Tabular Editor and the Best Practice Analyser for Power BI

Finally I get a chance to have a look at the Best Practice Analyse in Tabular Editor

https://powerbi.microsoft.com/en-ca/blog/best-practice-rules-to-improve-your-models-performance/

I am so excited about this because we are looking at ways to improve and speed up the reviewing process on all the datasets being created.

Currently our Power BI Power Users go in to review and take a lot of time checking out the models, processing time, DAX Measures, etc etc.

This is great but if there are ways to speed up that process so we can review even more models then I am in.

So lets get started.

DAX Studio

I always go to DAX Studio connected to my model to get a look at the model Summary before I do any updates. Advanced Tab – View Metrics

Tabular Editor

With a dataset open in Power BI Desktop I open up Tabular Editor from External Tools

And then go to Advanced Scripting

And now I am ready to load in the Best Practice Rules from GitHub.

https://github.com/microsoft/Analysis-Services/tree/master/BestPracticeRules

I go for the Automated Set up approach and run the following code

I believe that these rules get updated so when you run it again your rules will get updated.

Then after running the code I create a custom action over the code by clicking the green + Button

And you now have it in Samples

I can then Close and Open tabular Editor again. (I am doing it with a model already open but you can open it separately and connect to a model.

Then I go to Tools and Best Practice Analyser

And here is where it gets interesting. It brings up a list of Best practice rules that have been worked on by Microsoft experts for a long time. I really want to get a good look at where they are at at 15/10/2021

At this point its fair to say that this has been incredibly easy to do and very useful so far.

Of course the rules come up very specific to my model. 172 objects are in violation of 17 best practice rules. Lets have a look at some of them

[Performance] Do not use Floating Point data Type

My Latitude and Longitude are in Violation here so I should be going back to the model and checking that I cant change these items and not get issues

Some fixes can be taken from best practice analyser.

In this case I am selecting generate fix Script

And pasting to Advanced Scripting window to have a look at it

I can run this and it will immediately update my data model. However it should be said that Tabular Editor requires the XMLA endpoint to allow both read/write access. This setting is controlled by your capacity admin.

In the Power BI Admin Portal

If you don’t have this enabled you need to check with your Admin. At worst you can gather all these recommendations and implement them manually in Power BI.

If you can use XMLA endpoints you can also simply choose apply fix but I prefer to see the fix before implementing.

[Performance] Set isAvailableInMDX to false on None-Attribute columns (6 Objects)

I wasn’t aware of this and all my Keys within the dimensions are flagged as issues here. Lets have a look at that in more detail.

This is rather more specific to Analysis Services. You can stop attribute hierarchies from being build on columns that don’t need them.

Basically all attributes have this set to on. It allows a column on a table to be used on a row or column axis of a visual so it can for example filter a measure. the important thing to note here is that these are structures only used queries tabular models (Analysis Services) IN MDX. Power BI always runs DAX queries so its not really specific to out Power BI Model. We can ignore this rule

And hit Show ignored if you want them back

[DAX Expressions] No two measures should have the same definitions

I have two measures in my DAX. I can right click on each to go to object. and I can then look at the expression

CALCULATE(DISTINCTCOUNT(fact[AccountID]),
FILTER(Accounts, Accounts[Name]<>"NA"))
CALCULATE(DISTINCTCOUNT(fact[AccountID]),
FILTER(Accounts, Accounts[Name]<>"NA"))

It goes to show that these things do happen. You can’t apply a fix script here. Its a case of finding out what uses these two items and ensuring we only use one. So the Question is here, is there an easy way of answering this question?

[DAX Expressions] Use the DIVIDE Function for Division

5 of my objects aren’t using the DIVIDE Function created especially for this. I clearly need to remember that I have a habit of doing this.

There is no fix script for this but I can go to object and to the Expression Editor

I have recreated as a proper DAX Function and you can simply hit the tick to update the code in your model.

[DAX Expressions] Filter Column Values with the Correct Syntax

I am unsure what this means so go to Manage Best Practice Rules in the top corner of the screen

Hit Edit Rule

And you can get to a description of the rule

Instead of using this pattern FILTER(‘Table’,’Table'[Column]=”Value”) for the filter parameters of a CALCULATE or CALCULATETABLE function, use one of the options below. As far as whether to use the KEEPFILTERS function, see the second reference link below.

Option 1: KEEPFILTERS(‘Table'[Column]=”Value”)
Option 2: ‘Table'[Column]=”Value”

Reference: https://docs.microsoft.com/power-bi/guidance/dax-avoid-avoid-filter-as-filter-argument
Reference: https://www.sqlbi.com/articles/using-keepfilters-in-dax/

This is fantastic. I can even go to the document reference to get more information. When I go to the object I can see that I have done this

CALCULATE([Number of Records],FILTER(Records, RecordType[Type]="Test"))

And immediately its clearly to me. CALCULATE is supposed to be fast for one implicit Filter. you use FILTER when its a little more complex and is slower. Although this works I have absolutely no need to use the filter.

CALCULATE([Number of Records],Records[Type]="Test")

And there you go. A faster bit of DAX. Current opinion of this tool. I am really quite taken with this. Its a bit of a gamechanger.

[Maintenance] Visible objects with no description

I have lots of these and absolutely. Each one should have a good description against it. I hadn’t even thought of that.

There are quite a few more rules that I have violated. I wont go through them all here but I am really excited to see how I can do so much more to streamline my model. this is absolutely fantastic.

Additional Script Rules

Note that there are several rules which require running an additional script. And these steps are specific to the Vertipaq Analyser which was added to DAX Studio. We can use the Vertipaq analyser combined with the best practice analyser

https://www.elegantbi.com/post/vertipaqintabulareditor

After reading the documentation above I took the script and ran it in Advanced Editor. I also saved it as a sample just in case.

This should create Annotations that you can see in Tabular Editor when you look at the objects but I cant see anything in my model. this was because you need to go to File – Preferences and Allow Unsupported Power BI features.

Now I can see Annotations

We are basically saying here that in Power BI desktop you can’t create Annotations. This can only be done within the external tool so there is a possibility that this could cause issues. From the documentation it does seem that this is fine to do, but you could now do other things that could cause problems in future. One to think about.

So, We have run report that basically creates the same stats as the Vertipaq Analyser in DAX Studio. How do we use it with Best Practice Analyser?

Avoid bi-directional relationships against high-cardinality columns

We need to create the rule over the script

Add a New rule. I’m simply Following the documentation at this point so lets get to the end of the rule creation

Its important to set the Applies to

If you don’t specify the Applies to you will get an error message (See image below)

I save the new Rule into the Rules for the Local user. But a question here is that, If I rerun the Advanced Scripting Code Sample again to get any new changes, will this wipe of the item created?

To test I go back to Power BI and Change a join to bi directional

And then go back to Tabular Editor and Update the Change Rerun the Best Practice Analyser and I am shown my one bi directional join as a best practice violation. this allows the user to say if its valid

Or if I should do something about it. I will do this in Power BI and rerun

Large tables should be partitioned

When you run the script for Avoid Bi Directional Relationships you also Create the Vertipaq rule for this best practice.

Frustratingly the documentation gets a little confusing at this point. the only rule that has a screen shot to show how to create it is Bi Directional functionality.

I’m making the assumption then that you don’t need to set up the rule and It should automatically appear. However my model isn’t big enough for this to be violated.

Is it a rule then? Got to ToolsManage PBA Rules .

Yes, there it is, I’m just not violating it. I was asked to look at this documentation for more information at this point but I am finding it a little confusing.

https://github.com/microsoft/Analysis-Services/tree/master/BestPracticeRules

Reduce usage of long-length columns with high cardinality

Again for this one, When you run the script for Avoid Bi Directional Relationships you also Create the Vertipaq rule for this best practice.

But you also have to run another script (again I saved as a sample)

Is this a rule then? Got to ToolsManage PBA Rules

This is good, the rule is there but I am not causing any violations to happen

Split date and time

In the above gitHub information you are told to run another script for this which I saved as a sample.

Best Practice Analyser was run again and it appears as a violation. However it is erroring

I know Split date and time is incredibly important to keep the models as speedy as possible so I would like to resolve this problem.

Rerunning the Scripts

Its been some time and we want to review another model. We also think it might be a good idea to rerun the original script in case the rules have changed.

Open another model in Desktop. then open Tabular Editor. Because I have enabled experimental Power BI features I get this warning.

Because we have already run the code we can simply open up best practice analyser to get the results. But what if we want to update for possible changes?

It would actually be good to have a way to know if there have been changes made to the rules?

Rerun the script. close and reopen like last time

Tools – Manage BPA Rules – Rules for the Local User

The additional rules are still there which is great. Lets run the analyser. 367 objects are in violation of 22 best practice rules.

Lots more to do then and all to make the model better and more efficient.

Conclusion

The First section of this just works and I’m incredibly pleased with it and I think it will really help.

The Vertipaq Analyser against Best Practice Analyser references are more difficult to follow but it seems to be that there are three extra scripts to run and one of the rules actually needs to be set up. the other rules are automatically created.

Obviously you have to allow for XMLA Endpoints in order to update your model using Tabular Editor so there are some things to think about here.

Having to set Allow Unsupported Power BI features is a worry for the Vertipac Analyser rules. Having gone through the process to try and figure out how it would sit in our review process I think you could do the following

Power BI – reporting on Items NOT in a filter

We are working on a report to look at Power BI activities and objects at the moment.

Lets have a look at the model

This is a test model with a date dimension (When the Activity occured)

  • A Report dimension (Details of the report used in the activity)
  • A Dataset dimension (Details about the dataset used in the activity)
  • And a Fact table of Activity metrics

We have a star schema with single direction joins to the fact. Power BI as we know loves a star.

Lets have a look at my sample data

Date

Just a sample of the date table

DataSet

Report

Fact

DataSet 3 and report 4 have never been part of an activity (Just for this exercise 01/01/2000 is our fake date because there is no activity)

The above logic is easy to do (Which items have never been used) but what happens when you want to look at the business question

Give me all the reports NOT used in September

As we can see from the metrics table report 2 and 4 were not used in September

So how do we create DAX that will allow us to look at these kind of Business Questions?

Base DAX

We want some base DAX measures that we can then build on top of

# reports = DISTINCTCOUNT(ActivityMetrics[ReportKey])
# Datasets = DISTINCTCOUNT(ActivityMetrics[DatasetKey])

And for the reports we never use we can either use the measure above with a filter

Or explicitly add a filter into a new measure

# Reports Never Used = CALCULATE([# reports],DimReport[neverusedFlag]=true)
# Datasets Never Used = CALCULATE([# Datasets],DimDataset[neverusedFlag]=true) 

Notice that I set Edit Interactions to off between the date slicer and the two cards because the cards are simply telling me how many reports and dashboards have never been used

So this part of the process is all fine.

Our Next Business Question is

Show me the reports and datasets used in September by date

This is another straight forward request

And both interact with the Date Filter.

And now to the question

Show me the reports and datasets NOT used in September

So we use our date slicer and we want to see items outside of that date slicer. We need to create a more complex measure to do what we need

Is Not in the Date Filter Flag = 
// assumes a slicer on DimDate[ActivityDateKey] and there is an implicit filter on the visual 
VAR VActivityDates = SELECTCOLUMNS(DimDate,"Dates", DimDate[DateKey]) 
VAR VDates = CALENDAR(MINX(DimDate,DimDate[DateKey]),MAXX(DimDate,DimDate[DateKey]))
RETURN IF(COUNTROWS(INTERSECT(VActivityDates,VDates)),0,1) 
// if no matching rows, return 1

Lets break the above down a little to understand what is happening

SELECTCOLUMNS

VAR VActivityDates = SELECTCOLUMNS(DimDate,”Dates”, DimDate[DateKey])

First of all create a variable. SELECTCOLUMNS

“Adds calculated columns to the given table or table expression.”

We start with the table they come from. then we give the name to the column in SELECTCOLUMNS “ColumnName”, Next comes the expression which in this case is the column reference.

CALENDAR

VAR VDates = CALENDAR(MINX(DimDate,DimDate[DateKey]),MAXX(DimDate,DimDate[DateKey]))

Next comes the VDates Variable. Calendar Returns a table with a single column named “Date” and it contains a contiguous set of dates. We need to provide the range of dates. In this case MINX finds the earliest date and MAXX finds the Maximum date in our date dimension

Now this should work with our slicer. In this case Min 01/09/2021 Max 30/09/2021

INTERSECT

INTERSECT(VActivityDates,VDates)

And now we get to the measure that will be RETURNED

“INTERSECT A table that contains all the rows in table_expression1 that are also in table_expression2”

COUNTROWS

COUNTROWS simply counts the number of rows within a table or an expression

IF

RETURN IF(COUNTROWS(INTERSECT(VActivityDates,VDates)),0,1)

So here we can see the intersect and if working together. If there are rows counted (True – There are rows then 0 else 1.

Still Struggling to understand? Me too. Lets draw it

Here is where I am a little confused. I’m not sure which part of the DAX works with the slicer. SELECTCOLUMNS or CALENDAR MINX MAXX? I’m making the assumption that CALENDAR takes the min and max of the slicer but its incredibly difficult to test so if anyone has any more insight on this that would be fantastic.

And we can now look at everything together in a report

We have used Is Not =1 in the ‘Is not in the Date Filter’ as out value and its always ever 0 or 1

But now we are asked another business question

How MANY reports did we not view in the current date slicer?

with the measure as it stands. It needs the Report Name or the Data set name to provide details

We can’t use what we have in a card because we cant add the implicit filter (Report Name etc).

So How can we do this one?

We can solve it using variables

Total Reports not in date Filter = 
//Clear all filters which are applied to the specified table.ALLCROSSFILTERED
var VAllReports =CALCULATE([# reports],ALLCROSSFILTERED(DimDate))
//Total within the date filtervar 
VInFilter = [# reports]
//All reports - Reports inside the slicer
Return VAllReports-VInFilter

Using ALLCROSSFILTERED brings back the total reports 4 as it removes all the filters

then we get back the total of reports in the date slicer and finally take in filter away from all the reports.

Out # reports is a measure made from distinct report IDs already. We now have everything we need to create these reports thanks to DAX.

Azure SQL Database Dev to Production Part 4

I have had quite a lot of issues in regards to the whole dev to prod process with the SQL database. my last attempt which I wrote in this blog worked well until I shut the project down. Then once reopened I would always lose my Project or GIT, so I went back to the drawing board and did a lot more research and here are my new findings.

There is a Data Factory part to this but I have already made a blog about this and it has consistently worked ever since setting up the dev to prod process

Resources used

  • Azure SQL Database and Server
  • Visual Studio (Enterprise)
  • Azure DevOps

Azure Devops Repository

First of all you need to have an Azure Devops set up (I wont go into detail on this here)

In the Devops repos I have a Folder for Data Factory in the repository. The Folder for SQLDB will be created later.

  • In Devops Ensure you have a GIT repos Created Then Click CLONE to copy the GIT location URL

In this example I am cloning right at the top of the repository

  • Click the Copy Button

Visual Studio

You cannot do this as yet in Visual Studio code. It has to be Visual Studio and I have Visual Studio Enterprise 2019

  • You can Copy the Repository Location from the Clone Copy (Or Browse a Repository – Azure DevOps or GitHub)
  • make sure you are happy with the path for the Local Copy
  • Click Clone. Your Local repository is then shows in Solution Explorer
  • This has added the folder on your C Drive (It added the top level and the dataFactory and SQL DB Folders)
  • And You can see this project in Solution Explorer
  • Copy path of C Drive (And the folder for example SQLDB)
  • Visual Studio – In the top bar choose create File – New – Project
  • Choose SQL Server Database Project – Next

The Project with be SQLDB and will contain the SQL Objects

  • Click Create

In Visual Studio SOLUTION EXPLORER: You can see your empty database objects.

On the C Drive, Note you now have a SQLDB folder along with the Data Factory Folder

  • Right click on the database name in Solution Explorer and go to properties

Its important to be in the right version for the target platform

  • Right click on database name and Import – database
  • Select the Connection location of the development database (and Show connection properties to make sure your username and password are ok and the database connects.
  • Import objects into the Local Project (No need to Select it in the above box)
  • then Click Finish Note that all your objects are now in Solution Explorer and on the C: Drive (Your local copy)
  • Is the project Complete? – Build – Rebuild solution which checks and validates the objects

Any time anything changes you need to rebuild your solution to update the code.

Warnings and Errors

For Warning and errors you can see all the issues by clicking on them. The build may fail because of errors. These always need resolving before you send to the target DB e.g. Production

Error Example Warning:  SQL71558: The object reference [staging].[].[KEY] differs only by case from the object definition [staging].[ST2].[Key].

  • Click click on the database in Solution Explorer and go to Properties.
  • In project Settings untick validate casing on identities

Error Example Warning SQL71502: Procedure: [dim].[USP_Date] has an unresolved reference to object [sys].[all_objects].

You can add the master database as a reference (Right Click on references)

Add Database Reference

Rebuild your codebase. Its important here to make sure your warnings and errors have been dealt with

Rebuild updates your project locally after updating – I will look at how making changes with for example SQL Server Management Studio changes the process in a later blog.

  • Publish to Git Repository – GIT Changes and make a note of your change Commit All

Then click the arrow to Push changes to the GIT repository

We now have the code in the repository in DevOps

It seems annoyingly easy to slightly mess your folder structure up. Here I have a SQL DB Folder and another SQLDB Folder inside.

I only wanted the one. This does keep happening to me and its very frustrating. Any pointers to where I went wrong would be really appreciated

Create your CI (Continuous Integration) Pipeline in Azure Devops

Now we have the Code in GIT we can create our artifacts for the release pipeline.

  • In Azure Devops go to Pipelines and Release Pipelines
  • Click New Pipeline
  • And choose your repository
  • Select a template

Right click on tasks and remove selected tasks until you are left with the following

You don’t really have to do much with these three jobs

At the Pipeline level ensure you use the right Agent. For example Windows -2019. We had errors because we use an  OpenJson function in the SQL code but setting the right agent resolved this issue

All the other jobs are parameterised. This should now be all set

  • Save and Queue and you can then run the pipeline to create your artifacts Save and Run
  • There may be warnings here. For some reason the warnings you clear in Visual Studio seem to show in Devops. I would like to do a bit more research on this.
  • But If a warning hasn’t failed the process you should now have your Continuous Integration artifacts.

Create your CD (Continuous Delivery) Release Pipeline in Azure Devops

Now we are onto Continuous Delivery. Moving the new code into Azure SQL DB

  • In Azure Devops to to Pipelines – Releases – New release
  • So for Artifacts click Add

We want to use the latest build

now Add a Stage. In our case we are using Prod so its a simple release

  • Start with an Empty Job

Add a task to the job

Here we chose the production Subscription

And we link to the DACPAC file that was created with the build from visual Studio. The DACPAC contains all the objects in SQL

The database uses variables and you can set these up in the variables tab

You can create a release to update your Production database

Once pushed, check your SQL database in Production to make sure you are happy that your changes have gone through.

And you can save your visual studio project and reopen. the next stage is to update some objects and go through the process again so watch this space

Power BI Premium Deployment Pipelines and Sub Workspaces – Publishing a live report to a pro workspace from a premium workspace

I wanted to have a look at a specific set up we have in regards to our Power BI Workspaces and apps

  1. We have Power BI Premium P1 Node
  2. We use dataflows
  3. We use a Deployment Pipeline for Dev Test and Production Premium Workspaces
  4. We have a scenario where we have a sub workspace with a smaller number of reports than the main reports

Deployment Pipelines

Lets have a look at the master Workspace that contains all our dataflows, datasets and reports live connected to the dataset

And for all three areas there is also an app to test usability for Viewers (and for the viewers of all the reports in Prod

Current issues with Deployment Pipelines and dataflows

The great thing about pipelines is that we don’t have to keep copies of Test and Prod reports. There are just Dev Pbix files. However, for Production. How do you know that your Production reports are using the dataflows connected to the Production SQL database?

The issue at the moment is that there is a bug that leaves the development data source in with the Production data source for the data flow. You can see this if you go into Lineage View

In the Prod Pipeline we have set the reports to use Prod dataflow and updated the user and password but from here how do you know that this has worked?

The best way I have found to do this is to export the dataflow Json … Export to Json

And look at the file in Notepad and check the source Source = Sql.Database(\”prd-

Its showing as production so I can be happy that the production reports are against the production database

The Sub Workspace

So we have a model for a production app to sit on where users can view all the reports.

However we have another cohort who can only see the reports B and not report A or C.

We can only have one app per workspace so we cant create another app with just one report.

The answer here is to create a sub workspace and republish the Production report across to this new workspace.

The question here is….. Can the sub workspace be a none premium workspace if we are live connected to a dataset in a Premium workspace?

Lets find out by first assessing the situation we want to set up

Process to move the production reports in the deployment pipeline to another workspace

We want to publish the production report to a new workspace (With just the one report in it)

And as a further complication, We want to live connect to a dataset in a Premium workspace and recreate a report in a Pro Workspace.

Not only that, but the Pbix file is set to dev not Prod and there is no production pbix file.

First of all in your Production Workspace go to your report (content) Click … and Save a copy

And Here is the Lineage in Power BI

So how do we check that this report is connected to Dev data flow not prod dataflow

At this point I would probably recommend having something in SQL to connect to like a view or a table containing the datasource name to test with. This would be really handy.

We have to assume that this is the case because it comes from Production workspace which is definitely connected to Prod its good. Also, You could check the data between dev and Prod at this point too.

To test, an app was published and the data was exactly the same as the report in the master workspace.

The good thing about this set up, you only have one copy of the data in master. You don’t have to have the same data duplicated in another workspace, taking up more space in the Power BI Premium Node.

And because its such a small workspace, we don’t have to create it in Premium so we don’t need our Power BI Admin to set it up as a Premium workspace

Licensing

Now you have to think about Licensing. Everyone who needs access to the report in the Pro workspace now needs a Pro account themselves. Great if you have a P3 License which gives everyone free Pro accounts.

But what if you don’t have everyone on Power BI Pro licenses. Or you have external users and you haven’t given them a Pro license?

Lots to think about here with this Mix of Premium and Pro. this might then be a case of going to your Power BI Admin and asking them to switch the Workspace to Premium simply due to the Licenses against the report viewers.

Power BI Can you use an inactive join for a slicer (USERELATIONSHIP)

Imagine the scenario. You are dealing with two dates. date A and B. You create an active and an inactive relationship to your date table.

You can create Dax with USERELATIONSHIP for any measures that use the inactive join. Great for the bar charts, line charts etc.

But what if you have a slicer for Year on the report? At the moment that slicer is connected to Date A because you simple drag year from the date table.

This report needs to be sliced against Date B. Is there a way to do this?

Lets look at one of our measures that uses USERELATIONSHIP

YTD Measure =

CALCULATE(TOTALYTD([Number of Records],’Date'[Date]), USERELATIONSHIP(Metrics[DateKeyB],’Date'[DateKey]))

The USERELATIONSHIP can only be used with CALCULATE,CALCULATETABLE, CLOSINGBALANCEMONTH, CLOSINGBALANCEQUARTER, CLOSINGBALANCEYEAR, OPENINGBALANCEMONTH, OPENINGBALANCEQUARTER, OPENINGBALANCEYEAR, TOTALMTD, TOTALQTD and TOTALYTD 

From this it is clear you can only use it in a measure with a metric.

And you cannot use a Measure in a slicer. Slicers have to be created from a column.

Which means that our inactive dates can’t be used in a slicer. And this is problematic because if you have a page of time based visuals all using the USERELATIONSHIP then its a fair shout that you are going to have a slicer too for example ‘Year’

So can we come up with a workaround?

Workaround 1. Adding date information to the fact table

Out model rules are

  • DateKeys in the Fact table. I also hold the dates hidden just in case
  • The dateKey Joins to the date Dimension which contains Year, Day, Month etc

So what I am going to do in this case is add my relationship B details into the fact table just for the time being.

s.[DateB] AS [Date B],
--Workaround 1
DATEPART(Year,s.[DateB]) AS [Year B],
DATENAME(Month,s.[DateB]) AS [Month B],
DATEPart(Month,s.[DateB]) AS [Month No B],
[staging].[fnQuarter](s.[DateB]) AS [Quarter B],

I have created a Quarter function with the specific quarter logic which is use for every Quarter period.

This is then refreshed into the Power BI Dataflow

And then refreshed into my data set.

All ready to work with. What I decided to do in Power BI was create a table containing those values.

Support End Date (For Slicers) = 
SUMMARIZE ( 'GrowthHubMetrics', 
GrowthHubMetrics[SupportDateKey],
'GrowthHubMetrics'[Support End Quarter], 
'GrowthHubMetrics'[Support End Month], 
'GrowthHubMetrics'[Support End Month No], 
'GrowthHubMetrics'[Support End Year], 
'GrowthHubMetrics'[Support End Date])

The dates in the fact table were then hidden leaving the above Slicer table.

And then I remembered that Date time Measures don’t work without a continuous date table and DateB isn’t continuous.

But then I remembered that I had already put in a lot of work creating all the date time measures on the inactive join to the date table using USERELATIONSHIP so actually all the date time measure are fine.

Would I go back and create a date table for dateA and a date table for DateB so I can have slicers and drill down to the date. Its very possible but that renders the use of USERELATIONSHIP Pretty null and void, unless you still want to slice these visuals against DateA.

Connect the DAX table to the model.

the date Table for Slicers is connected up to Dimdate in the model and we are ready to go

So all the measures are still connected to the date table through the inactive join

But the slicer can be set up over the new DAX table

I’m hoping to get a better way of doing this as we go because it seems that you should be able to do this without having to create another table.

Update

In the end, this became so complex and issue heavy (Drill throughs not working properly etc) I gave up. Created a reference of the date table for Date B. Connected this up. removed the DAX table and changed all my measures to get rid of USERRELATIONSHIP.

So Pages 1 to2 use DateA and Pages 3 and 4 use DATEB.

As a conclusion, if you are wanting to use Drill through and Drill down I think I would recommend role playing dimensions. the complexity of the USERELATIONSHIP with just seems incredibly complex at the moment.

Its a shame because I love the idea of switching to a none active join but in practice its proved unworkable.

If you have any tips on this please let me know

Power BI. Created Reports in your ‘shared dataset file’ and now want to move them to a report pbix file. How do you go about this task?

The recommended approach to Power BI as an enterprise solution is to have your ‘shared data set in a pbix file where you can just create test visuals to check everything is ok.

Then create the real reports in a separate pbix file live connected to the dataset.

But what happens if you create great reports, including Bookmarks etc in the shared data set before deciding to move everything?

Changing the data source

Instead of creating a new pbix file and copying all the visuals in (this wont really work if you have bookmarks and more complex reporting set up)

First, save your ‘Shared pbix’ file with another name which will becomes the reporting pbix file. The original pbix file complete with the original reports can be left as is.

You could change the data sources over to the ones in the data set. However this creates an issue.

The Data set pbix file sits on dataflows.

If you currently try and change to data sets, Data sets aren’t offered.

So what do you do?

Remove Queries

In this example all the M Code for the Query should be done in the Dataflow within service. the only M Code in the shared data set should be the connection to the data flow.

All the Queries should be deleted. If you make sure your dataflow queries have the name you want in the dataflow, Re adding them back will be fairly straight forward

Close and Apply your Query

Back in Power BI all your visuals show as having issues. There is no data.

Go to Get Data and now you can choose datasets

Find the data set and select. This should then load in Live data from the data set and your visuals will be displayed again.

Publish this back up to service.

At this point you can look at Lineage to view that you are using the power BI recommended approach

The App

When I create the app for Viewing I simply hide the Dev reports from the users.

This appears to be the speediest way of moving your reports to their own file, if you have already done a lot of reporting work in the ‘shared data set’

Microsoft Business Applications Summit 2021. Power BI Vision and Roadmap

Driving a Data Culture

This is the 6th year of Power BI. Power BI has always been about driving data culture and has been rapidly evolving throughout its data journey.

Power BI is top of the Gartner Magic Quadrant and growing exponentially across users and business. Lets have a look at where we have come from and where we are going.

The Power BI Journey

Power BI started by wanting to empower Business Analysts. The next step was to empower IT departments

At the beginning of the journey the two targeted user groups wanted different things.

Business Analysis want quick BI with no red tape. IT wants governance, control and repeatability. By 2018 Microsoft was starting to think about both of these user groups and how Power Bi could work with each use case.

These use cases split into Enterprise and Self Service BI.

Microsoft moved to bring both Enterprise and Self Service together. Power BI was proving so popular it seems the best development was to bring enterprise reporting and semantic models into power BI

The following licensing was created to allow for this economic disruption

Built on Azure and deployed in over 50 data centers. Power BI used the cloud to bring about economic disruption

The cloud also offers a great economic model (Economies of Scale). Originally we had free and Pro for our business analysts. Premium became available in 2017 as an enterprise solution.

Enterprise And Self Service Converged

By 2018 with power BI, Microsoft aimed to

  • Empower every individual
  • Empower every team
  • Empower every organisation

Moving on to 2019 and 2020

Power BI increases its market share considerably and with every month of development comes huge changes to the product. Its now becoming a game changer for both self service and enterprise use.

AI Capabilities

Information workers need more, and power BI gave us more with inbuilt AI capabilities.

Key Driver Analysis

Key influences Visual

A great visual to look at the influences on your data. I have used this, for example to look at what drives negative tweets for a company. It also segments your data into understandable groupings

Smart Narratives

This visual provides textual analysis of your whole report or specific visuals. It will update the narrative dependant upon what the user selects.

This is a great visual for users who need to see descriptions along with the visuals to get a better understanding of the narrative.

Root cause Analysis

This is fantastic for users who want to create their own journey through the data. Select a metric and then allow the user to choose how they want to slice and dice the information. AI will find you categories with the lowest and highest values against the metric

Q&A

Q&A allows users to ask natural language questions, and Power BI will bring back the best visual that answers that question. developers can put together lists of possible questions for the user to choose from.

Powerpoint for Data

To make Power BI easy to use Microsoft decided to match experiences where ever possible to Powerpoint and Excel. This leads to massive adoption because people find it easy to use. they have already seen and used the ribbon in lots of other Microsoft products, take up is therefor a good option.

Moving to 2021

2021 brings to the table a new licence that gives smaller businesses the ability to buy in Premium licenses at a user level rather than pay for a Premium node.

This can work out much cheaper for smaller companies so you don’t have to miss out on Premium services.

AI Capabilities for Business Analysts

Again, our information workers require more from the service

Power BI has the most complete AI capabilities in any BI product. Along with the visuals mentioned above, the Business Application Summit introduced us to Sentiment Analysis and Key phrase extraction in more detail.

Sentiment Analysis

Azure has given us cognitive services for a while. For example, I used Azure to get tweets via Logic Apps and assign sentiment scores to each tweet.

With Premium, we can do this within Power BI. You will now be able to run data items in Power BI through sentiment analysis and assign scores. Are those reviews coming through from your customers positive, negative or neutral?

Key Phrase Extraction

Another fantastic cognitive service that I used to do pre moving the data into Power BI. Now you can get a list of key phrases from your data, and put them into a word cloud. All available within power BI

Automated Insights (Coming Soon)

Brand new Automated Insights are coming…

Automate insights will give you Anomalies, KPI Analysis and Trends out of the box.

Anomaly Detection will automatically find anomalies in time series data and also attempt to explain these anomalies. Along with this you can also see trends in your data and get explanations on these trends. Trends and anomality’s gives you a holistic overview of your data

And KPIS look at our Goals which is new in Premium. We will look at this new feature later.

Automated insights proactively prompt us for time critical information, but you can get insights without being prompted by clicking the Automated insights button.

It works without any set up or configuration (Apart from KPIs because this needs Goals to work with.

AI for Data Scientists

Extend with Azure ML

Create ML Models

Python and R Integration

Explore Predictions

Going beyond on the power BI Journey (What is coming)

Insight to Action through Power Platform

Power Apps has been available for some time to embed into a Power BI Report but there has been a lot of work done in this area to make it work better within the power BI suite.

I have used a Power Apps Visual to allow users to send data back to a database, which would then display within Power BI as it was a direct connection.

New features include Power Automate within Power BI. You can now add a button in Power BI that will trigger Power Automate. I cant wait to look at some use cases for this new service.

One question I have is regarding Logic Apps within Azure. Logic Apps is the same service as Power Automate and I want to know why the decision has been made to call the same product two different things. And if Logic Apps can stand in for Power Automate in this situation.

Performance management

Power BI Goals is in Public Preview and available for Premium users

Goals is a new Power BI artefact that you can set up on your metrics that matter the most to you. You can assign data from reports to update your goals and users can drill through into your reports for further analysis.

Another fantastic new service, its a shame its only offered to Premium users. Thankfully Premium per user allows buy in to these new services for smaller companies.

My one concern is if you are using Premium Pipelines to host Development, Test and Production workspaces.

We are still waiting for dataflows to be added to this feature, its doubtful whether goals will be included when introduced.

This would mean that you cant move your goals from dev through to production so hopefully I am wrong about this.

Real Time Analytics

Power BI Streaming Dataflows

Streaming dataflows should be coming later in 2021 as preview.

Streaming dataflows is a brand new concept in power BI, and for the first time will offer the ability to combine multiple data sources into a streaming dataflow.

This is again another Premium feature

Front line workers

Insights on the Move

There have been significant improvements to the mobile apps which are getting great reviews from both Apple and Google stores.

Empowering Every Team with Teams

Great Teams use data and we can embed Power reports in teams channels so we can add Power BI reports to meetings and provide links within chat.

Microsoft have put a lot of work into bringing the Power BI Service into Teams for much better collaboration. They want Power BI to be as fundamental to what you do as your calendar, meetings or chat.

It’s recommended to make sure that you make sure the Power BI App is always available in your tools panel

One issue I have with Power BI in teams is having to navigate away when you are using chat. If I am looking at a document in Teams and I see that someone is chatting to me, it can be annoying to have to leave the document to see what else is happening. Hopefully they sort this functionality out.

Power BI In the real world with HoloLens

HoloLens 2 vs HoloLens 1: what's new? | 4Experience's AR/VR Blog

Straight out of science fiction. The HoloLens 2 allows you to augment Power BI Analytics over your real life journeys. This gives you Analytics where ever you go.

I would need to think about how and when you would need this but they gave a great example of walking through an office and having virtual tv points up on the walls.

New Announcements for Power BI analytics

In part two there was lots of exciting announcements of new features coming to Power BI

Drill down and drill through on the tooltip

Power BI has given us a few ways to do drill down and drill through.

For drill through, You could right click on a visual or even create a button to click to drill through on the highlighted item.

Drill down was available as an icon at the top of a visual

But very soon it should be even easier to establish that these options are available. Power BI Will soon have both Drill through and Drill down available on the tooltip.

Paginated report within your Power BI reports. Vertical Headers. etc

Build a Paginated report table in report builder with vertical headers, grouping, nesting etc and then add this visual to your Power BI report

New Standard Table visual in Power BI

These new options will be added to the table visual. This is the current experience

But soon we will be able to add sparklines within the table, both column and line sparklines.

This is one of the biggest requested additions so its great to see that we will soon have sparklines on the standard table visual.

Buttons Bookmarks and Navigations

I have been using Power BI for a few years now and the one thing I have always disliked is the workaround feel of creating button navigation. Having to layer buttons or visuals over the top of other eachother and hiding and unhiding where appropriate. It was time consuming and overly complex.

Microsoft are working on new navigator features to set up new custom navigation. This is one of my favourite new features.

Have a few bookmarks on a page and want to switch to different bookmarks. Then use Bookmark navigation. Just drag it in and you will get configurable navigation on all your bookmarks.

How about Page Navigation. Same again. Simply drag page navigation onto your pages.

This is fantastic and you can even use custom navigation so users can only navigate to specific pages . It would be great if you could add images to these buttons too but lets see how things develop.

Other Announcements

  • Paginated reports inside Power BI.
  • Smart Narratives going into General Availability
  • Anomaly Detection going into General Availability
  • Automated Insights is shipping later this year
  • Data set hub to recommend promoted and certified datasets
  • Excel – Connect to data sets using Get Data in Excel
  • Coming soon, the ability to create Power BI Apps and turn it into a Teams App, bringing Teams and Power BI together
  • Quick Create from Sharepoint lists
  • Live connected to the datasets in order to connect to multiple datasets being updated.

Governance and Scalability

Microsoft Information Protection

MIP is becoming an even more important part of security in Power BI and across all Microsoft services. This is a complex area and requires much more research. Including what Information protection service is best for you. We will look at this in more detail in another post.

Its important to note that there are additional costs per month to this service.

Scalability

No matter what the data volume is, your queries should always run fast

Automatic Aggregations

Based on the existing aggregations feature. If a user happens to drill down to detailed reports the system will automatically reverts to direct query, rather than the imported data.

Previously, this had to be set up by the developer but moving forwards the aggregations will be created for you.

Coming later this year and brings together Power BI and Azure Synapse Analytics (If using the Azure Warehouse as the underlying database)

Large Models Feature

Another Premium feature. Used with incremental refresh a dataset can grow up to 80% of the premium capacities total memory.

Hybrid Tables

Used for fast real time analysis.

Partitions are created by year and your current year will be set against real time data. This is such an exciting announcement. I cant wait to get started with it. (Premium only)

Streaming Dataflows

Azure Stream Analytics is used for this. (See Power BI Streaming Dataflows)

(Premium only)

Conclusion

The Microsoft Business Applications summit was again, full of really exciting new innovations.

However, Its becoming really clear that those on pro licenses are now really missing out on features like Goals, streaming dataflows, machine learning, etc.

At the beginning of this journey, the big factor for moving to Premium was simply to give viewing access to many more people, along with the security that power BI provides. This is simply not the case any more.

Thankfully Premium per user licenses gives smaller companies a way to move to Premium at lower cost. the barrier to entry has been significantly lowered and it seems that Microsoft expect us to move to those licenses if we don’t want to get left behind.

it should also be noted that those that have Power BI Premium through their E5 licences can simply pay the difference and move up to the Premium per user licenses.

Another slight negative was the fact that there are issues with features already available that were not dealt with at the conference. The big one for us at the moment is the fact that Premium Pipelines simply don’t work with dataflows.

When the recommendation has been to use dataflows to separate this job out from the pbix file, it seems a real shame that they have not acted accordingly to get this into Pipelines (Maintain Development, Test and Production areas)

Another feature of Power BI that is lacking is source control. there are hopefully some new features coming to configure with DevOps. It is to be assumed that any changes to this will be Premium only.

With this in mind, its still exciting to see all the new updates, and the fact that they are tying Power BI in much more strongly with the other Power Platform offerings.

What was your favourite announcement from the Microsoft Business Applications Summit this year. I would love to hear your thoughts.

Autoscaling with Power BI Premium Gen 2

We have been working with Power BI Premium for a few weeks. Simply switching it on and seeing how it goes.

However, Its worth paying some attention to Autoscaling that you can get with Premium Gen 2 (Preview)

Auto Scaling

Previously our Power BI Premium capacity could struggle when there was high capacity. For example If we reached full capacity, someone’s automatic refreshes would fail. Or if too many things were happening on the server, report users would find that reports were taking longer to render.

There are lots of use cases where this could happen so Auto scaling is definitely something that can help with these issues.

You can now scale and autoscale using Azure Pay as you go, which is around £62 per vCore for a 24 hour period

We use the DTU Pricing structure in Azure for SQL DBs. What is the difference between the DTU and the vCore pricing structure?

Autoscaling is an opt in feature and can be charged to an Azure Subscription

Once the spike is over, scale down happens and you stop paying for the scale up.

Autoscale Notifications

Toasts pop up in Admin Portals Capacity Settings to let your admin know when autoscale is running.

It would be good to be able to tell everyone working with Power BI when this is happening simply for reference

Get Started with setting up Autoscaling in Azure

Go into Azure and Select Subscriptions. You need to have made the decision before hand on which subscription can be used for Autoscaling billing.

Next create an auto scaling resource group

Enable Autoscale in Power BI Admin Portal

To do this you need to be the Power BI Admin (Or Global Admin)

Another addition is that the person needs to be at least a contributor on the Azure Subscription to go through all the steps succesfully

Go to Capacity Settings

Make sure Premium Generation 2 is already enabled

Then Select Manage Auto Scale

Enable auto scale and then select your Azure Subscription

And then assign the number of vCores to the Autoscale

Here we have set the max of 2.

How many vCores does a Premium P1 capacity have?

8 virtual Cores

Once completed you are all set. There are some questions. Apart from the Toast pop ups are there other ways to monitor and log the usage of Autoscaling?

This needs its own page but there are Apps you can try like https://appsource.microsoft.com/en-us/product/power-bi/pbi_pcmm.capacity-metrics-dxt?tab=Overview

The big takeaway from all this is that we should never be in a situation where we are surprised that we have reached capacity. Or, if we do set up Auto Scaling it should not be used on a day to day basis.

More investigation is needed on how to set up proper monitoring so we have full knowledge about what is going on in Premium Capacity. And we must never forget that there will be Pro workspaces already set up and these shouldn’t go under the radar either.

We will have a look at these issues in future posts

Quick Guide of Power BI Premium Features

It can be quite infuriating to be a Power BI Pro user and constantly be on the verge of doing something, before realising that its only available with Premium.

Thank goodness for Power BI Premium Per User for smaller companies. At just double the price per user licence, all these enterprise level goodies can be available. I wanted to do a whistle stop tour of each one, and some others I have found along the way

Automated Machine Learning

No code machine learning is great if you arent a data scientist and you want to try out some basic machine learning.

For this example I have gone to my dataflow in Power BI Service

I am going to use my date dataflow just as an example, but obviously this isn’t the datasource you would want to use

I wont go any further with this example as its not a great one but I just wanted you to get a feel of the first few screens. This is an incredibly powerful feature. once set up you can use this dataflow in Power BI.

You can also integrate Azure ML models that your data scientists have created in Azure with the Azure ML API

Cognitive Services

I have previously used Cognitive Services in Azure to add sentiment analysis and key phrases onto tweets as they come in via an Azure Logic App trigger.

This information is then loaded into Power BI Pre prepared.

I have struggled to access this functionality within Power BI previously but hopefully this will allow Power BI users proper access to this fantastic Azure Service

Within Power BI Query Editor (Dataflows in Service)

If you are in Pro you will see the following

With Premium however you can use the following functions

Just a couple of examples, you can take descriptive data and score it with ScoreSentiment. Then you can take these scores and add a new column for Sentiment (Positive, Negative, Neutral)

You can add a language field that will tell you if your test item is for example, English, German, French etc.

And you can extract key phrases from descriptive text to add a cool word cloud to your power BI report.

No code data prep and scale

Visual Data Prep is another area that needs looking at in more detail but this is available in Premium dataflows

You now get a great diagram view of all the actions done on your queries.

This will make things much easier for users who can now interact with the diagram view.

Deployment pipelines

Assign your development App Workspace and Pipelines will then let you create Test and Production App Workspaces. Each workspace can be pointed to different data sources.

You can then very easily work in development. move your work to test and then to production when its ready to use.

As at April 2021 Dataflows haven’t yet been added but once this is in, I think this is really the only way to go with Power BI.

Having done some research on Dev Test and Prod in Power BI Pro this makes a huge difference as its practically unworkable in Pro

Integration with Azure Synapse

Azure Synapse is the new Azure Data Warehouse.

You can now create Power BI reports over big data in Azure Synapse.

And Azure Synapse gives you even bigger wins with performance

Pixel-perfect paginated reports

Report Builder is free. You can download it and even use a model previously created in Power BI.

https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=58158

Here you can build your Pixel Perfect reporting, invoices are a good example. Reports that require page numbers and headers and footers that are most likely to be printed out.

Without Premium you cant publish the rdl files to the Power BI Service.

With Premium, you can publish your pixel perfect report to service along with your other Power BI objects

XMLS read/write

These Endpoints allow other providers access to your Analysis Services Engine within the Power BI Service. This means that you will be able to use even more tools for governance, monitoring, debugging, modelling etc, rather than only being able to use Power BI Desktop.

Your admin does need to allow this within the Admin Portal

Trillions of rows

With Premium, you can query and analyse 1 trillion rows of data. which is part of the ‘query performance over big data’ feature. In fact any large data set can make use of this feature to make refreshes and response times quicker

https://powerbi.microsoft.com/en-us/blog/aggregations-for-petabyte-scale-bi-available-in-the-power-bi-service/

This is worthy of a more deep dive feature in future but its certainly exciting.

Advanced Security

Here are some of the advanced security features that can be used for your most sensitive data

  • Compute isolation
  • Double Encryption at Rest
  • Double Encryption in transit
  • Private links
  • Zero egress
  • Immutable logs
  • TLS 1.2
  • Customer Managed Keys
  • VNet Network isolation
  • Immutable storage logs
  • FedRAMP high & DISA IL4
  • DISA IL5, DISA IL6 + IDC503
  • Vulnerability management
  • Automatic Certs rotation

End to End protection

Sensitivity labels and Microsoft Information Protection (MIP)

Sensitivity labels allows you to classify your data across all Microsoft products like power BI, Excel etc.

Its an extra cost and can be purchased standalone or through a Licensing suite like the Microsoft 365 Compliance Plan, Microsoft 365 Business etc.

For pricing you need to contact Microsoft at this time.

Other findings

If you are using dataflows in Pro, you cant create computed entities such as referencing tables. Merging tables.

This means that dataflows in Pro need to be quite simple. you only get the full functionality in Premium.

This is why most people in Pro prefer to do the data prep in Power BI desktop.

Its becoming more and more difficult for business users to remain with Power BI Pro, all these above features are an absolute must for enterprise level reporting.

It is really worth that switch to either Power BI Premium per user or a Premium node if you are a large enough company

Power BI March 2021 Updates – Direct Query for Power BI datasets and Analysis Services, Testing the new fixes.

Direct Query for Power BI datasets and Analysis Services feature has currently been in preview for a couple of months

Switching this feature to on, should hopefully allow us to create reports over multiple data sets, which will allow use to have smaller datasets, maybe just over a single model. These can then be connected together in the report

And we couldn’t wait to try it out.

We had two data sets. And for one report we wanted to connect to both datasets so we could create reports over the two, without having to create an entirely new larger data set.

However we ran into issues which ended up rendering this unfit for purpose

  1. None of the formatting was remembered from the original datasets
  2. All the folders had disappeared that had been set up in model view
  3. All the Sort by items had gone.
  4. Both models connected to a data dimension, but actually removing one of the date dimensions (from the second model) and connecting the second model to the first models data dimension didn’t seem to work very well.

We have lots of use cases where this would be perfect. so in the March update, it is mentioned that the team have been working on this. Lets have a look at see if this is now a viable option for us.

The source data sets

Data set 1

We have some folders for the measures

In the date dimension, month has the sort order of Month No

Seasons has the sort order of Seasons order

And we have a measure set as a Percentage (An example of formatting)

Data set 2

We have again, Folders, Sort orders and Formatting.

Both datasets have a date dimension

lets look and see what happens if we use Direct Query for Power BI datasets and Analysis Services

Remember to turn it on as a preview feature in options and settings

Get data

Choose a dataset (That has been published to an app workspace

Go to model view and remember to upgrade the model view

Issue with layout views

At this point, one of the key issues is that in the shared dataset pbix file, the developer has created multiple layouts in model view to make it easier to work with.

In the report pbix file all the layouts are lost and we are left with the All tables layout.

Not good because the report developer has to redo this work again in this report file

So here is the first model

Import data set 2

we can now get data from another Power BI dataset even though we are connected up to a dataset. Previously you could only connect to one data set.

What does this mean?

With one data set its a live connection, in the same way as you would live connect to analysis services. with Live connection there is no local model.

Direct Query. Direct Query needs a local model adding into the report so in this case, a dataset also gets published to Power BI Service, along with the report.

From this in Power BI Service

To this

Select Add a Local Model

And select the next data set

In this case we are happy with the security because both data sources are within the same workspace and we trust the owners and admins in this workspace.

Click OK

As the report developer I am now looking at quite a complex model in all tables.

The colours denote the two data sets.

Now we need to establish which tables are in twice.

Immediately we can see date and date 2 and these need conforming

You cant delete a table. All you can do is hide it in report view.

In this case date 2 is being hidden (Hide in report View)

And a join is being created between the metrics table in data set 2 and the date table in dataset 1

Remember that you will need to go over your model. Find every table that is being used across the models. Hide duplicates and create relationships

Check for issues

The date table in data set 1 has the above Sorts applied and they are still working in the report

The measures folders are still available in both dataset 1 and 2

However Formatting has been lost on the Percentage measure.

So this leaves us with one major issue across datasets, and we can’t reset all the formatting within the reporting pbix file

As it stands then this is currently not fit for purpose and just needs another extra tweak. Its a real shame because we were really hoping to use this very soon. Hopefully Power BI Sorts it out in the next release.