Microsoft development is literally moving at the speed of light. The massive daily waves of September releases have been impossible to track. As promised, I will share as much as I can to help those of you that like to know what is cool, new and exciting. Despite overdoses of caffeine, sleep deprivation and inside connections, I can’t keep up with all of our releases across business intelligence and analytics any more. I joke that my role is going to kill me. My heart has stopped several times this month in shock and awe. If I do die, you will know why! Oh and my spirit will come back to haunt the Microsoft BI teams to continue seeing what gets cooked up next. I need to see the day where we have HoloLens-like, immersive, virtual exploration of data. Enough drama, here are the key announcements, releases and highlights for September 2015.
Power BI Custom Data Visualizations
By far my favorite releases this month were by my peers in the community. I have always told Microsoft that the extended global #sqlfamily was totally amazing. This month the community exploded with out of this world awesomeness. Here are a few of my favorite custom data visualizations built by the community for the community. You can see all the of the contest custom data visualization entries on the new Power BI Community site. These and much more will be coming verrrrrrrrrrrry soon to Power BI users for anyone to easily use without having to know any code!
One of the heart stoppers was an aquarium custom visual with swimming fish that are sized according to the data. Even the aquarium decorations are configurable. If data changes are small, the fish get smaller, swim slower and can end up floating at the top. It is soooooo creative. This is a must see video. What an incredible and unexpected fun way to visualize data in a live infographic!
Another total heart stopper was Synoptic Panel for Power BI by SQLBI. This team wrote a web app to visually design custom background images for heat mapping in Power BI. It is absolutely incredible and totally useful. I can think of a million use cases for this gem. It is beyond fantastic.
Bazillion Power BI Releases
Power BI momentum continues to grow exponentially. If I am not answering your email, LinkedIn, Twitter or IMs, I do sincerely apologize. I am trying my best but the volumes are extreme and it never seems to lighten up?!? On a brighter note, the rest of the world is beginning to see that Microsoft BI is really coming back and it will be better than ever. Two excellent BI market pulse reports came out this month from highly respected industry analyst firms. Both were refreshingly delightful for Microsoft BI fans to read.
- Gartner New Microsoft Power BI Is an Enhanced Offering at a Compelling License Price
- Forrester Wave: Agile Business Intelligence Platforms, Q3 2015
This month’s Power BI incremental release highlights are as follows:
- Power BI API team released new PowerBI.com Developer Tools for D3.js Custom Visualizations, training material to get started and held a Custom Data Visualization Contest for Power BI
- Power BI APIs also released embedding/integrating Power BI Tiles into apps
- DevScope ran with the Power BI embedding/integrating API and just released a totally wonderful, free Office Add-In for adding Power BI live Tiles into PowerPoint presentations
- Cortana Analytics Workshop leaked that R options will be cooked into Power BI Desktop
- Four weekly PowerBI.com updates that had nice enhancements to the canvas design experience, much nicer Tile sizing, Q&A, new page sizing, custom report sizing, group sharing, more industry examples, alternate email for notifications, and so much more
- Two Power BI mobile app updates were pushed this month – one mid-month for smart reflow, iOS 9, groups, nicer icons, better matrix and another one with group features, improved navigation and a few other user experience enhancements
- Power BI Desktop wowed us again with a humongous release that included over 44 new features, direct connect for on-premises Spark, Azure SQL Data Warehouse, global report level filters, drill up and down, calculated tables, drag-and-drop relationships design and many more significant improvements covered in the blog and always great video overview by Miguel Llopis
- Several more content packs were released this month containing pre-packaged analytic models, reports and dashboards including Azure Audit Logs, Stripe, comScore Digital Analytix and tyGraph
SQL Server 2016 BI On-Premises Enhancements
This month we also saw SQL Server BI on-premises finally coming back to life. The Reporting Services blog had been on a sabbatical for two years. (Hmm..that is what I need, a sabbatical!) You can follow their blogs and Twitter to keep up with updates. Riccardo Muti and Kasper de Jonge are the PM’s on those offerings that usually write up the posts and are enjoyable to follow. There were a few great features released this month for Reporting Services and Analysis Services in SQL Server 2016 CTP 2.3 and SQL Server 2016 CTP 2.4.
- Reporting Services and Report Builder modernization
- Reporting Services parameter positioning, export to PowerPoint and improved printing
- Analysis Services parallel partition processing available for Tabular Models
- Analysis Services Super DAX, New DAX Functions and Improved DirectQuery
- Analysis Services new Extended Events
You will hear much more exciting news regarding SQL Server BI on-premises during PASS Summit – it is only a few weeks away. Remember that SQL Server BI on-premises blog I wrote a few months back on IGNITE announcements? Skeptics, can you see it now? Yes indeed, it really is happening.
- Improved out-of-the-box Forecasting
- More data visualization types including Histogram, Pareto, Box and Whisker charts, Treemaps, Sunburst and Waterfall
- Streamlined data analysis, Power Query updates and new data features
- New publish to Power BI option
Other Related Analytics News
Gee, if that was not enough information overload. Then check out all of the announcements from Strata, AzureCon and the Microsoft advanced analytics teams. I have been drowning in an RFI this month and confess that I have not been able to watch recorded sessions yet to pick out technical highlights BI pro peers might appreciate. This is what I could extract from Twitter buzz.
- Several great blogs from my peer Chris Finlan who is covering Datazen
- Jupyter/IPython Notebooks in Azure ML and an Excel Add-In for Azure ML
- Microsoft started a Data Science User Group Program
- Revolution R 3.2.2 is available for download
- Azure Data Catalog added support SQL Server Analysis Services objects via HTTP/HTTPS data pump, Hive data sources on HDInsight, Oracle databases and HDFS clusters as containers
- Expanded Azure Data Lake and Azure Data Lake Analytics offerings
- General availability of HDInsight on Linux
- Cortana Analytics Suite is now available to purchase
- NEW Azure IoT Suite is also now available to purchase and launched a related IoT certification program (Note: No one has been able to tell me yet what is different in this offering and the Cortana Analytics Suite. I am guessing that there are a few variations in underlying components even though there are overlaps with others like Power BI.)
- Azure SQL Data Warehouse is now in available in expanded public preview
- SharePoint 2016 is in preview
You can find many more golden nuggets that I missed in the #Azure, #PowerBI, #SQLServerBI and other product team Twitter feeds. I am not kidding when I say Twitter is how I find out about releases these days. If you are not on Twitter, come join me in the fun (or total chaos) monitoring modern, continuous release, analytics markets.