Microsoft Power BI Desktop Now More Accommodating Of Big Data Sources


In the November 2017 update to Power BI Desktop, the company adds more options to help users gain insights faster from massive or slow sources of data.

Following the recent release of Power BI Report Server, Microsoft is issuing several new updates to Power BI Desktop this month.

Power BI Desktop is the Windows software client that allows users to create dashboards and reports using data, analytics and visualizations generated by Power BI, Microsoft’s cloud-based business intelligence offering.

In the November 2017 version, the company has introduced new options that make it easier for users working with large volumes of information, or glacially slow sources of data, to derive insights more quickly.


Microsoft Power BI

“If you are working with either a very large or very slow data source in DirectQuery, some actions will take a while to get a response from the underlying data source,” blogged Microsoft Power BI Program Manager Amanda Cofsky. Rather than import a data set into Power BI, DirectQuery enables the software to access data directly from its original source like an Azure SQL Database, Azure SQL Data Warehouse or Amazon Redshift data warehouse.

“To help with that, we’re giving you some options in the report to send fewer queries, making it easier to interact with the report,” continued Cofsky. Accessible under the Query Reduction item in the Options menu, the new controls can be used manage actions that can lead to slow application performance.

For example, users can turn off Power BI’s cross-highlighting feature, which enables ad-hoc filtering and data exploration across an entire report. Users can also add an Apply button to filters and slicers, preventing the software from making queries in the background until the button is pressed, further reducing strain on the system.

The software’s filtering capabilities have been tweaked, improving performance in some cases, Cofsky added. The company also removed the limit on the maximum number of values (500) that the software’s filtering features can match for all data sources, with the exception of analysis services models with live connections.

This time around, new custom visuals include an Image Timeline. As its name implies, it displays events on a horizontal timeline, accompanied by picture or plain circle. If several events happen to be competing for attention, an interactive “date brush” allows users to zoom in for a closer look.  

The new Social Network Graph helps companies visualize their organizational structure. Using employee pictures and denoting the relationships between workers, users can map out managerial roles, teams and how they relate to one another. A new HTML Viewer enables basic formatting (text size, alignment and color) for data sets containing the markup language.

Venn diagram aficionados now have a new option, courtesy of MAQ Software. Users can now create professional-looking visualizations that distinctly show where the commonalities in different data categories lie.

Another third-party partner, geospatial data specialist Esri, announced a Plus subscriptions service that expands on its ArcGIS Maps for Power BI product. For $5 per user per month, the enhanced solution offers additional base maps (National Geographic, USGS National Map and more) and allows for up to 5,000 data points on a single map, among other ways to display data.

Originally published on eWeek