What is Power BI?
Power BI is a new cloud first self service analytic tool introduced by Microsoft which empowers us to bring our whole business data at one place for analysis purpose. It provides an easy way to pull data from multiple data sources which includes but not limited to files, databases, azure databases, Hadoop files, websites and many more.
Power BI has various components, from which Power BI Desktop tool is used to create, publish and share interactive and stunning reports. Mobile users can download the Power BI Mobile application to view these published dashboards on their mobile devices. All together, it’s a new era of interactive and mobile friendly cloud based self service reporting.
It’s a free reporting solution from Microsoft which can be used by anyone, anytime, anywhere.
Why Power BI?
Microsoft is providing a complete enterprise BI solution to the industries since more than a decade with the help of SSIS, SSAS and SSRS sitting on the top of the SQL Server stack. In which, SSIS is used for ETL purposes, SSAS to create and analyze cubes, and SSRS is used to create and share reports. No doubt, SSRS is one of the most mature industry leading reporting tool but it lags with a legacy look and feel of user interface. Browser compatibility is also an issue with SSRS reports which occurs mostly in case of non Microsoft browsers.
Power BI does not only overcomes the legacy look and feel and browser incompatibility issues of SSRS, but it also provides highly interactive mobile friendly self service BI reporting solution. There are two versions of Power BI, free and pro. Both have their own set of features. Small vendors can use the free version of the Power BI with few limitations whereas enterprise level solution can be built using Power BI Pro. The Pro version of Power BI is much cheaper in terms of license cost in comparison of its competitors.
Power BI enables self service BI like Microsoft Excel with an ease of sharing. We can also run R script directly in Power BI desktop which enables us to do amazing things. The infrastructure management cost can also be reduced using Power BI as it is a cloud first reporting tool. In case of large volume of data, we can connect Power BI to live data sources. As of now, Power BI provides live data connectivity for azure database, azure data warehouse, and SSAS tabular and multidimensional model cubes. Power BI has incorporated the multidimensional cube browsing functionality in its latest release [Nov 29, 2015 (Power BI version 2.29.4217.341)] as a preview feature. Using live database connectivity can be very helpful specially in case of large databases, where we are not good to import all data in cloud.
Power BI desktop tool also provides basic ETL functionalities like adding derived columns, changing data types, applying basic data transformations, and etc. Although, it is not an enterprise ETL tool but still we can do basic transformations here.
Power BI components
Power BI has various components which are used collaboratively to turn your data into insights. Below, we are going to discuss each of the component and their usage in more detail:
Power BI Desktop
Power BI desktop tool is used to create the Power BI reports. This tool is used to connect data sources, extract data, apply transformations and to create interactive reports through a free-form drag and drop canvas. Report created in Power BI uses .pbix extension. This tool has a broad range of modern data visuals which can be used to visualize our business data. Below is the first look of the Power BI desktop when you open it.
Power BI Mobile
Power BI provides a platform, browser independent and mobile friendly enterprise reporting solution. It has native mobile apps for Windows, Android and iOS. We can download the Power BI mobile application from the play store and view our data anytime anywhere. Just visit the play store and search for Power BI mobile app, login there and enjoy the mobile reporting capability of Power BI. Below is the image of Power BI app for Android devices:
Power BI Gateway
Once we create and deploy our reports on cloud, we need to make that report in sync and updated with our on premise data, in case we are using on premise data sources. To refresh the report data on given schedule, we use Power BI Gateway tool. Power BI Gateway keeps our data refreshing from our on premise database as per the schedule.
Power BI is an advance, interactive and complete enterprise reporting solution and it has a wide range of data sources which can be consumed directly in Power BI reports.
Available Data Sources:
Below is the list of the available data sources as on Nov 29, 2015 (Power BI version 2.29.4217.341) and this list is widening with almost each monthly release of Power BI:
Files – Excel, CSV, XML, Text and Folder.
Databases – SQL Server, Access, SQL Server Analysis Services, Oracle, IBM DB2, MySql, Postgre, Sybase, Teradata and SAP HANA.
Azure Databases – Microsoft Azure Database, Azure Data Warehouse, Azure marketplace, Azure HDInsight, Azure Blob storage, Azure Table storage, Azure HDInsight spark, Azure Document DB, Azure Data Lake store.
Other – Web, SharePoint list, oData feed, Hadoop files, Active directory, Microsoft exchange, Dynamics CRM online, Facebook, Google analytics, Salesforce objects, Salesforce reports, ODBC, R Script, appFigures, GitHub, MailChimp, Quick Books online, SweetIQ, Twilio, Zendesk, Marketo, Spark, Blank Query.
To download Power BI desktop, click here.
Will be sharing soon some learning posts related to Power BI.
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