Business Intelligence Solutions Decision Tree

In this article we will cover most important Business Intelligence components based on Microsoft Data Platform. One week ago there were announcements on Power BI Premium and Power BI Report Server which will require some clarification, so I decided to create another decision tree describing available Microsoft analytical modeling and visualization tools, and covering Power BI related components in more detailed way.

For the purposes of this article we will define Business Intelligence in a narrow way, as top and middle layers of BI stack, so it will include Analytical Modeling, and Data Visualization and Collaboration. We will also cover Sites and Apps integration as important part of BI functionality.

  1. Analytical Modeling solutions allow to load data from different data sources, combine data in one model and create calculations.
  2. Data Visualization and Collaboration solutions allow users to create, change, manage and share reports and dashboards built on top of analytical models or data sources.
  3. Sites and Apps Integration solutions allow to create applications of top of data sources, embed analytical resorts into applications and web sites, and create data driven workflows.

Here is the decision tree, which maps these areas to specific solutions. Below I will provide some comments on each of them.

Analytical Modeling

  • Azure Analysis Services is Azure PaaS offering built on the proven analytics engine in Microsoft SQL Server Analysis Services. Azure Analysis Services provides enterprise-grade tabular data modeling in the cloud.
  • SQL Server Analysis Services (SSAS) is a part of SQL Server which contains engines for multidimensional (OLAP) and tabular analytical models, and for data mining.
  • SQLBI DAX Studio is a tool to write, execute, and analyze DAX queries in Power BI Designer, Power Pivot for Excel, and Analysis Services Tabular. It includes an Object Browser, query editing and execution, formula and measure editing, syntax highlighting and formatting, integrated tracing and query execution breakdowns.
  • Microsoft Excel is a spreadsheet application with cell-based calculations. It includes Pivot Tables, Pivot Charts and Power View for data visualization; Power Query for data transformation; Power Pivot to create in-memory tabular models and calculations. Excel is a component of Microsoft Office applications package, and is also available in Office 365 subscriptions.
  • Power BI Desktop is a visual data exploration tool for data analysis and reports creation. It allows to load multiple data sources, establish data structure, transform, create analytical tabular model, visualize and explore data in interactive way, and also publish to Power BI Service.

Visualization and collaboration

  • Power BI is a set of tools for self-service and traditional business intelligence, which uses tabular analytical models, allows to build interactive reports and dashboards, and features mobile reports, collaboration and application embedding.
  • Power BI Mobile is a set of free Windows, iOS, and Android applications allowing to view and explore personalized dashboards and reports created in Power BI Service. Also it allows users to be up-to-date with data-driven alerts.
  • Power BI Service (or powerbi.com), is a SaaS part of Power BI offering allowing to create interactive reports, build dashboards, create reports & datasets, update data with real-time, automatic and scheduled refreshes, share dashboards easily with other people in your organization, ask questions of data with Natural Language Query, stay connected to data all the time with mobile applications.
    • Power BI Free is a free version of Power BI Service intended for report authoring (personal use). Currently this service is in transition to have the same functionality as Power BI Pro, but with limited sharing and collaboration features. (This will be effective June 1st)
    • Power BI Pro is a professional version of Power BI Services intended for report authoring, sharing and collaboration. Power BI Pro is payed per user, per month.
    • Power BI Premium is dedicated capacity for large-scale BI deployments, with enhanced performance and larger data volumes, without requiring to purchase per-user licenses. Power BI Premium builds on the existing Power BI portfolio with a capacity-based licensing model that increases flexibility for how users access, share and distribute content. Power BI Premium is payed per node, per month.
  • Power BI Report Server is an on-premises server that allows the deployment and distribution of interactive Power BI reports – and traditional paginated reports – completely within the boundaries of the organization’s firewall. Power BI Report Server is available as part of Power BI Premium or with SQL EE SA.
  • SQL Server Reporting Services is a solution for creating, publishing, managing reports, and delivering reports to users in web browser, on mobile device, or as an email. Types of supported reports: “traditional” paginated reports, mobile reports (AKA DataZen), and Power BI reports (through Power BI Server of Power BI Service).

Sites and Apps development

  • Power BI Embedded is PaaS offering in Azure, which provides interactive data visualizations in customer-facing apps without the time and expense of having to build it from the ground up. In future it will be converged with the Power BI Service to deliver one API surface, a consistent set of capabilities and access to the latest features.
  • Microsoft Flow is a component of Office 365 which represents user friendly and intuitive way of creating automated workflows between applications and services to generate notifications, synchronize files, collect data, and produce other actions.
  • Microsoft PowerApps is a component of Office 365 with user friendly and intuitive interface allowing to build applications without writing code, connect to data sources and create new data, publish and use created apps on web and mobile devices. Power Apps allows business experts in the organization to create the apps they need to support their business requirements with drag and drop simplicity.
  • SharePoint in Office 365 allows you to integrate Power BI interactive reports into SharePoint web pages.
  • SharePoint Server on-premises solution also includes BI-related functionality of SharePoint Server. It includes integration with SQL Server Reporting Services, and also creating PerformancePoint dashboards.

Reference materials:

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