Power BI – my Introduction

Power BI – my Introduction

my favourite Dashboard

I’ve recently been getting more familiar with Power BI, thanks to an excellent on-site training course delivered by Stuart and Alison from Burning Suit training. It was great to be supported by my employer with some on-site training, especially in a product that holds so much potential.

Power BI has been of interest to me for a couple of years, the first mention I remember was Rob Sewell, talking about using it to host SQL Server details for a DBA Dashboard. Since then, Brent Ozar has published a PowerBI Dashboard to fit on top of “sp_blitz” for visualising SQL Server performance metrics. Over time, I have played with the Desktop version of PowerBI to map out information about the SQL Server Estate that I manage.

Power BI Desktop is a free product from Microsoft. It’s great for putting Reports and Dashboards for your own use but the problem comes with sharing Reports and Visualisations – that’s where Microsoft direct you towards their paid products – generally Power BI Online Service. This creates additional discussions regarding security and cost. There is an “option” to publish Power BI Reports online for free – but this involves a completely open Security model – i.e. anyone can then view the published Reports. Not something that I’d consider or recommend.

One of the things that impressed me about Power BI was the level of customisation that’s available within Report and Dashboard development. The context-sensitive nature of Reports by default – if you select an item in one part of the Report, all of the other visuals reflect that selection. I was left equally concerned though about whether this product is ready for corporate use. The lack of Version Control, easy promotion of reports between environments to name but two.

Some of these gaps can be filled with Third Party solutions, such as Power BI Sentinel by Purple Frog Systems. Alex Whittles provided me with a demo at SQLBits back in February and this could be a solution, but it will be interesting to see if Microsoft address this in a future release.

Listening to the “Ask SQL Family Podcast”, I’ve discovered “Guy In A Cube” – a great YouTube based Video training resource where two Microsoft employees guide you through various aspects of PowerBI. One of the nice things here is they weekly roundup of Power BI Changes which should prove useful. It’s worth listening to the SQL Family Podcast too if you haven’t already discovered it. The episode prepared my for the “yeeaah” which I haven’t yet formed an opinion on.

Given the ever changing nature of the product, this post is likely to become out-of-date quite quickly. In fact, I’d love it if the product team overcomes the limitations that I’ve mentioned – I’m all for re-writing this page if they do. Also, if I’ve mis-understood anything and need to update the please let me know.

Thanks for reading, Nigel.

Useful Links

Burning Suit Power BI Training


Rob Sewell


Power BI Sentinel / Purple Frog Systems

Ask SQL Family

Guy In A Cube

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