How to use A SKU’s to try out Paginated Reports in Power BI without upfront cost or long term commitment

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Since the Eagles game doesn’t start until later, thought I’d put this together for folks.

As many of you know, earlier this month we announced a preview of Paginated Reports in Power BI.  While folks were excited about this, there were those who were disappointed it was only available (for now) if you had Power BI Premium.

“I don’t have Premium (yet . . .),” they said,  “But I still want to try this out and use it.  How can I do so without committing to it for a month and paying $5000?”

The good news is, there is an easy way to do this.  See, as I’ve stated in previous interviews, you can try all the functionality out by spinning up an Power BI Embedded A SKU capacity, which is available to purchase through Microsoft Azure.  While normally A SKU’s are specifically used for embedding scenarios, there is no licensing restriction against using them internally if you’d like.  However, generally this makes little sense vs. purchasing a P SKU for most use cases, since each user would still need a Pro license to access the Power BI portal AND it’s almost $1000 more per month if you run it all the time.

But if you just want to try out the new functionality that is available only on Premium capacity, the big advantage of A SKU’s is you can stop/start them just like any VM in Azure, and you’re billed by the minute vs. having an initial upfront monthly cost.  This means you can spin up an A SKU, turn on the paginated reports capability in your Power BI portal, and start using it.  And when you’re done, you can go into Azure and pause the capacity until you want to use it again.  Since you’re only billed for the time it’s running, you can try this new functionality out for around 14 cents a minute! (this figure is based on my fuzzy math being done while my son is playing Fortnite right next to me, so forgive me if this is off by a few cents one way or another).  Let’s walk through how you’d go set this up yourself –

I have my own Power BI subscription (yes, I pay out of pocket for this), since I like to have access to the exact same experience as all of my users do (or I forgot to turn it off when I joined the team . . .).  In any event, I have a Pro license, but when I check the Admin Portal, I can see I have no Premium capacities right now.

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Note another tab there which says “Power BI Embedded” – I don’t have any of those capacities, which you purchase in Azure, spun up currently either.

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To get one of those going, I’m going to head to the Azure Portal and login with my credentials that I also use for Power BI.  Why? Because I’m the only user, so I’m also the admin.  Now, I can do a search for “Power BI Embedded”.  This will take me to the management page, which looks like this

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I hit the “Create Power BI Embedded” button, which, if you haven’t signed up for an Azure account yet, you’ll be prompted to do so, and this includes a $200 credit for 30 days.  If you have signed up for Azure, you will skip this step (duh).

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Now that I have that setup, I’ll go back to the portal and get back to the previous screen.  Here, I can click the button again to setup a new Power BI Embedded A SKU.  You need to select at least an A4 capacity size or higher to use Paginated Reports, so I’ll pick an A4 in my home location to spin up.  (NOTE: Paginated Reports are also supported in multi-geo scenarios, even during our public preview, so I could choose other regions outside my home region if I wanted to.)

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Everything looks good, so I’ll hit create and wait for it to finish deploying.

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If I check my Power BI Portal, I see that it is also showing as being deployed there under the Capacity Settings –> Power BI Embedded tab
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Once it’s completed deployment, when I click on the capacity name, I’ll see I can manage this capacity just like I would any premium capacity in Power BI.

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Under the Workloads, I see the two new preview workloads, and I’ll set Paginated Reports to “On” and assign 50% of the memory to that workload.  I can also try out the new Dataflows workload as well, but I’ll save that for another time.

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After a few moments, I’ll see the message has changed from starting to Ready, and my workload is now ready to use.  I’ll assign all (one) of the workspaces for my organization to this new capacity.

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Cool!  Now, I can upload my first paginated report to the workspace and view it.  I’m using a vintage Halo sample report, and it renders without a hitch.

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But now I want to stop using the capacity and not get charged (since I finished this blog post).  No problem – I can go back to the Azure portal and just pause the capacity until I want to use it again.

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When I’ve paused it, I can no longer view my paginated reports in Power BI, but they aren’t deleted or otherwise affected.  They’re still there waiting to be used again when the capacity is started up, and I can delete them if I need to.

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And that’s it – in less than an hour, including the time it took to type this blogpost, I created a new Azure subscription, created my first Power BI “Embedded” A4 capacity, turned on the Paginated Report workload, assigned a workspace, uploaded and viewed my report, and then paused the capacity to stop the billing on it.  Whew!

Thanks so much for reading through the post today, and I hope you all take some time to try out the new paginated reports in Power BI Premium.  And if your organization doesn’t already have Power BI Premium, use this walkthrough to give it a try yourself!

Happy Thanksgiving (week)!

Use Outlook Shortcuts to organize your favorite Power BI Reports and Dashboards

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I haven’t written in awhile, but wanted to get this up while it was still fresh in my mind (and had some time left at lunch).

Did you know Outlook had a shortcuts feature?  I didn’t (or at least I didn’t remember I did), and this video was the only one I could easily find on the topic.  Ostensibly, it’s used to create shortcuts to folders in Microsoft Outlook that you can quickly jump to.  However, as I found out, you can also use it to jump to web content, including content in Power BI!  Just follow these simple steps –

1. In Outlook (I’m using Outlook 2016), head to the shortcuts pane by finding the ellipsis at the bottom of your left-hand navigation area and choose “Shortcuts”
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2. By default, you’ll see two shortcuts

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To start adding web pages as shortcuts, I want to have them organized, so I’m going to right-click on the “Shortcuts” top menu option and create a new shortcut group called “Power BI”.

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3. Once I’ve done that, it should look like this –

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I can now add a web address as a shortcut, but I need to do this in a slightly different way than you might expect.  To do this, I’ll highlight the url in my browser that’s open like the following –

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I’ll then drag this address under my new shortcut group in Outlook and give it a friendlier name (using my right-click menu option to rename the shortcut) so it looks like the following –

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Now when I click the link, it looks like this in Outlook –

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Not only that, it’s fully interactive and I can (seemingly) do all the same things with my dashboard or report I’d do in a separate browser

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I have to be honest – I’m surprised this works as well as it does, and it’s much better than almost any other web page you might pull in there in my limited testing.  And maybe this isn’t that helpful to some folks, but I worked with a lot of former execs who would’ve LOVED to have been to simply to do everything right in Outlook.

Thanks for reading!

Using Power Update to refresh Excel Workbooks in Power BI Report Server

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Happy Holidays!

With the latest release of Power BI Report Server, we introduced the ability to share and view Excel Workbooks in a web browser (assuming you Office Online Server setup for your server farm).  This included workbooks that had Power Pivot models embedded in them with external data connections that might need to be kept up to date.  However, there isn’t currently a way to automatically refresh the data for those workbooks on the server currently like you can in SharePoint.  Today, I’m excited to show you a way to get around that limitation using a tool called Power Update from a Power BI partner called PowerOn.

First announced on Rob Collie’s blog a couple years ago, Power Update is a standalone program that allows you to automatically refresh Excel files and load them to several destinations, including SharePoint, OneDrive, and Power BI Report Server.  Let me walk you through how simple it is to get started and use with PBIRS –

1. When you first start Power Update, you’ll want to create a new task.  Click “New” to get started –

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2. Give your task a name and click Next –

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3. You can decide how often you’d like to refresh your Excel workbook.  I chose to do it every hour on a daily basis

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4. I can choose to either refresh a single file, or all the files in a particular folder.  I just need one workbook refreshed, so I choose that and proceed

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5. For my publish location, I want to publish to Power BI, and then select the “Power BI Report Server” option.

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6. I finish setting up the options for my server location and I’m done! (There are some optional items I can also choose in the last two screens, but I didn’t change anything on those for this exercise)

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After I’ve set everything up, you’ll see the first task in my list is now populated.  As a test, I clicked the “Run Now” button to see if it works.  Everything was setup properly, so it’ll refresh the workbook, publish it to the server and then let me know it was successful.  I can even setup e-mail notifications to tell me this after each time it runs!

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That’s it – it’s very simple to set up and manage your Excel Workbooks in Power BI Report Server and make sure they always have the latest data for your users.  And yes, anyone can use the public REST API’s for Power BI Report Server to do something like this on their own if they’d like.  Power Update just makes it easy to enable this functionality for their organization.

Power Update offers users both a free and paid version of their product – the free version offers all the functionality of the paid version, but is limited to only one workbook you can schedule and use.

Thanks for reading!

Tips when upgrading from the August preview to the October release of Power BI Report Server

Happy Thursday!

Many of you probably saw my blog post yesterday regarding the new release of Power BI Report Server.  I wanted to bring to your attention a couple additional items as it relates to that release, specifically when you’re upgrading from the August preview.  I am covering these in my session at PASS later today, but wanted to have something out before that time.

1. You must use the October 2017 version of Power BI Desktop that is optimized for Report Server with this release. You can download that October version directly here – https://www.microsoft.com/download/details.aspx?id=56136

2. If you have upgraded from August, any Power BI report that you used imported/embedded data in must be re-published. The simplest way to do this would be to download the file locally, open it using the October 2017 version Power BI Desktop for RS, and then save it back to the server.  You should then have no issues viewing the reports on your server.

While most folks won’t be affected by this scenario, some of our most passionate users (like those attending PASS Smile) will be, so please remember these tips as you upgrade.

If you’ll be at my session later today, I look forward to seeing you there!

Adventure Works brand package now available!

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Super short post today.

With the release of an updated test/demo Azure VM for Power BI Report Server on Monday, we thought it made sense to provide a new Adventure Works brand package for everyone to use in their demos/presentations to go along with it.  Feel free to download and use with Reporting Services 2016/2017 or Power BI Report Server – https://1drv.ms/u/s!Au6-0xX27UdgnOIapntXPaoPcqqOWQ

Thanks!

Updated demo VM for Power BI Report Server now available!

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For those of you who enjoy using the test/dev/demo VM template the team has in Azure for Power BI Report Server, we’ve gone ahead and updated it with the latest preview we released a few weeks back.  With that update, we’ve made a few additional changes to the template as well –

– Office Online Server is now automatically installed and configured for you when you spin up a new environment.  There is also an Excel workbook available as one of the sample reports. (Please note – we do NOT currently setup an Analysis Services instance running in PowerPivot mode for you to use with the VM.  You can do that manually if you’d like by using the SQL install media already on the VM.)

– We now deploy two VM’s and setup a sample domain for them to allow you to use Office Online Server.  They will both be the same size you select in the VM setup process initially – you may re-size them if you’d like through the Azure portal at any time.  We did this to allow the widest number of regions access to the VM template, since not every VM size is available in every region.  This should help make sure you don’t accidentally select a VM that isn’t available in your region, and have the deployment fail for you. 

– We’ve added additional sample RDL reports with the VM for your use.

You can get started with the template in Azure here –http://bit.ly/2f2aWyn

I hope you find the latest updates valuable, and thanks for reading as always!

Ten tips for the August Preview of Power BI Report Server

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Happy Friday all!

Last week, we announced the latest preview of Power BI Report Server, which included new functionality like additional data source support and support for viewing Excel Workbooks.  As you’re trying these new features out, I wanted to highlight some items you might find useful as you get started testing –

1. Keep in mind Office Online Server requires you be part of a domain when you set it up on a server, or else installation will fail.  This is additional requirement beyond what Power BI Report Server requires on its own, where it can run on a server that isn’t domain-joined.  Keep that in mind if your demo environment is your personal laptop.

2. If you’re setting up an environment for test/dev/demo purposes, you can install both Office Online Server and Power BI Report Server on the same machine if you’d like.  This isn’t a supported scenario for production purposes, obviously, but might simplify the setup of your test/demo environment.

3. You can embed Excel Workbooks into other applications using the simple embed functionality at the end of your report URL – for example, I embedded the following live Excel workbook into a PowerPoint slide using the web viewer app from the Office Store, so I can interact with the report during presentations.

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4. When installing the version of Power BI Desktop (August 2017) we shipped with the preview, it will normally upgrade the June 2017 version of Power BI Desktop for Report Server if you have that installed.  For some people, they’d like to run it side-by-side with the GA version of desktop for PBI Report Server and not upgrade it.  You can do that – just install the “x64” version if you are running the 32-bit version of desktop on your machine, or vice versa.  This should leave you with both versions (in addition to the version for the service if you have that installed as well).  Please note – this should only be done on machines you are using for testing or development purposes, as this isn’t an officially supported configuration.

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5. If you have multiple versions of Power BI desktop installed, the behavior is designed to always default to the last version you installed when you double-click on a Power BI Desktop file to open it.  If you’d like to use a different version of the desktop you have installed on your machine with a particular report, make sure you open that first, then open the file you’d like to work with.

6. Have you tried the comments feature yet?  You can add comments to any report in Power BI Report Server (including Excel Workbooks) by clicking the comments icon on the right hand part of the screen and then add your comments, along with an attachment file if you’d like.

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7. If you want to use a live Analysis Services connection with an Excel Workbook in Power BI Report Server, you’ll need to make sure the machine running PBI RS is an administrator on the Analysis Services instance for this to work, since we’re using EffectiveUserName in Office Online Server to make the connection.  John White talks more about this in his blog for SharePoint 2016 and OOS setup as well.

8. If for some reason you need to access the more advanced settings for Power BI Report Server via SQL Server Management Studio, you’ll need to connect using the reportserver endpoint, like in the following example –

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9. One item you can turn on via Management Studio in Power BI Report Server is the “My Reports” functionality.  This is a simple way to enable access for your organization to a personalized area where users can store and author content in and have immediate access to the report server as long as they exist in Active Directory.  It’s a little different than “Favorites”, where users can tag reports that they want to see in a single view.  Definitely check out it if you haven’t already and see if it makes sense for you and your organizational needs.

10. Don’t forget to apply a brand package to your report server if you’d like to personalize it with your company/team/personal logo and colors!

With that, I’m happy to wish you a great Labor Day weekend (here in the USA, anyways), and thanks as always for reading!