Monday, May 29, 2023

What Is Microsoft Fabric and Why Should I Care?

As I mentioned in my Build Announcement Summary, Microsoft Fabric has been announced!

In short, Fabric covers the complete spectrum of services including data movement, data lake, data engineering, data integration and data science, real time analytics, and business intelligence.

Straight to Next up.

It promises to offer end to end analytics from the data lake to the business user, covering the following pillars:

  • Complete Analytics Platform
  • Lake-Centric and Open
  • Empower Every Business User
  • AI Powered

In my opinion this provides the following benefits:
  • A broad set of deeply integrated analytics 
  • Shared experiences that are familiar and easy to learn across all the products
  • All assets to be easily discovered and reused by all developers
  • OneLake, a unified data lake, Microsoft calls it the "OneDrive for data", allowing customers to keep one copy of the data while using the analytics tools of choice 
  • Centralized administration and governance across all workloads

As mentioned in my blog, Fabric is turned off by default, until July 1st, so you will have to enable it to start using it! 

The new Fabric / Power BI home page when you switch on Fabric looks like this:

Fabric home page

And with the button in the left bottom corner you can switch between the different persona's/workloads:

Fabric workload switcher

Microsoft also states clearly that standalone PaaS products will stay untouched and remain active. So there's no need for existing customers to worry about solutions currently in production.

"Existing Microsoft products such as Azure Synapse Analytics, Azure Data Factory, and Azure Data Explorer will continue to provide a robust, enterprise-grade platform as a service (PaaS) solution for data analytics. Fabric represents an evolution of those offerings in the form of a simplified SaaS solution that can connect to existing PaaS offerings. Customers will be able to upgrade from their current products into Fabric at their own pace." by Arun Ulag
I'm also pretty sure that existing customer will be able to migrate to the new SaaS-solution.
If you are familiar with the current Synapse offerings, you might find the following mapping table interesting to have as a reference.




Data Pipelines

Data Flows


SQL Pools

Data Warehouse





Azure Data Explorer (ADX/Kusto)

Real-time Analytics

SQL Serverless


Synapse Workspace

Power BI Workspace



Linked Services




Self-Hosted Integration Runtime (SHIR)

Power BI Gateway

CI/CD, Git


Although Fabric is still in preview, I would encourage you to try out features and look at the use cases, because:
  • Fabric is based on the serverless paradigm. You don't have to start clusters or manage resource in Azure anymore. Instead, Fabric delivers capacities as a SaaS resource. You can spin up analytics solutions faster and more easily.
  • OneLake makes it easier to:
    • Store large amounts of data
    • Use one accurate, certified and real-time unified source of truth
    • Use shortcuts / mounts to leverages existing data from Azure, AWS or OneLake
  • Analysts can leverage their best skills, be it SQL, Spark or DAX
  • Performance benefits
    Microsoft is working on performance improvements, 1 example is DirectLake, the new storage mode for Power BI. Everyting in OneLake is now in the same open Delta Parquet format.
  • Simplified billing and management of runtime components
    Fabric now brings capacities with compute instead of activities per pipeline or TeraBytes/s. That means we don't have to include multiple factors into the equation anymore
    Instead of managing every resource individually, putting it on pause when you don't need it, you can now provision Fabric capacities, which start at a much smaller price point then a Power BI Premium capacity.  Exact pricing will be announced later.
  • AI will become a bigger part of our daily work, with the integration of Copilot inside Microsoft Fabric and Power BI
    • Generate code and queries
    • Turn words into dataflows and data pipelines
    • Create Power BI reports in seconds
    • Generate DAX calculations
    • Create narrative summaries
This post by Kim Manis has some more details from Microsoft's point of view: Introducing Microsoft Fabric.

Next up?

There are still quite some questions around Fabric that will be answered in the near future I assume, a few that I'm thinking of are:
  • Is the performance of Direct Lake really going to be that good?
  • What is V-order with regards to parquet files and how can we influence/handle that?
  • How will the Processing Units for the Fabric capacities hold up for specific workloads? It will be interesting to see what an F2 capacity can handle for example.
On Microsoft Learn, there are also 4 End-to-end tutorials available to get you started with learning Fabric:
  • Lakehouse
  • Data Science
  • Real-Time Analytics
  • Data Warehouse
But also on more experience-specific topics like Power BI, Data Factory and Price prediction with R for Data Science.
I see you thinking: "So now I need to learn all these new products/services with all the accompanying languages, like T-SQL, Python, R, KQL and what have you...?"
Can you do it? Of course! But I certainly don't think it's a necessity to get to know everything.

For example:
If today you are a Power BI developer, you might want to familiarize yourself with the Data Warehouse load and maybe learn the basics of T-SQL. But with the default dataset that comes with the Warehouse (as is the case with a Datamart), you could as well create a basic and fast report out of that to do some basic visualizations to familiarize yourself with the data, so T-SQL is also optional. 

I'm still very excited with this next step forward by Microsoft and I'm eager to start learning more of Fabric. And also to learn the use cases and all the questions that our customers have!

Wednesday, May 24, 2023

Microsoft Build - Data Announcements Summary

During Build we heard a lot of announcements around data, analytics and AI. Let me give you my summary and take on the things I heard and saw!

In general, AI is going to exist in more and more places in our daily work. Earlier, Copilot was already announced in Power Apps and Power Automate, Outlook and Office products, but also GitHub. I wouldn’t be surprised if it will be embedded in almost every part of our daily work in the future, at least to some extend.

These were my favorite announcements:
  • Microsoft Fabric delivers an integrated and simplified experience for all analytics workloads
  • Data Activator is a new detection system for alerting and taking actions (and part of Fabric)
  • Git Integration: delivered as part of the new Fabric workloads
  • Power BI Desktop Developer Mode will deliver a better experience for developers with a new Power BI Project file-type (PBIP)
Let's dive into a little bit more details about the above topics.

Microsoft Fabric

Fabric promises to offer end to end analytics from the data lake to the business user, covering the following pillars:
  • Complete Analytics Platform
  • Lake-Centric and Open
  • Empower Every Business User
  • AI Powered
Fabric covers the complete spectrum of services including data movement, data lake, data engineering, data integration and data science, real time analytics, and business intelligence.

Fabric makes life simpler for customers with its unified and comprehensive platform. Fabric architecture is based on Software as a Service (SaaS) foundation instead of the traditional Platform as a Service (PaaS), to take simplicity and integration to the next level.
This SaaS experience makes sure that all the data and services used within Fabric are pre-wired together and share the same user experience, much as with Office today. 

But of course, Microsoft Fabric was not the only announcement at Build.

Power BI Desktop Developer Mode

Power BI Desktop Developer Mode is here, at least it will be very soon ! In a nutshell, "Developer Mode" enables you to save a Power BI Desktop file into a Power BI Project (PBIP) and operate on the artifacts stored as a folder in your file system.
Power BI Desktop is expanding to serve a better experience for developers, with capabilities like:
  • Source Control for version history and diffs
  • CI/CD for e.g. Pull Requests
  • Text editor support

Developer Mode also ties into the next point: Git integration in the service!

Git Integration

The long-awaited source control integration!
Next to Developer Mode in Desktop and an easier and better way to merge changes into source control, Microsoft has also started working on source control integration on the workspace level.
Be aware that this is a Premium feature, so only workspaces with a Power BI Premium capacity license can connect to source control.

Data Activator

This is actually a new name we haven't heard that much about.
"It will help customers respond to changes in their data instantly by setting up a system of detection that automatically alerts the team with the right context to take action."
 It looks like a low code/no-code way to take actions on your data. It's only in private preview at the moment, so we'll have to wait a bit to get more info on this. In the meanwhile, you can read the announcement blog.


There's a lot of exciting news shared during Microsoft Build!

Also be mindful that until July 1st, Fabric is disabled by default. After that date, it will be enabled by default, so you (as an admin) have some time to prepare your users or only give a small group of people access to Fabric for example. Thank you Microsoft for listening to the community! You can also start a free 60 day trial:
A tenant admin can enable Fabric workloads manually by switching the tenant setting to on.
Taken from the Power BI blog

If you want a complete (textual) overview of all announcements during Build, have a look at the Build Book of News 2023.

If you want to know more details about Microsoft Fabric and the other announcements, or if you want to watch the recordings of other sessions, I suggest starting with the below sessions to get an overview.
A few important sessions to start with:
Blog posts:

After hearing all this exciting news, I'll dive into more details on separate blogs on the above topics.

Thursday, May 11, 2023

Microsoft Build Is Around The Corner

 I think I already shared it earlier, but in case you missed it:

In just under 2 weeks, Microsoft Build (in-person and online conference) is happening with a lot of exciting Power BI and data related updates. You should definitely watch it, either live or the recordings afterwards! It starts at Tuesday, May 23rd, 6PM CEST.

More info and registration:

A few important sessions to start with:

I will also share an update shortly after Build to summarize the news and give my feedback on it, so stay tuned!

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