Advanced SSAS Multidimensional Security Tips & Tricks Webinar This Thursday

In association with the nice people at SQLRelay I’ll be presenting an hour-long webinar on advanced SSAS Multidimensional tips and tricks this Thursday July 9th 2015 at 1pm UK time (that’s 8am EDT for you Americans). It’s free to attend and open to anyone, anywhere in the world. You can join the meeting by going to

http://t.co/apht1IhJlg

In the webinar I’ll be covering topics such as:

  • The difference between Allowed Sets and Denied Sets in dimension security
  • Handling security-related errors in your MDX calculations
  • The different ways of implementing dynamic security
  • Why you should avoid cell security, and how (in some cases) you can replace it with dimension security

…and lots more.

If you’re in the UK, you should definitely check out SQLRelay, an annual series of one-day SQL Server events that happens at a number of different places around the country each autumn. For more details, see http://www.sqlrelay.co.uk/2015.html

I’m presenting this webinar in my capacity as a sponsor of SQLRelay, so expect me to spend a small amount of time promoting Technitrain’s autum course schedule. There are some cool courses on SSIS, MDX, SQL Server high availability and data science/machine learning coming up, you know…

UPDATE: you can download the slides and demos from the webinar at http://1drv.ms/1LYk1k8 and watch the recording at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cB9F6IVo7MA

For whoever was asking about using a measure group to store permissions for dynamic security, this blog post has all the details: http://bifuture.blogspot.co.uk/2011/09/ssas-setup-dynamic-security-in-analysis.html

Power BI And Excel 2016 BI News

There have been quite a few Power BI and Office BI-related announcements over the last few weeks, and while I’ve tweeted about them (I’m @Technitrain if you’re not following me already) I though it would be a good idea to summarise them all in one post.

Power BI Announcements at Convergence and SQLBits

You’ve probably already seen the announcement today on the Power BI blog that Power BI is FINALLY available to those of us outside the USA:

http://blogs.msdn.com/b/powerbi/archive/2015/03/16/power-bi-preview-now-available-worldwide.aspx

At last! I’m sure MS had very good reasons why they couldn’t make the Power BI Preview available worldwide back in December, but this decision caused a lot of frustration in the MS BI community and I hope it’s not something that happens again. I can also confirm that the Power BI iPhone app is now available in the UK as well. The new data sources for Power BI that are coming soon – especially Google Analytics – will be very popular I think.

While I’m on the topic of Power BI, a few interesting nuggets about upcoming functionality emerged at SQLBits last week. Kasper mentioned that there will be some new DAX functions appearing in Power BI soon: Median, Percentile, DateDiff and XPNV. Presumably they will appear when we get the ability to create DAX measures and calculated columns in the Power BI Dashboard Designer. Also, following on from the bidirectional relationships functionality I blogged about earlier this year, there was the news that Power BI will also understand 1:1 relationships as well as 1:many, many:1 and many:many.

Office 2016 Preview BI Features

The Office 2016 preview went public today too:

http://blogs.office.com/2015/03/16/announcing-the-office-2016-it-pro-and-developer-preview/

There’s a great overview of what’s new for BI in Office 2016 here:

https://support.office.com/en-gb/article/Whats-new-in-Office-2016-Preview-4841f061-d019-45cc-af74-3e89c8cff1c4#data

The main points are:

  • Power Query is now a native feature of Excel 2016.
  • Power View works on SSAS Multidimensional (this is only going to work on the versions of SSAS Multidimensional that support DAX queries, ie SSAS 2014 or SSAS 2012 SP2)
  • New Excel forecasting functions
  • Time grouping functionality in PivotTables

I’ll be writing a more detailed blog on all of this at some point soon, once I know what’s officially public and what isn’t.

The Power Query announcement is interesting because, as things stand at the moment, we’ll be able to use full Power Query, Power Pivot and Power View functionality for free in the Power BI Dashboard Designer, but in Excel the same functionality is restricted to users of the Professional Plus SKUs. This is crazy, and I hope Microsoft makes the Power add-ins available for every SKU of Excel 2016. Have you signed the petition for this yet?

Power Map

Last week the Power Map team released a new video showcasing functionality from an upcoming release:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aP-vZfC3Fd4&feature=youtu.be

Although there are no details about what is shown in the video, it certainly looks like the ability to use custom shapes (the main missing feature in Power Map up to now) will be coming soon.

PowerMap

Wow, psychedelic…

Surface Hub

Finally, BI is clearly one of the main use-cases of the new Surface Hub (see also this video):

SufaceHubPowerBI_small

I wonder if I can justify buying one for demo purposes?

PASS Summit 2014 Day 2 Keynote: A Masterclass In Cloud Databases, And Also A Masterclass In Tech Marketing

The PASS Summit keynote today was given by Dr Rimma Nehme, a colleague of PASS favourite Dr David DeWitt, who gave a great talk on cloud databases. A recording of the keynote will I’m sure be posted somewhere to view if you weren’t able to watch it live – it was an excellent presentation, I learned a lot and I recommend you watch it. However, the technical content of today’s presentation is not what I want to talk about here.

Sitting on the blogger’s table yesterday and today, I realised something about tech marketing in general and the challenges that Microsoft faces in marketing its cloud-first, BI-heavy strategy to its existing SQL Server customers. Let’s imagine you knew nothing about SQL Server, Microsoft, PASS and so on. If you looked at the reactions on Twitter (which I think are representative of the reactions of the SQL Server community as a whole) to yesterday’s keynote and today’s keynote, you would have seen a big difference. Yesterday there was a mixture of supportive comments and the snarking/complaining/moaning that has become common in PASS keynotes. Now it’s hard to put your own opinions on Microsoft’s strategy and how MVPs should behave on Twitter to one side, but if you can then you have to admit that the negative reactions represent a gigantic marketing failure. Some people, a lot of people, are unhappy with the message that Microsoft is putting across. Part of me wants people not to be unhappy – and I’m sure lots of people at Microsoft are equally frustrated – because I can see the logic behind Microsoft’s decisions, but wanting people to change their minds is not the same thing as persuading people to change their minds.

In contrast, the reaction on Twitter to Dr Nehme’s talk today was overwhelmingly positive. The same people who were unhappy yesterday were respectful and attentive today. There was a standing ovation at the end. But what was the topic? The cloud! Isn’t the cloud the root of all evil? Why were the reactions so different? Well, you say, this was technical education, not marketing. It was indeed technical education, but let me be clear: today’s keynote was just as much a marketing presentation as yesterday’s keynote. The difference is that it was highly effective marketing for the cloud, rather than a ham-fisted attempt to ram the cloud down people’s throats. Truly effective marketing is not obvious as marketing; truly effective marketing of this kind is something that the intended audience actively enjoys (and I’m not saying this is done as some kind of cynical deception – today’s audiences are too aware for anything insincere to succeed). Today’s keynote did more for the perception of Microsoft’s cloud strategy in its target audience than anything else I have seen recently. The other confusing aspect of this is that the ineffective marketing here is the work– I assume – of marketing professionals – whereas the effective marketing has been done by someone who is clearly One Of Us (although she mentioned at the beginning of her presentation, I think, that she had an MBA as well as a laundry list of other impressive qualifications) and not a marketing professional.

So what can we, and more importantly Microsoft, learn from this? It’s that if you want to do effective marketing to a technical audience you have to talk tech to them. Speak to them as equals in a language they understand, and provide strong technical reasons to back up what you’re saying. Traditional marketing that relies on theatre and pizzazz and that has no substance is actually counter-productive and damaging. The good news is that Microsoft does have a lot of people who instinctively understand this. I have always felt that Buck Woody is a true technical marketing genius, quite apart from his many other accomplishments. Donald Farmer is too, and that’s why so many people saw his leaving Microsoft as a significant blow for Microsoft BI. I’m not arguing that Microsoft fire its marketing department and let the techies handle marketing itself because that’s clearly never going to happen, I doubt the techies would want to do that job full-time, and let’s face it the techies would be equally inept at marketing but in different ways. What needs to happen is that the marketing professionals at Microsoft understand that their current, very traditional strategy is failing and that it should be replaced with an entirely new approach. The evidence from PASS is that the content itself is not the problem, it’s the way it is being presented.

PASS Summit 2014 Day 1 Keynote

I’m sitting on the blogger’s table for the PASS Summit 2014 keynote, and this post is a quick summary of all of the BI-related announcements (minor and hopefully major) made this year. The really interesting developments will get their own, dedicated blog posts later…

  • Azure Machine Learning is now available to everyone with a Microsoft Account ID with no credit card or subscription necessary http://blogs.technet.com/b/dataplatforminsider/archive/2014/11/05/microsoft-announces-major-update-to-azure-sql-database-adds-free-tier-to-azure-machine-learning.aspx
  • It was announced (again) that Power BI in the cloud will be able to connect back to on-prem SSAS servers via the Data Management Gateway soon
  • James Phillips, the new guy in charge of MS BI, showed the same – new – Power BI that he showed at WPC this summer. This is not the Power BI that’s released today, but one with a much nicer dashboard experience and one that can be edited (rearrange charts, change chart types, combine two charts into a single combo-chart) directly from the browser.
  • Also in this new Power BI you can connect direct to services like SalesForce or upload Excel spreadsheets direct from the browser – you are building your models in the browser, not in Excel. This is significant for people who don’t have the right version of Excel/Office 365 right now, a very welcome development.
  • And all of this is HTML5, no Silverlight thank goodness. So it will work on far more devices.
  • Public preview of the new Power BI is coming soon!

PASS Summit And Other Speaking And Training Dates

This is just a quick post to advertise some upcoming speaking and training dates…

PASS Summit

I’ll be at the PASS Summit in Seattle next week, and if you see me around be sure to say hello! I’ll be presenting a deep dive session on MDX scoped assignments at 9:45am on Friday November 7th, and I’ll be signing copies of my new Power Query book on the Apress stand in the exhibition hall at 1pm on Wednesday November 5th.

I will also be live-tweeting (I’m @technitrain on Twitter if you aren’t following me already) and blogging throughout the keynotes each day too. I suspect there will be some big announcements this year – Jen Underwood dropped some hints, and a list of interesting sessions to attend, on her blog last week.

Future Decoded

On Wednesday November 12th I’ll be speaking about Power BI at Microsoft’s Future Decoded event in London, alongside the likes of Jen Stirrup, James Rowland-Jones and assorted celebrities like Professor Brian Cox, Sir Nigel Shadbolt and David Braben (the guy who co-wrote Elite!)

Training in London

There are a whole bunch of new courses up on the Technitrain site, taught by me and various other SQL Server experts (such as James Rowland-Jones, Jamie Thomson, Klaus Aschenbrenner, Andy Leonard and Allan Hirt) from around the world, and covering a wide variety of SQL Server and Microsoft BI topics. There are still places available on my Power Query course on Thursday November 13th if you’re interested in attending.

Training in Aarhus, Denmark

In December I’ll be teaching two one-day courses with my friends at Orange Man in Aarhus in Denmark: an introduction to Power BI on December 3rd and my Power Query course again on December 4th.

Technitrain Courses In London This Autumn

I’ve just put up a bunch of new courses (including a dedicated Power Query course!) on the Technitrain site that will be running this autumn in London. They are:

I hope to see some of you there! Don’t forget you can also get 10% off on my MDX training videos and lots of other great MS BI content at Project Botticelli using the discount code TECHNITRAIN2014.

Power BI Announcements At The PASS BA Conference

This morning I was wondering whether we’d see any cool new stuff announced at the PASS BA Conference this year, or whether we’d see the same old Power BI demos yet again. It turns out there were a whole load of announcements, some of them very cool indeed – and here’s a brief summary:

  • A native Power BI mobile for iOS will be available by the end of the summer. Other platforms (which means Android I guess) will come soon after that.
  • SSRS will be available in Power BI sites and will be able to connect back to on-prem data sources. This is big, in my opinion – it will be very attractive for a lot of existing MS BI customers. Also the way to get SSRS reports on mobile?
  • Power View in Power BI will be able to connect back to SSAS on premises (just Tabular though, or Multidimensional too?)
  • A new KPI editor in the Power BI site will allow you not only create KPIs but arrange them to create dashboards. This looks like the replacement for PerformancePoint.
  • Time series forecasting is available in Power View online now. It’s available in charts and you just forecast by dragging the chart forward; outliers can be corrected easily. Will need to check this out later.
  • Power View is getting a treemap visualisation.
  • Power View is getting a new Data Exploration mode that allows you to edit reports in the browser. This has a lot of cool new stuff, such as the ability to drag data points out of existing charts to create new charts.

Lots to follow up on there… more blog posts on this coming soon, I promise!