Introduction to Power BI: Your Questions Answered
I recently participated in a webinar alongside SentryOne Senior Technical Specialist Jon Moore on an “Introduction to Power BI.” In this webinar, we first got attendees up to speed on what Power BI is. Then, we shared an introductory demo on how to build a Power BI report and dashboard, deploy a report, and gather data lineage from the report using SentryOne DOC xPress.
If you missed the webinar, you can view it here.
Throughout the webinar, we received a lot of great questions and I’ve shared the answers below.
Q: What components do I need to migrate our existing reports to Power BI?
A: There’s no automated migration kit for Power BI but you only need Power BI Desktop to start with a migration. If you’re on SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS), you can publish your reports to Power BI Premium or the Power BI Server on prem.
Q: Can Power BI easily do Tabular reports in real time like invoices, test results, shopping cart checkouts, etc.?
A: It can. However, paginated reports are more part of Power BI Premium license at this time.
Q: Is Azure Data Factory (ADF), Azure SQL Data Warehouse, and Power BI Pro enough to migrate all our reports (mostly Tabular reports)?
A: If it's Tabular reports, it might make sense to use Power BI Premium, which allows you to have paginated reports similar to SSRS.
Q: How much does it cost to have all these components?
A: Power BI is a freemium model. The basics are free; you have to pay to share on the web.
Q: How is Power BI Pro different from Power BI Embedded? We need all our Tabular reports to be part of an IFrame on our website.
A: Power BI Embedded is licensed based on capacity or by usage. Power BI Pro is licensed by the user.
Q: I've never used Power BI; however, I am a Cognos expert. I use a Windows 7 64bit laptop. How do I quickly gain knowledge about Power BI?
A: Your best bet is getting started with the Pragmatic Works Dashboard in a Day class.
Q: Can you switch between servers and databases interactively within a given data presentation? For example, can you switch back and forth between a test database and production, or switch to a database with a different plant’s data?
A: You sure can. You can do so under Data Sources or in the Query window. You can also parameterize them.
Q: Are there any ways to distribute Power BI reports using just the free version?
A: Yes, but only as a .PBIX file.
Q: Do you have any recommended sites to learn more about Power BI pricing? We have MSDN licenses and see that Power BI is included, but how does that work with allowing users to access the reports that developers create?
A: Yes, visit the Microsoft Power BI pricing site. As far as licenses go, if you have TONS of users, go for the Premium license and pay by capacity. If you have a few users, just license the named users.
Q: Can Power BI connect to JD Edwards?
A: You bet!
Q: Is there a native connector for JD Edwards? How would connecting to JD Edwards work?
A: Surprisingly, there's not a native connector that connects to JD. You'll have to go to the underlying database.
Q: What are the components I need to start with Tabular reports, then extend to visual reports, the dashboard, and eventually analytics?
A: You can find Tabular reports with the built-in visualizations. You'll see table and matrix as one of the top 15 visualizations. The thing to keep in mind is Tabular reports do not support pagination.
Q: Is Power BI available in a pay-as-you-go format, where I can set up an IaaS VM in Azure and select a Power BI Server template and pay for it only when it is running?
A: There is an on-prem version called Power BI Server that's included in some SQL Server licenses. The cloud version is technically only licensed per user or by capacity.
Q: Why do I sometimes have problems when I have several fact tables linked by various dimension tables? Does it matter if the granularity is different in the fact tables?
A: Sounds like a many-to-many relationship. If so, you'll want to make sure you specify that in the Relationship tab in Power BI.
Q: Does Power BI support input parameters? If so, which are required? Are some optional, similar to other reporting software?
A: It does. You can find input parameters under the Query window. It's used commonly for year parameterization or salesperson.
Q: After setting up the data import, there's a way to see the underlying M source code. When importing and exporting that M source code, can it be filed in source control, mass manipulated for redeployment, etc.?
A: Unfortunately, the only way to import M source code into source control is to shred the PBIX file or check the entire PBIX file into source control. It doesn't have a native import/export option for the M code itself.
Q: If you have an exact address, does Power BI go to the Bing service and get the exact location on a map? If so, is there a charge by Bing (as there is by Google)?
A: For transformation, it uses it for mapping and you get that for free. For data cleansing on an address, it doesn't have that automatically.
Q: Since there are so many upgrades to Power BI, will you share the best way to make sure you always have the latest version?
A: As far as education, Pragmatic Works distributes a monthly digest of all the new features on our YouTube channel. Luckily, none of the changes are backward breaking. So, if you're on version 100 of Power BI and I'm on version 105, we can co-exist.
Q: Will the classification be valid only on this laptop/server or when we create a new report? Will we need to reclassify the City and State as Location?
A: It's valid for this data source completely at that point. So, if you built a report using my data source (PBIX file), you're golden. There's a feature in Power BI to have shared connections to allow us to do that.
Q: Can you save a template and just replace the data once a quarter?
A: You bet. There are several ways you can do that, but the easiest is to create a filter in the right pane that does a smart filter to the current quarter.
Q: If we import sales data and want to display the percentage share or percentage growth, is that something that needs to be manually calculated? Would these values update as you choose different pieces in the visualization of the data?
A: There’s a feature called Quick Measures that can calculate those percentages for you automatically. You simply right click your number in that right pane and then select Quick Measure.
Q: How can a report be embedded into an existing webpage (or application)?
A: There are a few ways to embed a report in a webpage or application, but the most common one is to communicate with the web service to build and embed it. Typically, people use Power BI Premium for this type of embedding.
Q: Does DOC xPress read both folders of PBIX files or only items deployed to the web service?
A: It can read both! If you have them locally, you can grab them that way. Or, you can read them directly from the web service.
Q: Saw your earlier pricing link, and I have a follow-up question. How much does it cost to have 20 users use the website that shows Power BI reports/visuals?
A: You can license each of the 20 users or you can license their capacity. Twenty users with Pro licenses would be $200 list price/month.
Q: How do you version control the PBIX files?
A: You'd have to check the physical PBIX file into source control. I'm afraid that's the best we get in Power BI, at least for now.
If you’re interested in reading more on the topics covered in this webinar, check out the following resources:
- Pragmatic Works Dashboard in a Day Class
- SentryOne: Multiple Baselines & Power BI
- SentryOne DOC xPress
- Connect to SQL Sentry with Power BI
Also, be sure to schedule a one-on-one demo with a SentryOne expert to see DOC xPress in action.
Brian Knight is the owner and founder of Pragmatic Works and is a member of the SentryOne advisory board. Brian is a contributing columnist at several technical magazines and does regular webcasts. He is the author of more than fifteen technical books. Brian has spoken at dozens of conferences like PASS, SQL Connections, and TechEd and many Code Camps. He has received a number of awards from the state, governor, and press, including the Business Ambassador Award (Governor) and Top CEO (Jacksonville Magazine). He is on the board of the Jacksonville, Fla. region’s Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development Corporation.