pride to see this being implemented. It shows that the people at Microsoft are hearing our voices loud and clear. I have to say that this is going to be a real game changer in my opinion for the following reasons:

  • Firstly it is so simple to install and configure the Personal Gateway on your PC. Due to the installation being so simplistic, as well as not requiring Administrator privileges it means a lot more people will be able to install it and use the functionality.
  • Next is they have updated how often you can refresh your data.
    • The have chosen the magic number of 8.
    • Which to me represents your 8 hour working day.
    • Perfect to get hourly updates.
  • Integration with your domain account.
    • As we know a lot of sources integrate with your domain account, for single sign on, as well as easier controls on security.
  • Refresh history, and sending emails on failure.
    • This is another great feature that we are used to having, in terms of getting emails when things break.
    • I do like it, that it will only send you an email when it fails. So no need to clutter up your Inbox.

You can read in more detail here about all the details: Refresh for on-premises sources is here!

Power BI Refresh from OneDrive

This is something that I did figure out a while ago, which I did blog about previously. It entails using Power Update to update your Excel workbook for On-Premise, then Power Update uploading the updated workbook to OneDrive, after which Power BI will automatically update. You can read about it here: Automating refreshing of Power BI Reports and Dashboards with Excel Workbooks and Power Update It is great to officially have some more information. And a lot of companies are starting to use OneDrive as their document storage solution. So now we know that it will update your OneDrive files connected to Power BI once every hour. Which in most instances is pretty good? Another thing to note, is that from my workings with SharePoint online, it actually uses OneDrive to store all the documents. So if you have SharePoint online, you effectively have got OneDrive, which you can then connect to Power BI. (Disclaimer I am not 100% certain which subscription to SharePoint Online this is for.)

Power BI Interface Updates

From what I could see there are two additional updates within Power BI. The first is the change of the new Minty Fresh theme, which is good to see. I would not be surprised to see an option later to select your own themes as you can do with Power View in Excel. The second update is within the Dashboards in Power BI. When you click on the Tile Details button you now get an additional option as shown below You can now set a Custom Link, which I think is really great, because this could link to anything. Which gives the report developer more options, as well as allowing the Report Consumer to be able to interact with an additional dataset which is outside of the report.

Power BI – Creating a Dashboard when not automatically created

What I found was that in some instances when you imported data into Power BI, it would not automatically create the dashboard.

This would also result in your dataset not being indexed (if that is the correct terminology) so that you could then use Q&A in order to enable users to easily search for results using Q&A

As with our example below, in order to replicate what would happen when Power BI does not create a dashboard, we are going to create a new report also. In effect this could be the case when for some reason Power BI does not create a report and or dashboard. And then how to quickly create the dashboard and then ensure that you can then use Q&A to interact with your data.

NOTE: We will be using our Excel file which we imported the data previously: Importing your Excel Workbook from One Drive for Business into Power BI and create a simple report and Dashboard

Creating your Power BI Report and Dashboard

  1. Log into your Power BI.
  2. Click on Datasets, then click on Explore
    1. As you can see with our example above for our Auto Update of Adventure Works DW
  3. We then create a very simple report as shown below based on our Adventure Works Data
    1. Then click on Save, and as below we saved our report with the following name:
  4. Now we can see our report under Reports
  5. Next will be to create the dashboard.
    1. The trick that I have currently found is that in order to create the dashboard which will map to the same
      report is to give it the identical name
    2. So click on the plus sign next to Dashboard to create your new dashboard as shown below
    3. So once complete it will look like the following:
    4. And the initial screenshot will also be blank, as well as in the Q&A section there will be no text prompting you to “Ask a question about the data on this dashboard
  6. Now go back to your report you created in step 3 above.
    1. Now pin an item to your dashboard
    2. Now when you go into your dashboard that you created in step 5 above you will see your pinned item or tile.
  7. Now in order to get the Q&A
    working, from what I have read you have to wait for the Power BI service to index or go through your data in order to create the required synonyms.
    1. NOTE: This can take a few
      minutes or longer to create the required synonyms.
    2. NOTE II: I have sometimes found that closing the Power BI app in your browser and opening it again, results in the Q&A then being there.
  8. If you go back into your dashboard after some time you should be greeted with the following as shown below:
    1. And now you can ask a question such as “Sales by City”

BI-NSIGHT – Power BI Designer Update – Power BI Twilio Connector – Excel 2016 Visualisations – Azure Data Lake

Fortunately this week, the Microsoft machine was a little quieter, but still as expected new updated in the Power BI Space.

Power BI Designer Update

 

I have read quite a few blog posts, downloaded and viewed the Power BI Designer update. And I have to say they are some welcome changes.

In my mind I see that over time, they are porting some of the functionality within Power Pivot into Power BI Designer. Which is a great welcome, and whilst they are doing this, they are also making additions, such as the DAX intelli-sense, which is amazing. As well as giving the user to create a column within the Report screen. It makes the report authoring experience that much quicker and better.

I do think that the product is moving along in leaps and bounds. Especially for customers and users who do not have access to Excel 2013 and potentially Excel 2016!

You can read all about the updates here: Power BI Designer May Update

Power BI – Twilio Connector

 

Just a quick note, that there is yet another great connector for Power BI. I personally have not come across this before, but in my mind it is starting to show how Power BI is starting to gain momentum from other companies, which can leverage their reporting and product exposure by utilizing Power BI. As well as a great benefit for existing customers, to have a great easy to use as well as informative reporting platform.

I am certain that the Twilio connector, will show some companies a great insight into their data and real-time communications.

You can read more about it here: Visualize and analyze your Twilio data in Power BI

Excel 2016 Visualisations (Charts)

 

Example Treemap Visualisation below

There are some great new visualisations or new charts coming in Excel 2016. I did watch the Channel 9 video from Ignite which had more details and it did showcase the new charts and how they can enable you to view your data in a totally different way. I think that this is really welcome.

Here is a link to the video: What’s Next for Visualizations in Microsoft Office

As well as a great blog post by Clint Huijbers, in which he does a great job to show examples of the new visualisations (charts): New visualizations in Excel 2016

Azure Data Lake

 

I once again have to say that this is another smart move by Microsoft. In my mind this is a great product. The reason for that is now you could have the potential to run your entire organisations data within the cloud.

You could start by storing all your data, within the Azure Data Lake, thereafter if you require a data warehouse you could then leverage the Azure SQL Data Warehouse, from which you could then visualise your data using Power BI. This is a great story to be able to tell and to explain to potential customers as to why they should potentially choose Microsoft Azure.

In terms of the Azure Data Lake, from what I have read it is not to be confused with just storing your data in the cloud. It gives you the ability to quickly and efficiently get your required data out of your data lake. The great benefit is that you can store as much data as is required. You do not have to worry about the structure of your data, you can just store it in the Azure Data Lake, and then when there is a requirement to gain insights into your data, it is immediately available.

I also see that if you had to put as much data as you won, or could get your hands on, into your Azure Data Lake, when you start looking at gaining insights, it just means that you will have a whole stack of information at your fingertips. Which then means that you could potentially cross relate data, where previously you did not have it, or it was stored in another system that was hard to access, or to extract data. If you then have to couple this with Azure SQL Data Warehouse as the extraction layer, and run that through Machine Learning, you could potentially be onto something that competitors have not even begun to realize the benefits!

You can read about it here: Introducing Azure Data Lake

 

 

BI-NSIGHT – Excel 2016 – Power BI Updates (Including new Data Sources) – Azure SQL Data Warehouse

So after last week, and the annual Microsoft Ignite conference, there was a whole stack of product announcements and updates. This was really great to see, and it once again amazes me how quickly Microsoft is able to get this to market. And being a Microsoft BI enthusiast, it excites me.

I mean who does not like to play with the latest and greatest technology, as well as potentially be ahead of other players in the BI space.

So here are the updates and the BI related content for this week. I did download and go through some of the video’s from Microsoft Ignite, which had a wealth of information.

If you want to see all the available video’s here is the link: Microsoft Ignite 2015 – Channel 9

Excel 2016

There has been a whole lot of updates and additional functionality which has been put into Excel 2016. I am currently running the Preview version and I have to say that some of the new features even though they might seem small are really good.

I am not going to go into all the features that they have, but just the ones that I consider to be important!

Searching in your Pivot Table Field List

I have to say that this is very welcome. And that even when you have a pivot table, with a rather small amount of fields, I have often found myself scrolling quite a bit. And often scrolling past the field that I want, and then having to scroll back up again.

To be able to search for your field, makes the usability that much easier, which I feel, then makes the use of pivot tables that much better.

Below is a screenshot of searching for Full Name in my data set.

Making changes to Power Pivot Model and Measures

What happens now is if you make a change to a column name, calculated column name, measure or table name, it will not break your existing reports and pivot tables. I have to say that this is a massive improvement and I am sure something we all have been waiting for. I know there has been a lot of times in the past, when I had to go back and make a change, and then what ever change I made, my reports and pivot tables would no longer display the changed information. So I would take screenshots, so that I could fix the errors.

I have already used this, and at first I did not appreciate it, but when I did notice I was amazed. I have to think that they are now using an underlying system to create the mappings, so that when we make a change to the actual name, we are not breaking the underlying relationship!

Deferred Refresh

Another thing I noticed when working in the Power Pivot model, is that they now have what they have called is deferred refresh.

In a nutshell what this will be is that they will only refresh the data once you exit the Power Pivot Model. Which is great, and I am sure will make the modelling experience that much smoother and quicker. I have to admit it was a pain the past, to create a new calculated column or calculated measure, and have to wait for it to load. Especially when it was wrong, and you had to fix it and then reload again.

New Forecasting capabilities

I have to start by saying that these are not the same calibre forecasting that you might get with SSAS, or Azure ML (Azure Machine Learning), but they are really handy for the Excel pro.

The thing that I really liked about the forecasting, is that not only can you forecast forwards, but because it is in Excel, you can drag the formula backwards, and see how close it is to data where you already have a result. I think that this is fantastic, because it means you can get a certain level of confidence on how accurate it will be going forward.

Below is a screenshot where in Orange is the forecast, and the blue line is the historical values. And you can see that there is an overlap with the orange and blue. This is where they dragged the forecast backwards.

Here is a link to more details on the new forecasting functions: Describing the forecasting models in Power View

Time Grouping

This is another great feature, and I also viewed another video, where they were talking about the time grouping as well as automatically creating the default date related columns, when you have a Date column in your Power Pivot Model.

So what the guys have done is if you right click and select Group, and then select what you want to group it by. It will then create those columns for you in your Power Pivot Model. I think this is great, as a lot of people who use Excel, know how to group their data. But when they now want to use that grouping in another report, they have to do it all over again.

Now that it is part of the model, they can just pick it from the list.

Below is a simple example where I created some sample data, and then grouped it into Months and Quarters. You can see under the covers that it created a Month Index column.



I also remember hearing in another video, that the guys are looking to implement a Date Calendar table under the covers for when they identify a Date Column. This is once again a good thing, especially for when you have people who do not have the expertise, or do now know how to create a Date Calendar Table. I also did hear that they will give you the option to use your own table if required. As well as potentially looking to see if they can give the user the ability to select specific Date Calendar tables.

New Chart Types

They have added new chart types to Excel, namely the Treemap, Sunburst, Histogram, Box & Whisper and Waterfall. While I know that these are not really new chart types created by Microsoft they are an additional welcome to be able to use them within Excel.

I have to say that they look really amazing in Excel, when compared to some of the images in the links above.

Power BI Updates

Once again there are some additional Power BI updates, that were announced last week, but I had already posted my blog, so here they are.

New Connectors within Power BI

I was reading through twitter and saw that it appeared that there are new connectors within Power BI.

Azure SQL Database

This is really an interesting connection, due to the fact that it has a direct connection to your database.

So what this means is that it does not store any data within Power BI, but sends the query back to your Azure SQL Database and then returns the data back to your report. After reading some of the information, it does appear that there are some limitations.

But one of the things that I do like is that the tiles will automatically be refreshed every 15 minutes. So if you have a live production database, this means you can get a view to see your data in near real-time.

One thing that I would highlight, is that the performance on the report, might be affected if your Azure SQL Database has been setup on a lower specification of hardware. So something to potentially keep in mind.

You can read more about it here: Using Power BI to visualize and explore Azure SQL Databases

SQL Database Auditing

After a quick read this is to connect to your database auditing to see the activity and all related information on your Azure SQL Database

You can read more about it here: Azure SQL Database Auditing connector for Power BI

DAX with Variable Support

Once again I think that this is really a great thing, it will definitely help make the creation and use of DAX measures that much easier.

And from what I have read, I have also seen, it actually makes the DAX calculation that much easier to use and to read through.

You can read all about it here at Kasper de Jonge post, which explains it very well: DAX now has variable support!

Power BI App for Windows

After installing and playing around with the Power BI App for Windows, I have to say that it has a very similar look and feel to the Power BI App for IOS. Which makes sense to keep the experience very similar if not the same.

I did enjoy it, that after connecting I could then see my dashboards and reports. And then after interacting with either the dashboards or reports they were super quick.

I also liked the idea of using this instead of going to the website. Even though it is only a few extra clicks, to have it running as an application, just means it is that much quicker to access, and to get to see the data that I want, as easily and as quickly as possible.

Here is a screenshot of the landing page when you open it up:

And here are more details: The Power BI app for Windows is now available

Scheduled refresh of Power BI Designer Files

There was mention that the guys at Microsoft are working on also enabling the scheduled refresh of the Power BI Designer files. I think that this would be welcomed by a lot of people. Due to the fact that they use and create their reports using Power BI, which by using Power Query, contains a link to their source data.

So I am going to assume that it would mean that the reports can then be refreshed from the Power Query source.

Azure SQL Data Warehouse

I know that this has also been mentioned quite a lot, but I just wanted to quickly give my idea’s on the Azure SQL Data Warehouse. Especially after watching the video Azure SQL Data Warehouse: Deep Dive (It is an in depth presentation, and if you want to find out how it all works, then this is the video to watch)

Once again the way Microsoft has designed this product, and made it really easy to use is a smart move. When you compare it to the other offerings it is really ahead of the competitors. Along with this they have based on the APS (Analytics Platform System), which has been in production for a long time, and they have a lot of experience, which they can now leverage in the cloud.

The one thing that I really enjoyed was their example where they helped a large retailer, who had a query running for 1 week, and by changing it to use a very similar or same technology as the Azure SQL Data Warehouse, and optimizing it they got it to return the same query in 1 minute. Now if that was my business and they could make such a massive improvement I would be over the moon!

I think that this could be a game changer for some large businesses, due to having the flexibility in the cloud, and only paying for what you use, and when you use it. Let’s be honest, the storage in Azure is really cheap, and coupled that with the ability to scale your compute as required means if you need the query to run faster, you can increase your compute (DWU) and it will increase proportionally to how you have increased it. Well this is what was explained in the video.

I cannot wait to get my hands on this and test it out, to see how easy it is to get data in, then to run queries and test the system to see how it works in the real world!

 

You can read more about it here: Top reasons why enterprises should choose Azure SQL Data Warehouse

BI-NSIGHT – SQL Server 2016 – Power BI Updates – Microsoft Azure Stack

Well I have to admit that it seems that the Microsoft machine has been working flat out to get out new products and updates.

If my memory serves me, this is the third week in a row that Microsoft has released new products and updates. I am really enjoying it! But hopefully this will slow down, so that we can catch our breath and actually play with some of the new products and features.

So let’s get into it. There is quite a lot to go over!!

SQL Server 2016

So with Microsoft Ignite happening this week, the wonderful guys from Microsoft have started to announce what we can expect to be in the next version of SQL Server.

I am going to focus mainly on the BI (Business Intelligence) features, and there are quite a few! Some of what I am detailing below I have only seen pictures on Twitter, or I have read about it. As well as the preview not even being released yet, I am sure that there will be some changes down the line.

SQL Server Reporting Services

It finally appears that Microsoft has been listening to our cries and requests for updates in SSRS (SQL Server Reporting Services)!

Built-in R Analytics

I think that this is really amazing, even though I am not a data scientist, I think it is a smart move my Microsoft to include this. What this means in my mind is that you can now get the data scientists to interact and test their R scripts against the data as it sits in the transactional environment. And from there, this could then be used to create amazing possibilities within SSRS.

Power Query included in SSRS

From what I have seen people tweeting about as well as what I have read, it would appear that Power Query will be included in SSRS. This is fantastic and will mean now that virtually any data source can be consumed into SSRS.

New Parameter Panel, chart types and design

I am sure we can all agree, that SSRS has required an overhaul for some time. And it seems that finally we are going to get this. It would appear that the parameters panel is going to be updated. I do hope that it will be more interactive and in a way react similar to the way the slicers do in Excel. As well as getting new chart types. Here again I am going to assume that it will be similar to what we have in Power BI!

And finally there was also mention that the reports will be rendered quicker, as well as having a better design. I also am hoping that they will deploy this using HTML 5, so that it can then be viewed natively on any device. It is going to be interesting to see what Microsoft will incorporate from their acquisition of Datazen.

SQL Server Engine

Built-in PolyBase

Once again, this is an amazing feature which I think has boundless potential. By putting this into the SQL Server Engine this means that it is a whole lot simpler to query unstructured data. Using TSQL to query this data means that for a lot of people who have invested time and effort into SQL Server, now can leverage this using PolyBase. And along with this, you do not have to extract the data from Hadoop or another format, into a table to query it. You can query it directly and then insert the rows into a table. Which means development time is that much quicker.

Real-time Operational Analytics & In-Memory OLTP

Once again the guys at Microsoft have been able to leverage off their existing findings with regards to In Memory OLTP and the column store index. And they have mentioned in their testing that this amounts to 30x improvement with In-memory OLTP as well as up to 100x for In-Memory Column store. This is really amazing and makes everything run that much quicker.

On a side note, I did read this article today with regards to SAP: 85% of SAP licensees uncommitted to new cloud-based S/4HANA

I do find this very interesting if you read the article. What it mentions is that firstly 85% of current SAP customers will not likely deploy to the new S/4HAHA cloud platform. Which in itself does not tend well for SAP.

But what I found very interesting is that to make the change would require companies to almost start again for this implementation. In any business where time is money, this is a significant investment.

When I compare this to what Microsoft has done with the In-Memory tables and column store indexes, where they can be used interchangeably, as well as there is some additional work required. On the whole it is quick and easy to make the changes. Then you couple this with what Microsoft has been doing with Microsoft Azure and it makes it so easy to make the smart choice!

SSAS (SQL Server Analysis Services)

I am happy to say that at least SSAS is getting some attention to! There were not a lot of details but what I did read is that SSAS will be getting an upgrade in Performance usability and scalability.

I am also hoping that there will be some additional functionality in both SSAS OLAP and Tabular.

SSIS (SQL Server Integration Services)

Within SSIS, there are also some new features, namely they are also going to be integrating Power Query into SSIS. This is once again wonderful news, as it means now that SSIS can also get data from virtually any source!

Power BI

Once again the guys within the Power BI team have been really busy and below is what I have seen and read about in terms of what has been happening within Power BI

Office 365 Content Pack

I would say that there are a lot of businesses that are using Office 365 in some form or other. So it makes perfect sense for Microsoft to release a content pack for Office 365 Administration

As you can see from the screenshot below, it gives a quick overview on the dashboard to see what activity is happening. As well as details of other services. I am sure that this will make a quick overview of your Office 365 systems really easy to see. And also if there are any potential issues, this could also be highlighted!

Visual Studio Online Content Pack

Another content pack that is about to be released is for people who use Visual Studio Online, I personally do not currently use this. But it does look great for people to once again have a great overview of what is going on.

You can read more about it here: Gain understanding and insights into projects in Visual Studio Online with Power BI

And as you can see below, what you can view once you have got it setup within Power BI.

Power BI planned updates

Below are the updates that I had previously voted for in Power BI. It is great to see that the Microsoft team is actively listening to their customers and implementing some of the idea’s. I have to say that I do not think that there are many other software companies that are doing this currently. And also being able to roll it out as quickly as Microsoft is.

Set Colors and Conditional Formatting in visuals

  • This is great as it will allow the report authors to have more control in terms of how their reports look.

Undo / Redo button in browser & designer

  • This might seem like a small update, but I know personally from working with the Power BI reports, that sometimes you just want to see what a different report looks like. Or adding another element. And with the Undo / Redo buttons, it just saves that little bit of time, as well as to make the report authoring experience that much more enjoyable.

Power BI Announcements from Microsoft Ignite

Below are some announcements that I have read up about either on Twitter or one of the blogs that I follow. It is really great to see so many things in the pipeline.

This means that there is a lot to look forward to, as well as ensuring that we have new and wonderful things to show.

I got this picture via Twitter, which someone must have taken at the Microsoft Ignite Conference. As you can see it is not very clear, but it does show the next update in the Power BI Designer.

You can also see the undo and redo buttons.

It also appears that in the Power BI service, there will be support for SSRS files, namely the .rdl files! Here is another picture taken from Microsoft Ignite.

 

Then there is the Many to Many relationships and bi directional cross filtering will be supported in SQL Server 2016 tabular models, which I am sure will also be included in the new Power BI backend. As this is where it stored all the data.

 

For Hybrid BI, there will be support for live querying for SSAS, currently this is already in place for SSAS Tabular.

 

It also looks like there will be a scheduled refresh for SQL Server Databases as a source. Which is great for people who either do not have either of the SSAS cubes, or want to get some of their data into Power BI.

Microsoft Azure Stack

While this is not exactly BI, it is related to BI, in that with Azure Stack you can get the Azure functionality on your own hardware which is fantastic. And I am sure for a lot of businesses this will be welcomed.

You can read more about it here: Microsoft Brings the Next Generation of Hybrid Cloud – Azure to Your Datacenter