An early Christmas present in my inbox was the announcement that Power BI Embedded Row Level Security was quietly completed in Dec. The documentation also popped up a few days ago. An early criticism of Power BI Embedded was that you couldn’t really use it in customer portals because it was not possible to filter the data shown to the customer. It was an all-or-nothing affair which rendered it unusable in any scenario where you needed to present different subsets of the data depending on who was viewing it.
How to enable Power BI Embedded Row Level Security
Part 1: Roles in the Power BI Model
This works in two parts – first in the Power BI model, the procedure for creating security is the same as for normal Power BI RLS implementation. Firstly create roles to define the groups of people you want to apply filters to. Then for each role create a filter on a target table using the USERNAME() function:
How you manage the application of the security is up to you – either having intermediary tables that indirectly filter data, or simple direct filters on data tables – depends on your actual requirements.
Part 2: Apptoken in the Web App
In an Enterprise scenario, the USERNAME() function equates to a Windows username. This obviously doesn’t apply in the Power BI Embedded world as your report consumer is outside your corporate network.
In this case the USERNAME() can be fed in via the apptoken that allows your web app to communicate with the Power BI service. An example (lifted from the Power BI blog) is below:
By modifying the code of your Web App you can dynamically set the username based on your Web App’s own login system. As long as that translates properly to the filters you want your role to apply in the model then you have now got Power BI Embedded Row Level Security!
For the full documentation see here.
What is the current state of on-premise hosting of Power BI reports?
During the PASS Summit in October Microsoft announced that they would be releasing a technical preview of on-premise hosting of Power BI reports through SSRS. The preview, which can be accessed through the Azure marketplace, allowed anyone to spin up a virtual machine that included an installed and configured version of SSRS with sample data/files so customers could start exploring the solution immediately. It is worth mentioning that the current preview is very raw and rough; for one it can only be accessed through the Azure Marketplace and hence cannot currently be installed on your own environment and second it only supports live connections to Analysis Services cubes.
What’s to come with the next release?
The next technical preview is planned for January 2017 and unlike the current preview, you will be able to download and install it on your own virtual machine or server. Within this release, they plan to add support for mobile consumption, custom visuals and other data sources.
When will there be a production release?
Microsoft announced that it is planning to release the production ready version of SSRS on-premise hosting of Power BI files with the next release of SQL Server, explicitly adding that it will not be added into the SQL Server 2016 product. Interestingly, this implies that we could expect the next version of SQL Server mid-2017.
Power BI has been on a roll recently, releasing a bunch of features that have overall strengthened Microsoft’s self-service business intelligence offering. It’s spiritual predecessor PowerView had a nice integration with PowerPoint. Now Power BI PowerPoint integration has arrived.
In the September update, we received a big upgrade to Power BI’s mapping capabilities through the introduction of ArcGIS maps. There has also been continued development around R integration within Power BI to better support the needs of customers requiring advanced analytics. You can now even connect to your preferred R IDE when developing R-based custom visuals or run an R script over your dirty data to impute missing values.
Power BI PowerPoint integration
n the last couple of days, Power BI has quietly released a feature that I personally think will get everyone excited and appeal to the masses – the ability to publish Power BI reports to PowerPoint with the click of a button! So lets get started on how you can find and use this new feature.
Open up a report in Power BI Online and click “File”. You will then see the screen below. Click the “Export to PowerPoint (Preview)” button to generate a PowerPoint file. It will contain a slide for each Power BI report page as well as a title slide containing information on when the data was last refreshed and the file downloaded.
Unfortunately, as you can see in the screenshot below, the end result is not what I expected. I would have liked to have seen a fully interactive experience that included the ability to use cross-highlighting/cross-filtering. It appears, for now at least, that the feature has fallen short of my expectations.
That being said, there are a few caveats, the first and biggest one is that this feature is in preview. We know from past experiences that Microsoft has been happy to ship features to Power BI that aren’t fully ready in the hope that they can leverage feedback from the community sooner rather than later. A recent notification from the Power BI team confirmed that this will be the case.
The second caveat is that in this demonstration we have used some Agile BI magic behind the scenes which probably has caused some headaches for Power BI’s cookie cutter Power BI PowerPoint feature. I tested this hypothesis by exporting a more simplistic Power BI report and I’ll be honest, I was impressed with the results.
The moral of the story, keep it simple for now.
This feature will eventually end up becoming a main selling point of Power BI over its competitors, but it still has a long way to go.
I’ve found with some things in Power BI you just have to be patient. In 2-4 months time, this feature will be generally released and I’m going to assume that this feature will end up being a lot closer to our current expectations. To put things in perspective, it has been less than a year and a half since the launch of Power BI and it has already become one of the leaders in the self-service BI market according to Gartner. In my opinion, one of the reasons that people see strength in Power BI is that they know it will continue to grow and develop faster than any other self-service product. I hope it continues as it’ll mean we’ll be seeing more new and improved features like this one coming to Power BI soon.
The September Power BI update is here and Power BI Maps have got a serious set of improvements. Mapping beforehand was … ok. Points and circles, pretty much like PowerView in Excel – it served a purpose, albeit a basic one. Now in the preview features there’s a new Shape Map (which replaces the Synoptic Panel in some circumstances) and even more Geospatially exciting ArcGIS Maps.
I’m excited! Let’s dig in…
Power BI Maps – Shape Map
Shape Maps are a variation on a map that assigns an ID to a region on a map – a number of baked in maps are provided – standard geographical maps are included – and you can then assign a number to that ID. Like below, I’ve just assigned some numbers to the States on a map of our lovely country:
Now, where this gets interesting is you can create your own shape maps as long as they are in the TopoJSON format. So if you want to map out your own space, such as a store – like in our partner showcase – you can create your own shape file, add keys to it and visualise it in Power BI Maps. This is a great feature for simple heatmaps and being able to build truly personalised data visualisations.
Power BI Maps – ArcGIS Maps
This is the industrial version of the existing map capability. Using ESRI maps you can create heatmaps, point maps, clusters, all driven by geospatial coordinates. I’m not going to get too deep on the technical side, but suffice to say beautiful mapping is well and truly here:
There’s a good source of fun data here if you want to play – just remember in the data model to tag the columns Data Category as Lat / Long as appropriate otherwise the mapping won’t work.
This update brings also reference layers which add secondary data such as populations, map based selection of points to apply filters to the rest of the report and a heap of other features – Power BI Maps have taken a big leap this update!
Agile BI is a leading Data Analytics consulting firm based in Sydney. We are a Gold Microsoft partner with fully-certified experienced people that can implement, tailor, and support Microsoft Business Intelligence products and solutions.
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- Congratulations to this month's Featured Data Stories Gallery submissions 10 Feb 2017
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