Lakehouse or Warehouse in Microsoft Fabric: Which One Should You Use?

In the world of data analytics, the choice between a data warehouse and a lakehouse can be a critical decision. Both have their strengths and are suited to different types of workloads. Microsoft Fabric, a comprehensive analytics solution, offers both options. This blog post will help you understand the differences between a lakehouse and a warehouse in Microsoft Fabric and guide you in making the right choice for your needs.

What is a Lakehouse in Microsoft Fabric?

A lakehouse in Microsoft Fabric is a data architecture platform for storing, managing, and analyzing structured and unstructured data in a single location. It is a flexible and scalable solution that allows organizations to handle large volumes of data using a variety of tools and frameworks to process and analyze that data. It integrates with other data management and analytics tools to provide a comprehensive solution for data engineering and analytics.

The Lakehouse creates a serving layer by auto-generating an SQL endpoint and a default dataset during creation. This new see-through functionality allows users to work directly on top of the delta tables in the lake to provide a frictionless and performant experience all the way from data ingestion to reporting.

An important distinction between the default warehouse is that it’s a read-only experience and doesn’t support the full T-SQL surface area of a transactional data warehouse. It is important to note that only the tables in Delta format are available in the SQL Endpoint.

Lakehouse vs Warehouse: A Decision Guide

When deciding between a lakehouse and a warehouse in Microsoft Fabric, there are several factors to consider:

  • Data Volume: Both lakehouses and warehouses can handle unlimited data volumes.
  • Type of Data: Lakehouses can handle unstructured, semi-structured, and structured data, while warehouses are best suited to structured data.
  • Developer Persona: Lakehouses are best suited to data engineers and data scientists, while warehouses are more suited to data warehouse developers and SQL engineers.
  • Developer Skill Set: Lakehouses require knowledge of Spark (Scala, PySpark, Spark SQL, R), while warehouses primarily require SQL skills.
  • Data Organization: Lakehouses organize data by folders and files, databases and tables, while warehouses use databases, schemas, and tables.
  • Read Operations: Both lakehouses and warehouses support Spark and T-SQL read operations.
  • Write Operations: Lakehouses use Spark (Scala, PySpark, Spark SQL, R) for write operations, while warehouses use T-SQL.


The choice between a lakehouse and a warehouse in Microsoft Fabric depends on your specific needs and circumstances. If you’re dealing with large volumes of unstructured or semi-structured data and have developers skilled in Spark, a lakehouse may be the best choice. On the other hand, if you’re primarily dealing with structured data and your developers are more comfortable with SQL, a warehouse might be more suitable.

Remember, with the flexibility offered by Fabric, you can implement either lakehouse or data warehouse architectures or combine these two together to get the best of both with simple implementation.

This blogpost was created with help from ChatGPT Pro

Microsoft Fabric: A Revolutionary Analytics System Unveiled at Microsoft Build 2023

Today at Microsoft Build 2023, a new era in data analytics was ushered in with the announcement of Microsoft Fabric, a powerful unified platform designed to handle all analytics workloads in the cloud. The event marked a significant evolution in Microsoft’s analytics solutions, with Fabric promising a range of features that will undoubtedly transform the way enterprises approach data analytics.

Unifying Capacities: A Groundbreaking Approach

One of the standout features of Microsoft Fabric is the unified capacity model it brings to data analytics. Traditional analytics systems, which often combine products from multiple vendors, suffer from significant wastage due to the inability to utilize idle computing capacity across different systems. Fabric addresses this issue head-on by allowing customers to purchase a single pool of computing power that can fuel all Fabric workloads.

By significantly reducing costs and simplifying resource management, Fabric enables businesses to create solutions that leverage all workloads freely. This all-inclusive approach minimizes friction in the user experience, ensuring that any unused compute capacity in one workload can be utilized by any other, thereby maximizing efficiency and cost-effectiveness.

Early Adoption: Industry Leaders Share Their Experiences

Many industry leaders are already leveraging Microsoft Fabric to streamline their analytics workflows. Plumbing, HVAC, and waterworks supplies distributor Ferguson, for instance, hopes to reduce their delivery time and improve efficiency by using Fabric to consolidate their analytics stack into a unified solution.

Similarly, T-Mobile, a leading provider of wireless communications services in the United States, is looking to Fabric to take their platform and data-driven decision-making to the next level. The ability to query across the lakehouse and warehouse from a single engine, along with the improved speed of Spark compute, are among the Fabric features T-Mobile anticipates will significantly enhance their operations.

Professional services provider Aon also sees significant potential in Fabric, particularly in terms of simplifying their existing analytics stack. By reducing the time spent on building infrastructure, Aon expects to dedicate more resources to adding value to their business.

Integrating Existing Microsoft Solutions

Existing Microsoft analytics solutions such as Azure Synapse Analytics, Azure Data Factory, and Azure Data Explorer will continue to provide a robust, enterprise-grade platform as a service (PaaS) solution for data analytics. However, Fabric represents an evolution of these offerings into a simplified Software as a Service (SaaS) solution that can connect to existing PaaS offerings. Customers will be able to upgrade from their current products to Fabric at their own pace, ensuring a smooth transition to the new system.

Getting Started with Microsoft Fabric

Microsoft Fabric is currently in preview, but you can try out everything it has to offer by signing up for the free trial. No credit card information is required, and everyone who signs up gets a fixed Fabric trial capacity, which can be used for any feature or capability, from integrating data to creating machine learning models. Existing Power BI Premium customers can simply turn on Fabric through the Power BI admin portal. After July 1, 2023, Fabric will be enabled for all Power BI tenants.

There are several resources available for those interested in learning more about Microsoft Fabric, including the Microsoft Fabric website, in-depth Fabric experience announcement blogs, technical documentation, a free e-book on getting started with Fabric, and a guided tour. You can also join the Fabric community to post your questions, share your feedback, and learn from others.


The announcement of Microsoft Fabric at Microsoft Build 2023 marks a pivotal moment in data analytics. By unifying capacities, reducing costs, and simplifying the overall analytics process, Fabric is set to revolutionize the way businesses handle their analytics workloads. As more and more businesses embrace this innovative platform, it will be exciting to see the transformative impact of Microsoft Fabric unfold in the world of data analytics.

This blogpost was created with help from ChatGPT Pro and the new web browser plug-in.

How to create Mobile Reports and KPI’s in SQL Server Reporting Services 2016 – An end-to-end walkthrough

It’s finally here – Microsoft SQL Server 2016 CTP 3.2, and with it, the introduction of Mobile Reports and KPI’s into SQL Server Reporting Services.  These new capabilities are based on Datazen technology, and are the first step in bringing together the different report types in Reporting Services that was outlined during PASS in October.  It’s also the first time I’ll be posting as a member of the Reporting Services team!  Yes, I’ve moved over from the Datazen team to work with Riccardo Muti and drive the all-new Reporting Services experience we’re shipping in 2016.

And since the Mobile Report Publisher App just went live, I thought it’d be helpful to do a post where I walk you through the entire process – from how to setup a test/dev server with Reporting Services in Azure, to creating a report and KPI, and finally consuming those KPI’s and Reports in the Power BI app for iOS.  So without further ado, let’s get to it!

Setup your server in Azure (this section assumes you already have an Azure account you can use.) –

1. The easiest way to get started is to select a VM which has the latest CTP already installed on it.  You’ll be taken to the create screen –


I’ll use the “Classic” deploy model for this scenario, since it’s a single VM and I’m only using it for a short period of time.  After I hit create, I’ll need to enter my machine details.  I’ll leave the defaults for all items (since this is just for testing purposes), save for one –


I do want to open up the endpoints on my machine so I can connect to them with my app.  So I want to click Optional Configuration –> Endpoints, and I’ll both the endpoints for http and https (I’ll only use http for this walkthrough, but using https instead of http is recommended for security purposes in production scenarios).


Once that’s done, I’ll hit create.  My machine should be ready in about 10 minutes or so.

Once it’s done being created, I’ll connect via Remote Desktop by hitting the ‘Connect’ button on my VM dashboard and logging in using the username and password I created in the previous step.


Now that I’m connected, I need to do a couple things on the server to enable Reporting Services and do proper testing.

First, let me turn off IE Enhanced Security Configuration in the Server Manager so I can more easily browse around if necessary in Internet Explorer.  This is available under Server Manager –> Local Server

imageI can click on “On” and turn off the enhanced security for now.  I’d normally re-enable it when I’m finished my session, but I’m deleting the VM when I am finished in this scenario.


NOTE: If for some reason the Azure image is not version 3.2, you can download the latest SQL Server bits after the server has been setup and upgrade SQL Server before walking through this section.

With that complete, I can now setup Reporting Services by running the Reporting Services Configuration Manager.  It looks like this in your App Menu on the server.


When I start it, I’ll connect to my default Report Server instance on the box and walk through the configuration steps.
I’ll leave the built-in virtual service account as is and hit next.

For the Web Service URL, I can see that isn’t yet configured.  I’ll leave the default information.  With that done, I hit ‘Apply’ to apply my selections so I reserve the port and URL on my VM.

Under Database, I’m going to connect to the local database on the server using my integrated credentials.  You can leave the defaults for each option here and hit “Next” until the system completes the database creation process.  When I’m done, it should look like the following –


The Report Manager URL needs to be configures as well, I’m also using the default settings here.  I’ll hit Apply to save those and reserve the port on the VM for that address.  I’ll get a success dialogue if that is done properly or not.


At this point I can hit Exit and start working with my new Reporting Services portal.  Please note – my setup was very basic, and really only makes sense when you are doing this for test/dev purposes.

Since I’d like to use the Power BI iOS mobile app to view my reports and KPI’s, I need to enable Basic Authentication on my server.  The article I linked to has more details, but the simplest way to set this up is –

1. Open RSReportServer.config in a text editor.

The file is located at <drive>:\Program Files\Microsoft SQL Server\MSRS13.MSSQLSERVER900\Reporting Services\ReportServer.

2.  Add the RSWindowsBasic as an option under Authentication Types.  It’ll look like something like this –


You can leave the other types listed there (NTLM, Negotiate, etc) and just add the Basic option in the format I show above.  Save the file and restart the report server.  When you’ve restarted, you can browse to the new report portal under the following location if you’re remotely logged into the server –


You’ll be taken the new home screen, which should look like this.


Now that we’ve setup our test server, let’s start building!  To do so, we need to create a shared data source, where we’ll get our data from.

Create New Data Source

From Portal, select New -> Data Source


You’ll be prompted to go to the old Report Manager screen to enter data connection details.

Click the link in the pop-up window to switch screens and enter your data source information.  Please note that currently, you can’t use an Analysis Services data source for your Mobile Reports and KPI’s.  I’ll use a SQL Server data source for this example.


Hit Okay to save the data source. By default, in the new portal, the data source is unchecked from the list of items you see. Enable it by clicking the Display menu and selecting Data Source


You’ll now see the data source available in the new portal.


You’ll need to use an existing Reporting Services client tool to create the shared dataset. This walkthrough assumes you are using the Report Builder client app, available for download here.

Create New Dataset

Open Report Builder and choose the New Dataset option from the splash screen


Select the data source that you just created in the previous step. You’ll need to connect to the report server the data source is setup on before proceeding, otherwise it won’t appear as an option for you. You do that by hitting “Browse other data sources”


Typing the name of the server in that hosts your data source in the Name field in the following format –


After you hit Open, you’ll then be able to navigate to the data source you setup in the previous step.


Select it and hit Open. Then, create your dataset using Report Builder.


When complete, save the data source to the SSRS server.


You’ll then be able to use the data set for your KPI and/or Mobile Report. You can create multiple data sets against the same data source, and they can be re-used by different KPI’s and Mobile Reports without rebuilding it each time.


Now you can create KPI’s and Mobile Reports against these shared datasets.


Create New KPI

KPI’s can be created right from the server. Select “New KPI” from the dropdown menu –


You’ll be taken to the KPI creation screen. You have the option to manually enter values, or to use a shared dataset. Let’s change the “Value” entry from the default to one from my dataset. I click on the dropdown to change the Value from “Set manually” to “Dataset field”


Clicking on the ellipsis will bring up a window where I can select my dataset from


Then I can choose the value from the result in my dataset.


Please note – for the value, goal and status fields, I can only choose the result returned in the first row of my results. For the trend set, however, I can choose which column accurately reflects the values that reflect the trend set.


Then I hit “Create”, and my KPI will appear on my report portal!clip_image031

Create New Mobile Report

To create a mobile report, you would download the new mobile report publisher. When you first open the tool, you’ll see a blank canvas where you can create your report where you either start with your visuals OR with your data.  The experience is the same as you have with Datazen today in that respect.


If you start with your visuals first, sample data will be generated automatically that is tied to the report and will change dynamically as you change your visual selections.


You can see this by switching to the data tab.


To add your own data, click the “Add Data” button and select where your data is located. You can add local Excel data OR a shared dataset from your SSRS instance.


You can then change the data that your visuals are connected to


I can then return to the canvas and see the data has been hooked in to my visuals when I test the report.


In addition to the main layout, I need to create a phone layout for my phone users so the experience is optimized for that device type and proper thumbnails can be generated. I can do so by changing the layout dropdown in the upper-right hand corner to Phone and laying out my report.  If I don’t remember to do this, the app will prompt me to do so.


I can also change my theme options just like I could in Datazen, by choosing one from the the upper right-hand menu.  I’ll leave mine as the default theme for this report, however.


Once finished, I can save my report either locally, or to an instance of Reporting Services. To do so, I can hit the save button in the upper right hand corner


And then choose where I’d save my report to.


If I choose server, I’ll be prompted to save my report to a folder location on the server I got my data from.


After I’ve saved it, if I return to the portal, I can open the report and see my mobile report thumbnail.


And click it to open and interact with the report in my browser.


View KPI’s and Mobile Reports in the iOS App

The Power BI app now allows you to connect to your Reporting Services server to view your Mobile Reports and KPI’s.  To get started, make sure you have the latest version of the Power BI app downloaded to your device.


Once downloaded, when you first open the app, you’ll be greeted with a welcome slide.


Hit the Sign In button to move to the app experience.



This is where you’ll add your Reporting Services server. To do so, select the Reporting Services button and enter your server details and the credentials you’ll use to access the server. You can also toggle whether the connection is using http or https.  Again, https is recommended for all production scenarios.


Enter your information accordingly. You’ll need to make sure the URL follows the pattern I demonstrate below.


Click Connect. If it connects successfully, it will show the KPI and Mobile Reports screens you have access to on the server. You can swipe between the two options to view the different assets accordingly.



You may tap on any KPI or Mobile Report to bring it to full screen and interact with it accordingly.

When you enter the app in the future, you will see the server in the menu that you have setup. You can only have a single connection to Reporting Services at a time in the app.


The app will default to the KPI page as the first page you see in the future unless you are also connected to a Power BI instance. It will default to Power BI when both services are connected.

Whew!  That was a long post, but hopefully it’ll help you get up and running quickly so you can try it this new functionality over the holidays.  So Happy Holidays, and enjoy the all-new SQL Server Reporting Services Mobile Reports experience!

How to use Visual Studio LightSwitch oData feeds with Datazen and Azure

In the most painfully overdue blog post ever, considering my love of all things LightSwitch and Datazen, I finally sat down and consumed an oData feed I generated from a LightSwitch project I published to Microsoft Azure to use in a Datazen dashboard.  It’s really pretty simple, and I’m kicking myself for not doing it before.  Anyways, here’s how you do it –

1. If you don’t have the foggiest idea what Visual Studio LightSwitch is, you can read more about it here.  It’s a fantastic tool for building rapid line-of-business applications for the desktop and mobile web apps.  Plus, it’s available in the community edition of Visual Studio 2013, which is free for individual developers!

2. You need an app you are going to deploy and use the data feed from.  Beth Massi has an excellent walkthrough (including a link to a sample app you can use) of how you can deploy a LightSwitch App to Azure.  It’s very easy to do, and this is a great option to make your app available for Datazen to consume.

3.  Once published, LightSwitch exposes the different data sources as easily consumable data feeds via oData, which happens to be one of the data sources that Datazen consumes out of the box with either anonymous or basic authentication.  You could also create a custom data provider that used more advanced authentication options.  To learn more about what oData is, you can read about that here.

So I published a simple app and put in some sample data to use with my Datazen Server –


Now, how do I setup Datazen server to use this feed as an oData source?  Well, this confused me the first time I did it, so let’s go through it –

Login to your Datazen server as the admin, and choose the hub you wish to add this feed as a new data source for. 


Now add a new data connection –

This is where you might get tripped up.  Unlike every other data source listed, you don’t actually enter the data connection string at this point.  You give your data source a name, choose the authentication method (and enter your credentials), hit next to setup permissions for the feeds, then hit finish.


If you try and put in the URL as the data connection name, it doesn’t save it, so it looks like the oData data source doesn’t actually work.  Once you’ve saved the data connection details, you’ll see a new folder appear in you folder/data connections list –

Now, you click the folder name, and click the new data view button to add your first oData feed.


Here, you can now enter the url in the OData view URL area that you wish to consume.

Hit next then success, the feed is there and working!

This gives you an easy way to visualize your data from your LOB app using your Datazen on your favorite mobile device.  It also opens up a number of options around filtering your data prior to bringing it into Datazen using the entity set filter options with LightSwitch.

Thanks for reading!

How to build dashboards directly on your test/dev Datazen server

Greetings all!  After guest-posting on Rob Collie’s blog about Datazen earlier this week, I’m back on my own for this post.  One of the things that I love about Datazen is that you can use any Windows 8 device to build your dashboards on.  Simply go to the Windows 8 store, download the Datazen Publisher app, and you can be building beautiful dashboards within minutes.  Unfortunately, it appears not everyone is running Windows 8 in their organization (shocking, I know), so I wanted to show you a way to build dashboards directly on the Datazen server you spun up in my previous post, which is running Windows Server 2012.

When you use Windows Server 2012 machine, you have the ability to access the Windows App Store, just like you would from any Windows 8 machine.  However, you have to enable that, as it is turned off by default.  Here’s how you can turn that on –

First, go to the Server Manager and open it –


Then, you’ll want to enable a new feature.  So choose Add Roles and Features –


Click next until you get to the “Features” selection, then scroll down amongst the features and expand the “User Interfaces and Infrastructure” selection area. 


We can then enable the “Desktop Experience” by checking that box, clicking “Add Features” when the pop-up window comes up, and then choosing “Next”.


I’d suggest now checking the “Restart the destination server” checkbox and then hitting Install.  It has to restart anyways before that stuff is enabled, so you might as well do it now.  It’ll take about 15-20 minutes to install everything, and then the server will restart.

Once done, the Store App will appear. 


Here is where the first gotcha comes along.  You can’t use the built-in administrator account to use the Windows Store on the server, so you need to make sure you’re logged in with another account besides the one you setup when you setup the server.  That user can have server administrator privileges, however.  So great, you can open the Windows Store as this user.  Here is the next gotcha –


You need a Microsoft Account to download and install the apps – so you can either create a new account, or you can use one you already have setup and use for Xbox Live, for example.

Once that’s done, you can download the Datazen Publisher App and it will start installing


Once finished, it will show up in your list of apps –


Now, one last gotcha.  In order to get the publisher working on a Windows Server 2012 machine, you will need to create a Loopback Exemption for the Datazen App.  You can do this one of two ways –

Open an administrator command prompt, and then type this:

checknetisolation LoopbackExempt –a -n=componentart.datazenpublisher_4hjyx1gpectq6

or install this on your server and use the gui:

I prefer the latter, but it is up to you.  Once that is done, you can open the Datazen Publisher app and connect to your local server as the location you want to publish to.


Once connected, you should see any dashboards or KPI hubs that you’d previously created, and you’re ready to go.  You now have a one-stop shop for both dashboard creation and hosting!

Thanks for reading, and I’ll have more stuff later this week!


How to connect to Azure HDInsight from your Datazen server using ODBC

Happy Mother’s Day!

As with our previous post on connecting to SAP HANA, this is another easy one to knock out just by pulling together some previous posts from this blog and from Microsoft.

First, make sure you’ve followed the instructions in my post to setup your own Datazen server.

Second, make sure you follow my instructions to setup a custom ODBC provider on your Datazen server.

Third, spin up your own HDInsight cluster in Microsoft Azure.

Now, follow these instructions to install and configure the Microsoft Hive ODBC driver on your Datazen server, just like you did for your SAP HANA connection.

Once that’s done, you can follow the same steps you did to setup the other data source on the Datazen server admin portal –

Under the BI hub you want to setup the HDInsight connection, select the Data Sources option.


Choose the custom ODBC provider you setup in my previous post so you can pass the username/password in the connection string to the HDInsight cluster.


Test the connection – you should get a success message if you connected properly.


Great – you’ve finished setting up your connection to HDInsight.  Now you can write a sample query against it and make sure it brings back data.  Click on the name of your data connection to go to the Data View screen


Now click the “New Data View” button to create a new view of your Hive data.  Give it a name, leave the “Allow Client Data Caching” box checked if you want to make sure folks can use the dashboards while offline, and choose a refresh frequency.  Then write your query to be used against HDInsight and hit Next –


Success!  I wrote my query properly, and now have this data view available for the dashboards I want to build in my Datazen Publisher App.


Thanks to the custom ODBC provider, adding new data sources from many different data sources becomes child’s play.

One final note – There’s a great blog post on how to setup ADFS for Datazen you can read here.  It’s really well done, and I highly recommend taking the time to step through it.



How to connect your Datazen server to SAP HANA via ODBC


This is actually a pretty easy post for me to write, since I’ve done all the heavy lifting in three earlier posts.  So, things you’ll need to do as pre-requisites for this article –

Setup your HANA instance – follow the instructions in this post to provision a test/dev HANA server and deploy it to Azure if you don’t have one already setup. 

Setup your Datazen server – follow the instructions in this post if you need to set one up –

Create a custom ODBC data connection file and add it to your Datazen server – follow the instructions in this post –

Once you’ve done those things, you’re already 90% of the way there.  Here’s what is remaining –

First, One thing I found when going through this was SAP seems to have made their native ODBC driver unavailable outside of the SAP software corner.  If you don’t have access to it, you can download one from Progress DataDirect to preview for free for 60 days.  It’s available for download at this link –, and I used that for this post since that is one everyone can get at currently.

Make sure you download the 64-bit version and install it on the Datazen server.  Once you’ve installed it, you can create the system DSN file for Datazen to use.  The following steps you all do on the Datazen server.

Go to Control Panel – > Administrative Tools


Then choose ODBC Data Sources (64 bit)


Click the System DSN tab then click “Add”


Select the SAP HANA driver and click Finish


Enter a name for your data source, the description, and the host name.  If you followed the instructions in the earlier blogpost, you should be able to use the public IP address that your SAP HANA server was assigned for the host name.  Leave the port as is –


Hit the “Test Connect” button at the bottom and enter the credentials to connect to the server.  Assuming it authenticates, you should get a message showing it connected.


You can then hit OK to save your system DSN connection.  Now go to your Datazen control panel to setup the HANA connection and write your first query.

Under the BI hub you want to setup the HANA connection, select the Data Sources option.


Choose the custom ODBC provider you setup in my previous post so you can pass the username/password in the connection string to the HANA server.


Test the connection – you should get a success message if you connected properly.


Great – you’ve finished setting up your connection to the HANA server.  Now you can write a sample query against it and make sure it brings back data.  Click on the name of your data connection to go to the Data View screen


Now click the “New Data View” button to create a new view of your HANA data.  Give it a name, leave the “Allow Client Data Caching” box checked if you want to make sure folks can use the dashboards while offline, and choose a refresh frequency.  Then write your query to be used against HANA and hit Next –


Success!  I wrote my query properly, and now have this data view available for the dashboards I want to build in my Datazen Publisher App.


Congratulations – you’ve finished setting up SAP HANA as one of the data sources for your jaw-dropping Datazen KPI’s and dashboards!


How to setup a test/dev Datazen Server instance in Microsoft Azure

Hi all!  Well, it’s been quite some time since my last post, but with the news breaking last week that Microsoft acquired Datazen, I decided it was time to reenter the blogosphere to help folks get started using this fantastic product.

First things first, go grab the Datazen Publisher App from the Windows Store.  Anyone can download and use Datazen on their Windows 8/8.1 device to build dashboards on top of local Excel files.


For most folks, however, they’ll want to use live data sources, make dashboards available on iPad/Android devices, phones, etc.  To do all that, you’ll need to stand up a Datazen server to host the dashboards.  Microsoft has made the Datazen server software available to download right away, provided you are a SQL Server Enterprise Edition customer with version 2008 or later AND have active Software Assurance coverage. 

Assuming you meet those requirements, it’s very easy to get a single server instance up and running quickly by leveraging Microsoft Azure, and especially for test/dev scenarios.  So I’m going to walk you through just how you would do just that. 

This walkthrough assumes you already have a Microsoft Azure account and have a basic understanding of the Azure portal. 

1. Go to and login to your Azure portal.

2. Select New – > Compute -> Virtual Machines -> From Gallery

3. Select the Windows Server 2012 R2 Datacenter Image


4. Click the next arrow at the bottom right.

5. Enter a virtual machine name, choose Basic or Standard Tier (recommended), then choose A4 as the machine size. A4 has 8 cores, which is the minimum number of cores for a single machine setup. Enter the machine admin username/pass and hit the next arrow


6. Create a new cloud service (make sure the Cloud Service DNS Name is available), then choose the subscription it should be billed to, the region it should be deployed to (choose the one closest to your location), and then leave the Storage Account and Availability Set as is. Make sure you add an http endpoint at a minimum (you will need to scroll to add the endpoint).


7. Click the right arrow and then click the checkmark to start the deployment process. You’ll see it start the provisioning process in the list of the virtual machines you are responsible for in Azure.


8. Once it is finished, connect to the VM via Remote Desktop and enter the admin username/password


Head to the following link and download the Datazen server software onto the VM – you can save it anywhere you will be able to easily access it. You may need to turn off IE Enhanced Security on the server to do so. Click the “Configure this local server” link in the Server Manager dashboard that appears when you login


Then change the IE Enhanced Security Configuration from “On” to “Off” for Administrators at a minimum. You can always change it back if you really want to when you’re done.


9. The server files come zipped as a download – extract all the files and then run the executable to start the install process


10. Click Next through the wizard, accepting the terms in the License Agreement and moving through each screen.


Hit Next


Hit Next


Hit Next

Once you get to the password screen, choose a password for the Datazen admin. This doesn’t have to be the same password as you used for the server.


Leave the authentication mode as “Default” and hit Next.


Create a new text file on the desktop and copy the encryption key on the next page to it. Save the file to somewhere safe. Hit Next


Same thing for the instance ID – copy the information to a local text file then save it somewhere safe. In fact it won’t let you proceed until you add it your clipboard. Hit Next when done.


Leave credentials as is and hit Next.


Leave IIS settings as is and hit Next

You can leave the mail settings as is if you want since it is a test server and just hit next.  (I’ll go over how to setup the mail settings for this server in a short follow-up blog post sometime in the near future.)


Hit Install and wait until it is complete. It will take a few minutes to finish, so be patient.


To confirm the service was installed properly and can be reached from the public internet, open a web browser on your local machine and go to (make sure you replace the yourcloudservicename with whatever you named your cloud service) – If you can successfully connect, you should see the following in your browser window –


Enter the username “admin” and the password you entered DURING THE INSTALL WIZARD and hit Log In. You’ll then be brought to the control panel screen.


You’ll need to create a new user to start creating dashboard hubs, since you need each hub to have an owner. The owner can NOT be the “admin” user. Click “Create User” to create your first user –

Enter the top three boxes (the email address can be fake if you want) and hit “Create User”


You’ll now see a new option to “Create BI Hub”


To create a new hub, click the “Create BI Hub” button and enter the info. You can name the hub whatever you’d like, but make sure you enter the username of the user you just created.clip_image044

Hit Create to finish creation of the hub. You’ll now see it in the list of available hubs


along with a new set of menu options on the bottom of the left-hand side of the screen.clip_image048

At this point, I’d recommend finishing the setup of the user you’d created to be the hub owner. They need to have their password reset, but won’t get an email since we didn’t setup the email notification service with proper email settings. To get around this, click on the Server Users link on the left-hand side of the screen


You’ll see the user and a “Set Password Link” option next to the username. Click it and then copy the address to your clipboard.


Log out as the admin before completing this next step. You can logout in the upper right hand corner of the browser and hit the dropdown arrow. Choose Logout.


Open a new browser window and paste the URL into the address bar. You can now finish setting up that user by entering the password you want for the account.


Once you’ve completed the process, you should be brought into a new screen as the user you just finished completing and have the ability to configure the hub accordingly.


Logout as this user and log back in as the admin before proceeding.

One of the great features you get with Datazen is the ability to use custom branding for the server and for each dashboard hub you create.  To add a brand package you’ve created, click on the branding link on the left hand side and simply upload the brand package to the server. Make sure you choose the Server to upload it to, and not the hub.



You’ll now see the Server icon has the “Microsoft” branding associated. To make sure it was applied properly, open a new browser and enter the following url (make sure you replace the mycloudservicename with whatever you named yours) –

My viewer login screen has been updated, since I’ve added the Microsoft brand package to the server –


Now we can connect to the server you’ve setup from the Datazen Publisher App.  If this is the first time using the app, you’ll have the option of connecting the Datazen Demo server. I recommend going ahead and doing that, so you’ll have some nice demo dashboards to create from immediately.

To add this server as an additional server to connect to (and publish to, eventually), right-click on the bottom of the app and select the server icon.


A fly-out will come from the right-hand side showing the list of servers, followed by an option to add a new server connection–


Choose “Add New Server Connection” and enter the information for the server you just setup. MAKE SURE YOU UNCHECK THE “Use Secure Connection” box.


When that’s done, you should be connected and now be able to publish dashboards to your Datazen server!


To learn more about how to build dashboards, setup data sources, how to publish, etc., just use the PDF file that came with the server download titled “Datazen End User Documentation”.

There you go – hopefully this guide gives folks what they need to get started with Datazen and begin their new career as a dashboard designer extraordinaire!

Thanks, and feel free to ask any questions in the comments.