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On Premises Power BI with Power BI Report Server

On June 12, Microsoft officially released the Power BI Report Server.  The version that was released had a different set of features than what was  promised when the product was announced earlier, which I discussed in a previous post. Some of the features and versions of SQL Server which are available to receive the Power BI Report Server upgrade were clarified at MS Data Summit.  This post contains everything you need to know to determine if you can upgrade from a current SQL Server Reporting Services Instance, what features are included in Power BI Report Server and what time frame those who want to use it should follow.

Power BI Report Server Only Connects to Analysis Services Data Sources

The most glaring change from what was announced earlier, is Power BI Report Server can only connect to analysis services data sources, both tabular and multidimensional.  If you want to connect to SQL Server, Oracle or Excel or all three, use the Power BI Web Service.  Only going to the cloud version will users be able to create a data mashup or connect to anything but SQL Server.

Connecting to one data source is not what was promised when the Power BI Report Server was announced in May.  Various Power BI Product members held a session at the Microsoft Data Summit where attendees were able to ask questions.  I asked,  “When are we going to be able to use Power BI Report Server with data sources other than analysis services?”  In a room full of people, I was assured that it was a top priority of the team to release the same data connectivity functionality for Power BI Report Server that currently exists for Power BI Services and the current plan was to release this functionality the next release.

Power BI Report Server Releases are Planned for Three Times a Year

Power BI Desktop currently has a monthly release schedule.  The Power BI Service is often updated more frequently than that, PowerBIRSas Microsoft tends to make changes when they are complete, rather than hold them for a given date.  In a corporate environment, it is sometimes difficult to accommodate such frequent releases.  Power BI Report Server has a planned release cycle of three times a year, with exceptions of hot fixes or security patches.  The next release of Power BI Report Server is planned for the fall.

To ensure that the version of Power BI Desktop matches Power BI Report Server, there is now a version of the Power BI Desktop for Power BI Reporting Server. The icon is exactly the same, but when you start the program the splash screen is different, as it shows you that you are running Power BI Report Server, in the top left corner.  When running the Power BI Desktop, the title also clearly says report server.  It is possible to run both, as I am presently doing on my PC.  One of the pitfalls of doing this, is when you click on a PBIX file, the Desktop version which loads is the last one you installed.  The Power BI Desktop Report Server version contains functionality which is not supported in Power BI Report Server, as it allows you to connect to other data sources and run R, neither of which will work in Power BI Report Server.  Since the next release of Power BI Report Server, the one which should support connectivity to more than analysis services, is going to be part of the next fall release, that release should contain the data mashup capabilities in the future Power BI Report Server Desktop version.

No Dashboards for Power BI Report Server

As I talked about in a previous post, there is no dashboard capability for Power BI Report Server, as it creates reports and other desktop features.  Power BI Service features, like Dashboards and Workspaces, are not available in the desktop or in Power BI Report Server. In the meeting that the product team held, someone else in the room asked a question which I promised to answer in a previous post. “Are there plans to add dashboards in a future release of Power BI Report Server?” The answer was no. Microsoft does not consider that a Power BI Report Feature and does not have the desktop feature in the product road map.

Yours Always

Ginger Grant

Data aficionado et SQL Raconteur

Power BI Data Insights

 

2,500 people sat in the semi-darkness of the MS Data Insight Summit, joining who knows how many watching the live stream, watching and listening to the upcoming changes to  Power BI.  Some of the announcements were expected, like the General Availability [GA] release of Power BI Premium and Power BI Report Server on June 12.  Although there is a lot of documentation on both products, there was still more information to be learned now they are released.  Microsoft also announced they were creating a new product offering, Power BI Embedded.  As part of the product realignment, the ability to embed Power BI into applications was moved to only being a Premier feature.  This move caused an uproar in the marketplace as many companies wanted to continue using Power BI Embedded, but could not justify paying Power BI Premier pricing.  Power BI Embedded was created to address the sticker shock. This new Power BI product has two different pricing levels, EM1 and EM2, starting at $625 per month.  Not a whole lot of information has been publicly released regarding Power BI Embedded, but it is designed to have a limited feature set, focused on just embedding Power BI.

Power BI Upcoming Features

Microsoft demonstrated some upcoming features of desktop which were predictably very impressive.  They created an amazing time line custom visual which I really hope to use soon.  Another neat feature which was demonstrated in the keynote was drill down pages.  This feature allows users to create pages which will be displayed when the field is selected on the previous screen, and the data will reflect the selection.  As there can be a lot of different filters which can be created for Power BI, a new bookmark feature will be coming soon which will allow users to save the context of the report, which saves all of the selections made with all of the slicers. With this feature, the next time the report is viewed, only the selections people find important will be accessed.  These new features are scheduled for released in the next three months.

Power BI Community

KeynotePowerBICommunity

Art credit to Josh Sivey who was kind enough to send this

One of the last things that Microsoft did was to thank the user community for their involvement with Power BI. Since many of the new features added are based upon feedback from the user community, Microsoft really works hard to engage the larger user community to help share information regarding the product as well as mine the ideas from https://ideas.powerbi.com . It was nice of Microsoft to recognize people in the community. Even though the slide was not up for very long, lots of people notice who was recognized.

There is material for a number of other posts from this conference, so please subscribe to hear more information about Power BI very soon.

Yours Always

Ginger Grant

Data aficionado et SQL Raconteur

Power BI Premium: Power BI for the Enterprise

When talking to clients who are implementing large implementations with Power BI, I have heard a lot of complaints. There is no good way to create a report which you just want to give to a client once. If you created the report with a workgroup, a pro feature, you cannot share with other users unless they also have a Pro License. The data size limits are too low for large users. The licensing model is really expensive for large users. Microsoft sought to resolve these problems with Power BI Premium, which allows companies to essentially buy their own Power BI Server.

Power BI Premium Pricing

The pricing model for Power BI Premium is a lot different than Power BI has been in the past as they are moving away from the per user model and moving more towards a company license model, with three PowerBIPremiertiers.  You will need to spend more money than listed in the three premium tiers. Pricing has become complicated and you might want to review the calculator site to figure it out. Premium Pricing covers the cost of the server, and unlimited read-only licenses. Everyone who creates reports will still need a Power BI Pro License.  If you have an Office 365 E5 subscription, you will have a license already.  If not, Power BI report creation requires a license. There is talk that Microsoft will develop additional tiers, for example something for education, development and for embedded only, but none of these have been Officially announced.  Currently there are the three tiers only.

Power BI Embedding Premium Only Feature

If you currently run Power BI Embedded, in the future you will need a Power BI Premium License as this feature will not be available for Pro.  Embedded is going to have one API, and that API is going to need to run on Power BI Premium. There has been a lot of discussion around this as there are a number of users who do not spend that much money on Power BI licenses, and they do not know what they are going to do going forward.  While there have been distinct cutoff dates published for the free features of Power BI, I have not found any hard cutoff dates when Power BI Embedded applications must be migrated to Premium or they start working. I have read rumors about a license of less than $1,000 a month for Power BI Embedded, but this has not been published, so is only speculation at this point.

More details will be coming out closer to the release date, which is targeted for sometime before July 1, 2017.  I anticipate that Microsoft will be releasing more information at the Data Insights Summit on June 12-13 and I will be there to find out what the latest information will be and will post it here.

Yours Always

Ginger Grant

Data aficionado et SQL Raconteur

 

Changes to the Power BI Free Version Include No Sharing

NoSharingIncluded in the recent list of announcements Microsoft made about Power BI Local and Power BI Premium are a series of changes to the Power BI Free version which will go into effect on June 1. The free edition of Power BI will no longer be able to share reports. Currently free users could create reports and share them with others, which will be discontinued.  Only Power BI Pro Editions will be able to share reports.  Currently Power BI Pro users can create reports which can be shared with Free versions as long as no Pro features are used.  This means that if a Power BI report is set to automatically refresh the data, that report cannot be shared as Free versions do not have the ability to create reports which have data refreshed automatically. If the report was recreated to remove the automatic updates and instead refreshed manually, then the report could be shared with Free versions.  Starting June 1, the sharing feature will be removed. No longer can Power BI Pro users share anything to Power BI Free users.  If you have a Power BI Free account, there is no way to share information in the service. The Power BI Desktop will continue to be free but since you cannot print the content within it and sharing a PBIX file means that you will always be sharing the entire data model, this is of limited value.

Future Releases of the Free Version

Microsoft does plan on continuing the free version and improving it.  In the future, it will include features previous included only in the Pro version.  While previously the data sets which the Free version was able to connect with were limited, they will soon match all of the data sets included in the Pro version. Data refresh will be supported, as will streaming and higher data storage rates. Other than sharing and workgroups, which are pretty big features, Pro and Free will have the same feature set.

How Power BI Free Accounts Can Share for One Year

If you have a Free Power BI account and have logged into the account prior to May 2, you have a year to use a Pro license. It does not matter if you have previously used a Power BI Pro Trial.  This trial is a new one, and is available to anyone with a free account. After that, shared reports will not be accessible, unless the account starts paying for the Pro license.

There are a lot of conversations regarding the changes to the free account, and the other recent Power BI announcements.  In my next post, I will be discussing the Power BI Premier option.  To be notified of my latest posts, please subscribe to this blog using the link on this page.

Yours Always

Ginger Grant

Data aficionado et SQL Raconteur

 

Running Power BI Locally with the Power BI Report Server

Power BI Now Available on your Local Server

Power BI: Now available without being on the cloud

Microsoft had an lot of announcements about Power BI this week, so many that it was easy to miss some of the finer details, including those which are going to be important in making decisions going forward.  Since the announcements are changes which will be effective soon, in the case of the free tier of Power BI on June 1, and released “… generally available late in the second quarter of 2017” this will give Power BI users time to adjust to the changes. In a nutshell, Microsoft has announced they are adding a cloud service called Power BI Premium which will allow people to create capacity instead of per-user licenses, the free edition will no longer to be able to share files, Power BI Embedded is going to be migrated to the Power BI Service from Azure, and finally, at long last, it will be possible to run Power BI reports locally and without needing anything in the cloud.

Running Power BI without a Cloud

It is not possible to run Power BI reports locally right now, but sometime before the 1st of July 2017,  users who have SQL Server 2016 Enterprise Edition per-core and active Software Assurance [SA] can deploy Power BI Report Server.  This means that no one is going to have to wait for SQL Server 2017 for Power BI on premise as it will be available sometime in June.  The functionality in SQL Server 2017 SQL Server Reporting Server [SSRS]. Community Technology Preview edition is going to be available in Power BI Report Server, with the addition of the ability to include custom visuals and many data sources, which the CTP version did not do. The Power BI Server includes all of the functionality of SSRS This means that users will not need an SSRS Server and a Power BI Server, as the Power BI Server will be able to do both.  If you want to migrate all of the reports created in SSRS from 2008 R2, and SSRS Mobile Reports, you can migrate these reports to the new Power BI Report Server. You can use Power BI Reporting Server for reports created on earlier versions, as long as you have a version of SQL Server 2016 Enterprise per-core edition with SA. The Power BI Report Server will be a separate install with separate release schedules, which currently are planned about once a quarter. Power BI Report Server will also be able to publish reports to mobile devices as well. If the reports uses data in the cloud, you can employ a Data Gateway as the Power BI Reporting Server can use the gateway to access cloud data. Of course if all of the data in the report is located on-premises, no gateway will be required.

Power BI Pro Licenses for On-Premise Reporting

While there is going to be no additional cost for running reports locally, or looking at them, creating and sharing reports for the Power BI Report will require a Power BI Pro License.  The Power BI Desktop is going to be free, and there is still going to be a free version of Power BI. There will also be a  new desktop version of Power BI for Reporting Services which will be on the same version as the Server, which will have fewer updates. This means if you support Power BI Service Reports and Power BI Report Server Reports you will have two versions of the Desktop, the Reporting Services Power BI Desktop and the Power BI Service Desktop.  Both are designed to run on the same machine. So far I have not had any problems having both other than remembering which is which as the icons are the same.  You have to load the software to see that the top line has (Report Server).

Starting June 1, free Power BI license holders will no longer be able to share reports.  Reports created with a free license can be viewed only by the person with the free account.

Power BI Desktop does not have Dashboards, and neither will Power BI

When it is released, Power BI Report Server will be displaying reports created from the Power BI Desktop.  Dashboards are not created in the Power BI Desktop application, meaning that there will be no Power BI Dashboards in the Power BI Report Server.  While this may change in a later release, it is not available in the first release, which also does not support R or custom visuals either.  To display and distribute dashboards, use the Power BI service.

I am sure there will be more announcements about this and other upcoming Power BI features. Many will most likely be announced at Microsoft’s Data Summit Conference in June, which I will fortunately have the opportunity to attend.  If you are going to be there as well, drop me a line or ping me on twitter at @desertislesql and perhaps we can meet in person.
 ***Update I have a post which covers the released version of Power BI Report Server.  Click here to find what was changed since this post was written.
Yours Always

Ginger Grant

Data aficionado et SQL Raconteur

 

 

Security Updates to Power BI

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Office 365 Admin Screen for granting Power BI Admin rights

Office 365 Admin Screen for granting Power BI Admin rights

In the past month, Microsoft has made a number of security changes to Power BI. The first one, is not really a feature update, but a PowerShell replacement. No longer do you need to use PowerShell to become a Power BI Admin. Any Office 365 Admin can grant Power BI Admin permissions via this screen in the Admin Center. The Power BI Admin role was first created in October, but the screen was not complete, which was just fixed in February.

Power BI Security Changed from Tenant Only

People who have been granted Power BI administrator rights will also notice a modification to the Admin screen. The March 2017 update to Power BI provides a major change to the security model in Power BI. Previously all the security settings were set at the Tenant Level, meaning that all the privileges were granted to all users. If I wanted to allow one group within the organization to be able to publish reports to the web, but I did not want to allow everyone to publish reports to the web, there was no way that this could be accomplished. All that has changed. It is now possible to include or exclude groups of users from having rights in Power BI. Users can be classified into security groups in Azure Active Directory, either through the Office 365 Admin Center or via the Azure AD Admin Center. Once created the security groups can be used in Power BI. Security Groups are not the same thing as the groups created in Power BI when a new work group is created.

Using Security Groups in Power BI Admin

PowerBINonTenantAdmin

Power BI Admin Portal

The new Power BI Screen looks different. It now lists which rights can be specified to different groups of users. Share content to external users, Export Data, Export reports as PowerPoint presentations, Printing dashboards and reports, Content pack publishing, and Use Analyze in Excel with on-premises datasets now have the ability to be assigned to security groups so that the rights do not have to be the same throughout the entire tenant.

Unfortunately, some of the permissions are still tenant based. For example, the setting Publish to web, which is one permission I would definitely like to turn on only for some users, is still only available as a tenant level option.  These security changes are a welcome improvement to the product as they provide more options for administrators to grant rights to Power BI.

 

Yours Always

Ginger Grant

Data aficionado et SQL Raconteur

 

Appending Data – It is OK to be different

AppendQueries

 

One of the more powerful features of Power BI Desktop is the query feature, which was called Power Query back when Power BI was part of Excel. Using the Query feature, if the data which you want to use is bad, has unneeded columns or contains data formatted differently than desired all of that can be readily fixed. The best thing about the query feature is that it uses the M language and records each step. Mess up a step? No problem just delete it and keep on going.

Appending in Power BI

AppendQueriesRecently I worked on a Power BI project where I needed to merge data provided in spreadsheets. The spreadsheets came from different vendors and while they contained mostly the same data, the columns were not in the same order. I wanted all of the data to reside in one table. In Query, that means that I wanted to Append the data. The files which I were merging were very wide, and I missed the fact until after I was done that some of the columns were in different order. Power BI is smart enough to figure out the order on its own. I didn’t need to change the order of the columns at all, as long as they have the same column names. Here’s an example using three different files.

 

File 1

File 1

 

Notice each of these files is a little different

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

File 2

File 2

File 3

File 3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I want to Append these files together so that all of the columns containing the like information will be in the same column. To do this the columns do not need to be reordered. As long as the column names are the same the contents will merge. I am going to need to modify File 3 to have the same file names, so I will rename Date to Expected Duration in Minutes and Location to Plant.  Since I know that File 3 came from Slingback Central, I am going to want to add that column to File 3 as well.  Othewise I will get a null value in the Maintenance ProvidAdd Custom Columner Column.  I do not need to place the column in any specific location as long as the name is the same. Renaming the columns is pretty easy.  All one needs to do is right click the column and select rename and type in the correct column name.  To add a new column, in Query select the tab Add Column and click on the Custom Column option. As you can see in the window pictured below, the text name Slingback Central has double quotes around it. If you forget to do that, you will get a syntax error.

Putting it All Together

Now that all of my queries have the same file names, I am ready to append them together.  To do that I select one of the queries and from the Home tab click on the icon on the far right side to Append Queries.  Since I want to paste three files together, I select the option for three or more files, and select all of them so that they appear on the right in the Tables to Append section of the screen.

After appending the data together, it merges all of the like columns together regardless of the order of the original files as shown below.

append

Not having to reorder columns is a great feature as it saved me a lot of time and I hope this post can do the same for someone else.

 

Yours Always

Ginger Grant

Data aficionado et SQL Raconteur

Power BI and R Links

I presented Power BI and R today, and for those who were not able to attend, when available my engagement page will have the recording as all of my recorded presentations are always listed

Links for Ropensourcerlogo

There were a lot of links used both for R and for R and Power BI integration. All items needed are included here as well as a brief description.

Comprehensive Resource Archive Network [CRAN] is where one can download Open Source R, packages and contains lots of information about R.

Microsoft R Open which is a fully CRAN compatible version created using the Intel MKL for improved performance can be downloaded here.

Microsoft R Client used with SQL Server 2016. R Server is included in SQL Server 2016. The R Client is needed to connect to R Server even if they are on the same computer.

R Studio is the most popular IDE for developing R.

Visual Studio R Tools are required for Visual Studio 2015 to become and R development environment

CRAN Package List from Microsoft not only contains the list of all of the packages, but the ability to go back in time to look at previous versions of the packages

Power BI Custom R Visuals are found in a tab separate from the other Power BI Visuals on this page. There are six visualizations available.

CRAN R Library for Forecasting model is needed for Power BI Visualizations and the download is required for this visual.

I hope that you found this one stop location for everything you need to use R helpful. For more information on how to use these tools, please take a look at all of my R posts where I describe how to use them.

Yours Always

Ginger Grant

Data aficionado et SQL Raconteur

Data Hierarchies and Drill Through in Power BI

Hierarchies provide a method of organizing data in a table to recognize that one value encompasses all of the values beneath it. One very common hierarchy is a date hierarchy, which is used to show data summarized by year, then all the values for the quarters, then the values for three months in each quarter and each month which at the lowest level includes all the values for dates. There are other hierarchies which may also exist in data, such as sales regions. A sales region could include countries which include states or provinces which include cities which include actual addresses. Because this is how data is categorized, visualizations need to reflect this organization by containing hierarches.

Creating a Data Hierarchy in Power BI

Finding where to create hierarchies is the hardest part of creating them in Power BI, especially if one has ever created datahierarchiespowerbihierarchies in Excel Power Pivot as they are not it the same place. Hierarchies are not in the Relationships data view, instead they are found in the Report view. Right clicking on the ellipse next to any field in a table displays a menu, and the second item on the menu is New hierarchy. Hierarchies can also be created by clicking and dragging a field on top of another field, which also will create a hierarchy. Once the hierarchy has been created, to add another field to the hierarchy, drag a new value on top of the value with the hierarchy icon. If the value added is not added to the location you want it, click on the ellipse next to the field named and move the field up or down as you wish.

Drill Through Reporting in Power BI

There are two ways to do drill through in Power BI, either by adding fields to the group section on a visualization or by adding a hierarchy as a field. If I create a date hierarchy and add the hierarchy to the axis of a bar chart visualization, the top Right and left corners will have arrows in them. Drilling down and back up occurs by selecting either the up and down Arrow keys, then clicking on a bar.powerbibardrilldown

For example, if the down arrow in the left corner is selected, clicking on the bar for 2013 will show data for the 2013 quarters. Repeated clicking will provide data down to the month, then the days in that month. The double arrow buttons provide the ability to show the data in the next level slightly differently. Clicking on the left double arrow will drill down to the next level. Clicking on it would provide a bar visualization for 4 quarters with data from all years, then 12 months of the combined years then the days. The double arrow with the line connecting the arrow only works on the highest level of visualization. When the double arrow line button is selected initially, it will show the quarters listed for every year, then the months and years, then the day, month and year. I hope you found this post helpful in explaining some of the features natively included in Power BI. If you are interested in learning how to expand the visualization capabilities of Power BI by including R visuals, please attend my upcoming webinar.

Yours Always

Ginger Grant

Data aficionado et SQL Raconteur

 

 

DIY – Using Custom Power BI R-Powered Visuals

In a recent post I introduced using R custom Visuals in Power BI, and this post details how to use the correlation visual in a Power BI Report. The first step in the process is to download R, if it is not on the computer already. if SQL Server 2016 with R integration is installed, there is no need to download R, as it was installed already. If the computer does not have R installed, click here. Once R is installed, go to the Power BI Custom Visualization page and select the R tab to pick one of the six R visualizations. I picked the correlation plot. To use the R visualization, if the machine does not already contain the packages used in the visualization, as screen will prompt you to install some packages also. This may take a little while to do and when it is complete, a window will appear showing the packages were successfully installed. Now the custom Visual can be used in Power BI.

Using the Correlation Visualization in Power BI

Power BI will show the new visual which you can place on the report. It is important to understand a little about R to better understand the error messages received. For example if you are using the fcoorelationplotorecasting tool and have selected the year value instead of the date, you may receive an error about an invalid time series. The underlying code is expecting to receive a date value, and a year is not a date, meaning you have to reference a date field in order to make it work.

Differences between R Visualizations and other Power BI Visualizations

Interacting with R visuals works differently than with other report visualizations as you cannot click on elements within the visualization and filter other items on the page. Other visuals on the page will filter the data contained within the R visual. For example, let’s say my report contains a total field, a slicer which contains years and a correlation plot which contains products. If the slicker is changed to select a year, total field and the data within the R visual will change to reflect that. If on the other hand, I choose to click on the R visual to select one of the product categories, the total field will not change and the R visual will not change. The R visual’s appearance will not change in any way.

nointernetrmessage

One interesting thing to note is if you have created an R visual in Power BI and are working without an internet connection, the report will throw an error when trying to open the report. This occurred when it was a report I created or a sample report, so it appears with these reports an internet connection is required.

 

Yours Always

Ginger Grant

Data aficionado et SQL Raconteur