What is Microsoft Fabric and Why It's a Big Deal?

What is Microsoft Fabric and Why It Is A Big Deal for Enterprise Analytics 

By Gjnana Prakash Duvvuri  |  Published on July 27, 2023

What is Microsoft Fabric and Why It Is A Big Deal for Enterprise Analytics

What is Microsoft Fabric? 

Microsoft Fabric provides a unified intelligent data foundation for all analytics workloads and integrates Power BI, Data Factory, and the next generation of Synapse to offer customers an easy to manage, modern analytics solution. 

What is Microsoft Fabric and Why It Is A Big Deal for Enterprise Analytics

While each of these experiences may cater to different personas pursuing specific tasks like a data integration engineer building a pipeline for data ingestion, a data scientist fine-tuning an ML experiment, or a BI professional creating a Power BI report, they will all coexist within a single SaaS-ified product experience reducing the need for integration and facilitating better collaboration. 

In addition to the intuitive and familiar experience, these Fabric experiences are unified through a common foundation which includes Microsoft OneLake that ensures one copy of your data, breaking data silos, AI capabilities that help accelerate productivity and discover insights with your data but most importantly industry-leading capabilities that make Fabric Secure and Governed by default. 

As more and more data are made accessible for analytics, along with it comes the risk of oversharing or unintended use of business-critical data. In Fabric, we will provide you visibility into what is happening in your tenant, equip you with insights into usage and adoption, and provide key capabilities to secure and govern your data end to end. Microsoft Fabric also provides built-in enterprise-grade governance and compliance capabilities, powered by Microsoft Purview

After 25 years of working in data and the last 7 years in AI. I am a great supporter of Data Observability, Which I see as a foundation in Microsoft Fabric Onelake. Compared to their previous generation, it looks like this time Microsoft got their act together and put some meaningful thought processes to resolve some customer problems that may pass the test of time and that I could recommend or use to help clients.

What is Microsoft Fabric and Why It Is A Big Deal for Enterprise Analytics

 Behind the scenes, OneLake uses Azure Data Lake Storage (ADLS) Gen2, but there is an application wrapper on top of it that handles various tasks, such as management (you don’t have to provision storage accounts or external tables), security (Power BI security is enforced), and governance. OneLake is tightly coupled with the Power BI catalog and security. In fact, you can’t create folders outside the Power BI catalog so proper catalog planning is essential. When you create a Fabric workspace in Power BI, Microsoft provisions an empty blob container in OneLake for that workspace. As you provide additional Fabric Services, Fabric creates more folders and saves data in these folders. For example, we can use Azure Storage Explorer to connect to a Fabric Lakehouse see DW and Lakehouse. Microsoft has also added two additional system folders for data staging. 

What is Microsoft Fabric and Why It Is A Big Deal for Enterprise Analytics

What does Microsoft Fabric mean for Power BI users? 

Next generation of AI with Copilot in Power BI 

What is Microsoft Fabric and Why It Is A Big Deal for Enterprise Analytics

Introducing Copilot in Power BI! With Copilot in Power BI, we are infusing the power of large language models into Power BI at every layer to help users get more done and create more value from their data. Using Copilot, you can simply describe the visuals and insights you’re looking for, and Copilot will do the rest. Users can create and tailor reports in seconds, generate and edit DAX calculations, create narrative summaries, and ask questions about their data, all in conversational language. With the ability to easily tailor the tone, scope, and style of narratives and add them seamlessly within reports, Power BI can also deliver data insights even more impactfully through easy-to-understand text summaries. 

We’ve already released the quick measure suggestions for DAX capability that helps analysts quickly create the code they need. The rest of the Copilot in Power BI experiences are now in private preview. Stay tuned to the Power BI blog for the latest updates and public release date for Copilot in Power BI. 

Unified data foundation with OneLake and Direct Lake mode

Power BI is standardizing open data formats by adopting Delta Lake and Parquet as its native storage format to help you avoid vendor lock-in and reduce data duplication and management. Direct Lake mode unlocks incredible performance directly against OneLake, with no data movement. Combining this with the ability for the other analytical engines to read and write data directly in the lake, Fabric will reshape how business users consume big data. Power BI datasets in Direct Lake mode enjoy query performance on a par with import mode, with the real-time nature of DirectQuery. And the data never leaves the lake, so there is no need to manage refreshes.  

We are thrilled to announce the preview of Direct Lake mode for Power BI datasets on Lakehouses. We plan to launch the preview for Direct Lake mode datasets on Data Warehouses soon. For now, Direct Lake mode datasets for Warehouse are in private preview, but it does take effect if you use the SQL Endpoint for Lakehouse. 

To try Direct Lake from your Lakehouse or Warehouse in Fabric, click on New Power BI Dataset, select the tables you want to include, and click Confirm. Open the data model to create measures and relationships as you would for any other Power BI dataset. Lastly, click new report and create beautiful Power BI reports. Note the integrated experience from data in the lake through to report creation without leaving the browser or performing a refresh. 

What is Microsoft Fabric and Why It Is A Big Deal for Enterprise Analytics

Enterprise-grade collaboration with Git integration for Power BI datasets and reports 

We are also enabling more seamless collaboration with your development team on Power BI content with Git integration. You can now easily connect your workspace to Azure DevOps repositories to track changes, revert to previous versions, and merge updates from multiple team members into a single source of truth that will be synced into the workspace with a single click. 

As a developer, you can use this integration to: 
  • Use Power BI Desktop to author report and dataset metadata files in source-control friendly formats. 
  • Save as a Power BI project (.PBIP) to a folder instead of to a .PBIX file. 
  • Enable multiple developer collaboration, source control integration to track version history, compare different revisions (diff), and revert to previous versions. 
  • Use continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD) to enforce quality gates prior to reaching production environments. 
  • Enable code reviews, automated testing, and automated build to validate the integrity of a deployment. 

Users can leverage Git integration and deployment pipelines for an end-to-end application lifecycle management of their work by developing through Git integration and deploying their Power BI content across dev, test, and production workspaces. Developers can use the user interface (UI) experience or automate the process through other tools, such as Azure Pipelines. 

End-to-End governance across Fabric 

Building analytics solutions is complicated. Data teams must manage everything from user roles to data ingestion, security, compliance, collaboration, workspaces, and more. Fabric, Power BI, Synapse, and Data Factory are unified on a single unified SaaS platform. This allows data teams to collaborate in a single workspace, on the same copy of data, with centralized administration, governance, and compliance tools. These capabilities include data lineage and impact analysis, data protection with sensitivity labels, data endorsement, admin monitoring, and more. And these unified experiences make it easy to jump between tools and collaborate with others on the team. Moreover, with a large amount of data and analytical projects being built within an organization, efficient discovery and management is key. The OneLake Data Hub empowers everyone in the organization to centrally discover and explore data available to them and relevant to their business domain, take further action, or build upon what others have started. 

Universal compute capacities simplify purchasing and managing analytics projects.

Very often we see licensing as very complicated and complex. Purchasing and managing resources is massively simplified with Fabric. Customers can purchase a single pool of computing that powers all Fabric experiences. With this all-inclusive approach, customers can create solutions that leverage all workloads freely without any friction in their experience or commerce. The universal compute capacities significantly reduce costs, as any unused compute capacity in one workload can be utilized by any of the workloads. For Power BI Premium customers, existing Power BI Premium P SKUs will automatically support all the new Fabric experiences. Starting June 1, new Fabric SKUs will be available for purchase in the Azure portal that gives you access to all these experiences. 

By Gjnana Prakash Duvvuri

Gjnana has an impressive 24 years of experience in IT, with a particular focus on cloud architecture consulting and IT technical leadership. He has worked with big-name clients such as Microsoft, Union bank(MUFG), Delta Airlines, BCBS, Macys, Global Payments, and UPS, supporting their large transformative initiatives. Over the last 7 years, Gjnana has been specializing in cloud platforms such as Azure, AWS, Oracle, and Google. His main area of focus is Digitalization Data & AI, Open Analytics, SAP Integration, Modern data warehousing with BI & AI on end-to-end implementations with data services, app modernization, and on-prem to cloud migrations. With his deep understanding of business domain operations in industries such as Financial Card Merchant Services, Banking, Retail, Supply Chain Management, Manufacturing, Pharmaceuticals, Pharma product management, Healthcare, Biotechnology, Oil & Gas, Travel and Transportation, Gjnana shares technical and domain knowledge through webinars and blogs.

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