Monday, October 21, 2013

Power BI - The Latest from Summit

One of my goals at PASS Summit 2013 was to learn more about Power BI. When Power BI was announced in July, I already had familiarity with Power Pivot, Power View, Power Query, and Power Map. Since then I've seen and experienced confusion related to what's part of Power BI. The following is some what I learned at Summit and what my new impressions are.

Initial Causes for Power BI Confusion
When Power BI was announced in July, Power Pivot, Power View, Power Query, and Power Map were all announced to be part of Power BI. Q&A was mentioned as a feature, as well.

Power Pivot, though, was already officially available for Office 2010/2013, and Power View was officially available for Office 2013. Both Power Map and Power Query had Excel 2013 add-ins in public preview. Thus, what did it mean for the first four items with the announcement of Power BI?

Demystification of Power BI
My current impression is that Power Pivot, Power View, Power Query, and Power Map may all stay available for on-premise self-service BI. Power BI for Office 365 is coming across as an upcoming subscription for Office 365 in the cloud that would eventually include Power Pivot, Power View, Power Query, Power Map, and Q&A. Q&A seems like a cloud only feature, and it seems like some non-Q&A functionality may come in the cloud first and then possibly go on-premise. Note: Last I heard Power Map was not scheduled to be in the GA for Power BI in the cloud.

The following are additional Power BI notes from Summit 2013:

Power BI Q&A Feature
When I first saw the Q&A feature of Power BI in the Power BI Office 365 July demo video, the Q&A feature mostly seemed like magic. After attending a full Summit session dedicated just to Power BI Q&A, I became much more excited about the feature. Here's some of what I learned.
  • Power BI Q&A is not magic
  • Power BI Q&A relies on Power Pivot models in the cloud
  • In the current Power BI Preview, you can try using the Q&A feature against some sample workbooks
  • If you want to run the Q&A feature against your own workbooks, you'll need to wait until the next Power BI Preview
  • You'll be able to "train" Q&A to tie search words to your Power Pivot models by changing the primary synonym and/or adding phrases. The primary synonym defaults based upon the column names in your Power Pivot model. I got the impression that it could automatically turn underscores into spaces.
  • When the user is typing in their search words, beneath the search the user sees the exact search that would be run.
  • If Q&A cannot understand a word typed into the search, the word is grayed out.
Like I mentioned earlier, after seeing Adam Wilson and Amy Forstrom's Power BI: Modern Device and Data Search Experience session, I'm much more excited about Power BI Q&A. If you have access to the Summit 2013 recordings, I highly recommend this session.

In addition, the Day 1 Keynote, had a Power BI Q&A demo at the 1 hour 15 minutes and 15 seconds mark. It is available for public viewing.

Power Query
  • There is a decent chance that the Power Query add-in for Excel on the desktop will remain free.
  • In order to publish a Power Query workbook for sharing, a Power BI subscription for Office 365 would be required. 
Day 1 Keynote (one hour and 5 minutes mark) shows using Power Query to import data from Windows Azure HDInsight

Power Map
Major additions from the September release:
  • Create Video (big yay!)
  • Region Shading - For countries, states/provinces, and counties
  • Flat Map
  • Update: Ari Schorr let me know about even more additional features from the September release. He  has a blogpost about them here. I can't wait to try them out!
Other Power Map notes:
  • Not expected to be in the GA of Power BI. This gives me hope that the Excel add-in for Power Map might remain free for Excel on the desktop while publishing to Office 365 might require a Power BI Subscription.
  • Requires DirectX10
  • It's not recommended to use Power Map on a VM. The visualization may not work properly or may not work at all. Update: This recommendation was apparently pre-September release, although, it was provided to me at Summit. It can happen. With the September release, Power Map supports the main VM's.
Power View
  • Microsoft is working on the capability for Power View in the cloud to work on native iPad. This was mentioned by a Microsoft employee at a Summit session on mobile BI. The employee spoke up after the speaker clearly was dancing around this point, as he did not think he was allowed to disclose it.
Office 2013 Click-to-Run vs. ISO Installation
It matters whether or not your Office 2013 installation was done using Click-to-Run or using an ISO. I believe the Click-to-Run version is available using the Power BI Preview, while the ISO version seems be available via MSDN. The Click-to-Run version updates automatically, thus, it would get the critical Power BI Preview 2 updates automatically like those needed to be able to train your Power Pivot models for Power BI Q&A. Last I heard Microsoft is aware of a possible need to get the Click-to-Run version out onto MSDN.

Thanks to everyone who provided some great Power BI information at Summit. Microsoft provided some great information via keynote and sessions. I had some great discussions with Microsoft employees at the SQL Server Clinic and in other environments. Thanks to Julie Koesmarno and others in the community for some great Power BI discussion, as well.

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