Wednesday, April 22, 2015

FREE #PowerBI Webinar @PragmaticWorks Training on the T's Tomorrow!

I'll be doing a new session, "Introduction to Power BI Designer" tomorrow at 11am ET as part of the Pragmatic Works Training on the T's series of FREE webinars! Please register at the link above and see how the new Power BI Designer that is currently in preview works and what I expect it means for the future of BI at Microsoft (I even do a little bit of a look back for those that aren't up on the latest with Power BI).

Looking forward to seeing everyone at the session tomorrow morning. Look for another post later this week with the link to the slides and answering any questions from the session that I don't get to in the session.

Update 5/4 - Thanks to everyone that attended this session on 4/23, below are some of the questions that I didn't get a chance to answer during the webinar.

Can data refresh be scheduled?
With the new Power BI it will depend on which level you subscribe to. For the free version you can schedule refreshes only once a day, but the Pro level will allow you to schedule updates for every hour.

You demo'd the Power BI Designer desktop application, is there an online web-based version?
Yes, they are planning on making a web version available on at the time of release. This is my guess is to why the roll out of features in Power BI Designer has been a bit slower, because they are making sure that all of this code can be run on both the desktop and web applications.

Power BI Designer Preview is only available as a 64bit application, will there be a 32bit version?
No, Microsoft has made it clear that a lot of the issues with the current Power BI Excel add-ons being allowed to run in 32bit. 64bit gives the stability to run the millions/billions of rows of data in the application in memory.

What is the difference between Power Query and Power BI Designer?
Power Query is the add-on that currently runs in Excel only. For Power BI Designer Microsoft is taking much of the functionality from Power Query and integrating it into that tool. In the end Microsoft will probably stop updating Power Query for Excel and make the newest versions only work in Power BI Designer, this is already apparent in some of the SaaS sources that they are adding which are all not available in Power Query.

What data types are supported in Power BI Designer?
The types available are changing with new versions of the Power BI Designer, but as of the April 2015 release, this link provides the full list and some great detail on how to convert between them in DAX (thanks to the attendee that posted this link in the chat).

How is security managed?
Microsoft is saying right now that the full version will support integration with Active Directory, what we have not heard is if that is on-premise and/or Azure. As of right now the only source that fully works with built in security is when you use a SSAS Tabular model and the Power BI Analysis Services Connector Preview. I would assume that in future updates before release that this connector will be upgraded to work with SSAS Multi-Dimensional models as well, but there is no timetable on when that will be. With some of the announcements at Microsoft Ignite today, I can see how the new Azure services for integration with Active Directory will be used to fill in this gap in some way.

Can you clarify what can be done locally at no cost and what?
When you use Power BI Designer you can use all of the sources that it currently connects to as long as you are able to access those sources (for SQL Server you will need to be on the same domain or be able to access them). All of the manipulations of the data that you do to those sources (remove columns, rename columns, merge datasets together) is all stored and is repeatable as it is stored in the M language. This will allow you to update locally in Power BI Designer as much as you want inside the application (that might change when the full version is released). You can build reports on those models that you create, there is no limit to the number of reports you can build (at least currently). Once you have all of that setup the way that you want it can be saved to your local file system as a PBIX file and that file can be shared with others and viewed/updated in the Power BI Designer as long as they also have the required access to the data sources you setup. As far as we know that is all going to be free. It is only when you need to push the solution up to the site that you start getting into being charged and if you need to have the refresh of data scheduled once they are deployed to the web. As far as I know you can pass around PBIX files to anyone and as long as they have Power BI Designer and access to those data sources you can use it for free!

Can the Power BI reports be imported into SharePoint?
Unknown at this time, I don't think that Microsoft is going to forget about allowing this kind of BI/Analytics in SharePoint. I would not be surprised if by the full release they have a way to deploy these PBIX solutions into SharePoint in some way. Or a 3rd party vendor will find a way to parse the XML in the PBIX file and make that happen.

How is it different from SSIS?
Power BI Designer does not have all of the functionality that SSIS has, by design. Power BI Designer is meant for more of Business Analyst/Power User role. I expect over time that more a more functionality will be added to Power BI Designer to the point that it can do 90+% of what SSIS does, so then only the really complex ETL will need to be passed on to IT to do it in SSIS.

Can we connect to SAP DATA and other data providers?
Microsoft is constantly adding new built-in connectors for different databases so it is very possible. If that data source can be connected to via ODBC, that is a built-in provider that could be used as well.

Can you use multiple data sources in the same project?
Definitely! That is one of the major benefits of using this tool is that you can pull data in from as many different sources as you want and then join them together as required. As time goes on they should be able to do better auto-detection of the joins between data sources like Power Query can do today.

Can you import web data and then after making the changes upload to your own SQL Server?
There is no out of the box way to do that type of export in Power BI Designer today, but if you used the current Power Query Excel add-on then you could make the necessary updates to the data from multiple sources and then either import the resulting data via Excel/CSV exports or just upload the model created as an SSAS Tabular model. At this point we don't know if there will be the ability to create the model in Power BI Designer and upload the model into SSAS Tabular or not, but I would not be surprised to see that in the full release.

We are looking at using this for some very confidential data. How can I use this internally and not push anything out to the world?
If you want to share the PBIX files from Power BI Designer, that will work for moving the data/reports around internally. There is no requirement to use the website and that is where the costs come into play as well. Not sure about future plans to integrate with SharePoint, but I would assume that is coming as well.

Thanks again to those that attended this webinar, I will continue to update this post when videos are posted. If you want to replay the entire webinar, just go to this link on the Pragmatic Works site. Thanks also to Pragmatic Works for letting me do this webinar!

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