Here we go again! Another month means another deluge of announcements and feature releases from various Microsoft teams. There is no such thing as slowing down for the holidays in Redmond. For time-starved technical minds that like to keep up with the latest and greatest, here are the December 2015 business intelligence and analytics highlights.

Power BI

Power BI teams continuously delivered each and every week in December. For a deeper dive into recently released Power BI enhancements over the past two months, you can review:

Here is the December summary.

December 2015 Custom Vizzes

  • More custom data visualizations contributed to the Power BI Gallery
  • PowerBI.com added exporting of Power BI visual data to Excel .csv and printing
  • Public preview of Cortana integration for speech Q&A

Auto Insights

  • Automated intelligence with Quick Insights for detection of patterns or trends in Power BI published data sources
  • Pinning of Excel Tiles from an embedded Excel workbook in Power BI
  • Another massive update for Power BI Desktop
    – R script as a data source and R data visualizations
    – Analysis Services Multidimensional Models connector
    – SAP Hana connector
    – SmartSheet connector
    – Azure Data Lake connector
    – Improvements to the ODBC connector and Direct Query
    – Enter or Paste data to create a table
    – More Time Intelligence features
    – Stacked area chart data visualization option
    – Smart tool tips for Area and Line charts on hover
    – Reference line/region in Cartesian visual
    – New features for accurately sizing, positioning and aligning visuals
    – Formatting and styling for labels along with the ability to change text sizes in visuals
    – Format Painter was added for quickly applying desired formatting to multiple visuals
    – Data Modeling suggested table relationships
    – Zoom slider added to Relationships View
  • Community Showcase of downloadable Power BI Desktop samples
  • Public Preview of Power BI Enterprise Gateway with direct query capabilities for SQL Server and Analysis Services. Analysis Services Multidimensional Models are now supported both in Power BI Desktop and in PowerBI.com with Enterprise Gateway. Servers must be running SQL Server 2012 SP1 CU4 or later versions of Analysis Services connector to work properly. (Note only Enterprise and Business Intelligence editions of SQL Server are currently supported.)
  • New SaaS app connectors with content packs for Microsoft Project Online, Projectplace, Stripe, Bing Social, Office365Mon, and several others
  • Mobile apps added Intune MDM support, a Windows 10 Native App, SQL Server 2016 Reporting Services report rendering on iOS, landscape view, picture tiles directly from iPhone, QR codes, dashboard actions and other mobile app enhancements
  • New Power BI Dev API Report integration via URL embedding with query string parameter filter support; App registration was also simplified

Microsoft BI

SQL Server 2016 CTP 3.2 was released right before the holidays. It is a significant milestone for Microsoft BI professionals. A related public Vision for Microsoft BI Reporting was also recently shared containing news that Power BI Desktop publishing on-premises to SQL Server Reporting Services 2016+ is planned.

Microsoft BI Roadmap

Source: PASS Summit 2015

For more details on this super popular topic, check out the following resources:

PowerApps

PowerApps are now in limited preview. This new offering enables anyone (aka non-technical users or technical app devs) to create scalable, mobile-ready Azure cloud apps from templates. PowerApp templates make it easy to connect to common systems such as SharePoint, Salesforce, Dropbox, Google Drive or Twitter and add business flow logic with Excel-like expressions.

PowerApps

Source: Microsoft

To play with this new offering, sign up at PowerApps.com. If you just want to get an idea of what these new apps can do today, walk through the PowerApps online tutorials. For technical pros, more information is also available on the Official Microsoft blog, Scott Hanselman’s blog at hanselman.com and Channel 9.

Other Related News

The Advanced Analytics teams released the Excel Add-in for Azure Machine Learning. Also a preconfigured solution for predictive maintenance was added to the Azure IoT Suite. Lastly a cool Azure Data Science VM was published that contains IPython, R, Power BI Desktop and so much more analytical goodness to explore.

One of my favorite apps, Azure Data Catalog, added the following features this past month:

  • Support for SPNEGO and Windows authentication for Teradata data sources. When registering Teradata tables and views, users can choose to connect to Teradata using SPNEGO and Windows as well as LDAP and TD2 authentication.
  • Support for Azure Data Lake Store data sources. Users can now register and discover Azure Data Lake Store data sources using Azure Data Catalog.
  • Support for manually specifying network proxy settings in the Azure Data Catalog data source registration tool. Users can select “Modify proxy settings” from the tool’s welcome page, and can specify the proxy address and port to be used by the tool.

That wraps up my summary tonight. Before I log off, here is a little hint for you.

TIP: Historically the end of January has usually been a key announcement time for Microsoft much like the beginning of July. Stay tuned.