Thoughts on the new Power BI Preview, great expectations & some wishes for 2015!

Far from a review, as there’s no need for that such is the amount of information and detailed reviews on the last Power BI preview and announcements, just to name a few:

December announcements and Power BI “vnext” preview release:

Chris Webb Blog: Thoughts On The New Power BI

Walking through the Power BI Public Preview – Jen Underwood

Unwrapping the Power BI vNext Public Preview by Jen Underwood

To be quick and to the point :) I’m looking forward for 2015! The new features announced (IMO) show a much renewed & strongly motivated state of mind from Microsoft BI teams.

Frankly speaking, be it justified or not (hope so, we’ll see!), these last weeks of deep diving in the new content & possibilities made me remind those times of SQL 2005 release, so much was new at the time, a world of possibilities, so much to learn. Complete new SSAS engine/model, DMVs, new designer, SQL 2005 man. studio (no query analyzer/ent. manager any more!).  Since then its been incremental (IMO), but that release was disruptive. *Huge* release. (~9 years ago…. )

(Kind of ironic that I “complaint” so often on the amount of constant learning & research needed to work in technology … to find out that’s precisely that learning that keeps my mind happy :) )


Power BI Preview release & features first impressions

Anyway, Power BI December announcements pack a lot of relevant news, not to be taken lightly. A lot of impressive new features & scenarios but more importantly a new roadmap/vision starts to materialize:

about the time iOS apps available and are even the first to go Live

-an hint for a Power BI now decoupled from Office 365 , even Excel (they should work even better together, but Office 365 should not be a requirement IMO and not everyone has the latest Excel 2013 for sure…. & I have to say :) why not a free tier for Power BI? –noting that the new Power BI Preview landing page features a “Use It Free “ button for signup…. just saying…)

-where one of the first Power BI brand new API samples is a Chrome extension :)

-we now have a proper PowerBI Developer Center and brand new a REST API , for someone eternally divided between Dev & Data this is heaven,

a unified HTML5 Power View  version  (new power bi portal, power bi designer, apps) , this allow (I hope) for more focus from MSFT dev teams on a single & more portable dataviz stack,,expect it to evolve on a completely different pace compared to performancepoint, reporting services, silverlight powerview, etc

finally, on-premises tabular data connector, not promised, but actually delivered, on a preview! I’m all in for the cloud dashboards/connectors/local data scenarios.

-The new Power BI if decoupled from o365/Excel, will allow for greater agility & faster release cycles from Microsoft, not so dependent on Office/O365 releases.

The new developer story (did I mention already we got a developer portal? :) ) is huge. Aside from minor extensibility points released in the past (ex: SSAS personalization extensions-remember?), and the huge extensibility of Excel, MSBI has been mostly closed to developers-for me the most annoying issue while doing BI/Analytics, it inhibits creativity. Not much we can do usually to improve end user experience (ex: web dataviz libs) for everything is locked-down, no code. I would prefer to see it as strong platform , that we can automate, extend & improve (like SharePoint, CRM, even office new app model).

-I like the “lean” mindset, lots of feedback channels (be sure to visit the Power BI support site & leave your feedback)  , MSBI teams are clearly “out of the building” and eager for feedback, doing my best!

-Have to say that not initially  impressed by the new dashboards “mashup” (the lack of  filters was a clear indication of a quick win, not a new complete dashboard designer you would expect) … but I’m now sold to the ease of use of the new dashboard mashups (specially when you use Q&A to create very slick dashboards in seconds), reminding you that these update in real time if using the new push API (pretty amazing to see actually, more on this later ;) )

would only like that tooltips/mouseover could be fixed on the final release, & would be great to at least allow for click & autofilter/highlight  like in reports (read: old dashboards). Later on, global filters, but guessing it’s not the most easy thing to do .

The roadmap ahead


Having said that, while the roadmap ahead seems very promising (and anyone close to me know, I’m not an optimist by nature…) , Microsoft will have to deliver on this promise, quickly :

-for everyone already onboard  with Power BI/ Office 365/on premises (read: paying customers) , what’s the story? migration paths? again : trust, return on investment, trust on disruptive innovation on a stable platform, not requiring constantly reformulating solutions to fit the latest version/tools

-how does this fit with the typical enterprise scenarios? where more formal application lifecycle management is needed? source control integration? deployment models?

-pricing? will Power BI have a free tier? (my strong vote. yes, even if very limited, sorry to say but basic BI is already a commodity these days, even AzureML as one free tier)

-can we expect on premises Power BI/SharePoint new releases? or instead will cloud Power  BI be the answer using embedded BI/connectors/gateways? (I’m all in for the cloud, as long as users ’can’t note the difference…)

-partner solutions? Power BI packs marketplace? will it be a reality?

-will the Power BI API allow complete access to deploy/create queries, models & reports?

-can we invest safely on this new stack? expecting it to constantly evolved in the years to come? (not be dropped to a Power BI “v3” in a recent future? starting all over again…?)


Finishing adding a few additional wishes for this year MS Data Platform


-will it be the year when we can finally get rid of having to constantly think of date tables? come on…..! boring!

-Keep a strong story for Office365 & Power BI, decoupled but better together

-Complete portability of Power BI solutions, export PBIX from Power BI, from Excel to pbix, etc

-Microsoft teams more open & able to accommodate quick wins (ex: export to excel… how difficult can this be?)

API for extending data visualizations/prebuilt analytic functions on Power BI, ex: d3js, dimple, highcharts,etc

-Powerful & even more integration with Azure, AzureML, Stream Analytics (see the note on Developer Portal regarding PowerBI/Azure Stream analytic preview) , DataFactory,etc

-hope for new breaktrough on msbi analytic models/engines, ex: a richer semantic layer, with the best of relational & multi dimensional, support for “dimensional attributes” (complex attributes types based on reusable dimensions, no extra related tables polluting the model), others: federated models, dynamic models directly on top of sql server , others, something new !

-Q&A- can we have this everywhere please? :) Excel & Power BI Designer…. guessing its not easy for local models but asking anyway

-Search everywhere in Power BI field lists, both metadata and actual model data (Q&A for sure is using indexed data , could it be a quick win? would be great to have SmartPivot kind of search everywhere)

Excel pivottables/ powerview connecting to cloud Power BI/ Office 365 models

-Multi dimensional roadmap , honestly we just need to know, if the answer is that it will end then 1) we need to have alternatives with tabular, or lose some large scale solutions  2) promises should be kept IMO: Excel Power View & new Power BI connector should be able to connect to multidimensional models , it’s a question of building/regaining trust. 

-Expect to be (pleasantly) surprised! I was for sure last December, looking forward for first release :)  and not wanting to wait another full year!

Next Post:


ps- will be fun and we’ll be taking the new Power BI API for an awesome test drive ;)

Interested in the new Power BI Preview & Roadmap? you should! :) check these additional resources.

Power BI Preview Portal

Microsoft Power BI Developer blog

Walking through the Power BI Public Preview – Jen Underwood

Unwrapping the Power BI vNext Public Preview by Jen Underwood

Power BI Designer Preview- by Adam W. Saxton

Power BI Support Blog

Adding that next Thursday 22nd we’ll be at Microsoft IT Pro Airlift: Data Platform event on the beautiful Microsoft quarters here in Portugal/Parque das Nações. I will be talking about & test driving Azure Stream Analytics (promising technology! you’ll see!), my team mate Rui Romano all about Power BI, and a lot of more sessions to see on Microsoft Data Platform: Azure, Azure Search, Azure DocumentDB, SQL Server 2014, Azure Machine Learning, Column Store, HDInsight, PowerPivot/DAX .See you there!



Take care!



About Rui Quintino
Developer & Software Architect @ DevScope

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