Enterprise Power BI

I’ve recently signed agreements with Apress Media to author two Microsoft BI books. The first book, expected to be published in the third quarter of this year, is titled Enterprise Power BI Development. The second book, expected to be published in the fourth quarter, is titled Enterprise Power BI Administration.

Given these commitments I will not be publishing any new blog posts or speaking at technology events until both projects reach production. An appropriate analogy for this capacity re-allocation could be Power BI Premium’s resource management system in which datasets are evicted from memory when capacity is insufficient to service requested queries and refreshes. In this case, as I can’t scale up beyond 24 hours in a day (though I try to improve efficiency), I simply need to free up more capacity for the new book projects and thus Insight Quest and community events need to be moved from memory to cold, blob storage for now.

*As a side note, I think a great feature idea for Power BI Premium would be the ability for organizations to override the LRU (least recently used) methodology used by the Power BI service to determine which datasets are evicted from memory. For example, a Power BI service or capacity admin should be able to assign a priority value to the datasets in a capacity or possibly mark a dataset as permanently in-memory. This would be helpful since some datasets, though not queried as regularly or frequently as others in the capacity, are actually more valuable given the insights they deliver and the stakeholders they serve.

Here are a few thoughts on each book:

Enterprise Power BI Development

What do you think a Power BI project will look like next year and moving forward, from a BI development perspective? Each layer of the platform from data connectivity and transformation, data modeling, and visualization has changed dramatically in the past year with dataflows, enterprise-grade semantic models, paginated reports, and more, respectively. While the fundamentals of BI and core Power BI concepts have not changed, the removal of various limitations and feature gaps implies new solution design patterns, techniques, and tools to deliver powerful solutions.

Whatever your formal title might be (Developer, Analyst) and whichever department you may work in (IT/BI, Business), a knowledge of the distinct Power BI artifacts, how they relate and integrate with one another, and how they can be developed to solve specific use cases and scale as components in a BI architecture will be valuable, if not essential.

Two broader points, which was implicit in my past books and blog posts, is that A) there’s great synergy in knowing and utilizing distinct Power BI technologies together and B) I believe the era of single tool BI experts is in decline. Organizations want their data/BI projects to move very fast with small teams and to scale as needed and a combination of cloud services and BI tools/features enable this. For example, someone who may primarily write DAX and develop semantic models may also be tasked with creating a paginated report, a custom Power Query (M) expression for use in a Dataflow, or advising on the performance and behavior of an interactive report or a dashboard.

However, even if the reader is only interested in a particular area of modern Power BI development such as composite models and aggregate tables, this book should provide interesting and realistic out-of-the-box examples to aid learning. While I want this book to practical and actionable as a learning resource, even technology books are a form of art and therefore it’s the role of the author (artist) to present an idealized vision or what ‘can be’. For example, at a recent presentation on Power BI, an attendee said he greatly appreciated the content though his company ‘isn’t there yet’. I intend to acknowledge common current states in Power BI environments but also point to solutions and architectures that will motivate readers and teams to take action.

Enterprise Power BI Administration

Given the growth and expanding breadth of Power BI, the role of the Power BI administrator is now more important and diverse than ever. While specific administrative and governance policies vary across organizations, the Power BI admin is often relied upon as a top escalation point to ensure the environment is secure, reliable, performant given available resources, and meeting the organizations objectives as a whole.

Both at the tenant level and for specific solutions deployed, a Power BI admin is often asked “what’s going on?” or “what can we do improve?” and is expected to provide a detailed answer and/or resolution. Therefore, a technical knowledge of the different components of the Power BI architecture, such as an on-premises data gateway cluster and/or a SQL Server or Azure Analysis Services server, and the availability of various monitoring and administrative tools and services is essential.

There are several features built into the Power BI web service with graphical interfaces to aid administrators but there are also PowerShell cmdlets and APIs that can be utilized to address certain specific requirements/scenarios. Additionally, Power BI admins often find it useful to develop their own custom monitoring and administrative solutions which make their own monitoring more productive and insightful.

Like Enterprise Power BI Development, readers can expect a volume of detailed, realistic examples which they can compare to their environments and potentially implement according their own needs. Examples of this may include PowerShell scripts and Tabular Model Scripting Language (TMSL) scripts for processing/refreshing Analysis Services models, tools and techniques for scaling up and down Azure resources, and examples of implementing and managing administrative processes such as with Azure Automation.

Wrapping Up

I greatly appreciate this opportunity and I look forward to all the work that goes into developing books that readers will value. When I first started blogging my only intent was to enjoy learning and thinking about Microsoft BI. I feel very fortunate to be able to continue this work as part of my career.

Note: Although I believe the move to Apress is the right decision for these projects, I remain on very good terms with the team at Pack and I’ll always greatly appreciate Packt for granting my start in writing and helping me improve as an author.

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