What Does XMLA Endpoints Mean for Power BI and How to Test it for Free?

Test Environment from Power BI XMLA Endpoint

XMLA endpoint connectivity for public preview has been announced late March 2019. As at today, it is only available for Power BI Premium capacity users. This sounds like a massive restriction to a lot of people who don’t have a Premium capacity, but they’d love to see how it works. In this article I show you an easy way to get your hands to Power BI XMLA endpoint as quick as possible. Before I start, I’d like to simply explain what XMLA endpoint is and what it really means for Power BI users.

Power BI is Like Onion! It has layers!

Generally speaking, Power BI has two different layers, presentation layer and data model layer. Presentation layer is the visual layer, the one you make all those compelling reports and visualisations. The data model as the name resembles, is the layer that you make your data model in. This layer is the one you can access it via XMLA connectivity.

In a Power BI Desktop file, you can see both layers:

Different layers of Power BI

How XMLA Relates to Different Layers in Power BI?

As you may have already guessed, XMLA is only related to the data model layer and it has nothing to do with the presentation layer. So you may connect to a data model, browse the data model, import data from the model to other platforms like Excel and so forth.

XMLA Is Not New!

Seriously? Yes, seriously. It is not new. It’s been around for many years and perhaps you’ve already used it zillions of times. Whenever you’re connecting to an instance of SQL Server Analysis Services, either Multidimensional or Tabular from any tools like SQL Server Management Studio (SSMS), Power BI Report Builder, Excel, Tableau, etc…, you’re using XMLA connectivity indeed.

Power BI is an Instance of SSAS Tabular

It is true. Power BI runs a local instance of SSAS Tabular model. So, whenever you open a Power BI Desktop file (PBIX), Power BI creates a local instance of SSAS Tabular model with a random local port number that can be accessed on your local machine only. When you close the file, the local instance of SSAS Tabular is shut down and its port number is released.

I first revealed the fact that you can connect to the underlying data model in Power BI Desktop from whole different range of tools like SSMS, SQL Server Profiler, Excel, etc… on Jun 2016. So, we indeed were using XMLA to connect to Power BI data models for a long time. We can even take a step further to import our Power BI data models into an instance of SSAS Tabular. In that sense, we are literally generating XMLA scripts from Power BI to create the same data model in SSAS Tabular. How cool is that?

Sooo… What is new then?

Continue reading “What Does XMLA Endpoints Mean for Power BI and How to Test it for Free?”

Quick Tips: Boolean Conditions when Querying SSAS DMVs

Boolean Comparison in SSAS DMVs, Error: A Boolean expression is not allowed in the context

If you are querying SSAS DMVs you may want to add some conditions in the query.

Something like getting all active relationships, perhaps like below:

select * from $SYSTEM.TMSCHEMA_RELATIONSHIPS where IsActive = 'true'

Running the above query on an instance of SSAS Tabular gives you the following error message:

Error: A Boolean expression is not allowed in the context …

Fixing this is quite easy, run the below query to get active relationships:

select * from $SYSTEM.TMSCHEMA_RELATIONSHIPS where IsActive

Boolean Comparison in SSAS DMVs

And to get inactive relationships run this one:

select * from $SYSTEM.TMSCHEMA_RELATIONSHIPS where not IsActive

Boolean Comparison in SSAS DMVs

Using Unicode Characters in Power BI

Unicode Characters in Power BI

There are several scenarios to use Unicode characters in Power BI including but not limited to:

  • Creating simple KPI columns in Table or Matrix visuals
  • To show the status of a measure more visually like using starts
  • Using Unicode characters as icons in your reports representing the subject

Chris Webb explained some of the above scenarios here.

In this post I explain how you can use Power BI as a tool to generate almost all valid Unicode characters in Power BI. You can download the PBIT at the bottom of this post. Then you can copy the Unicode characters from Power BI and use them in all textual parts of your report like visual titles, text boxes and so on.

The Unicode planes start from 0 to 1,114,111 which is decimal equivalent of 0 to 10FFFF in hexadecimal numeral system. For more information on Unicode planes check this out.

So, a simple way to generate all possible Unicode characters is to generate a list of decimal numbers starting from 0 ending at 1,114,111. This way we generate a series of decimal numbers regardless of the gaps between starting and ending Unicode blocks. Then using UNICHAR() function in DAX to generate corresponding Unicode characters. With the following DAX expression you can easily generate a list and the corresponding Unicode characters: Continue reading “Using Unicode Characters in Power BI”

Quick Tips: Keyboard Shortcuts/Hotkeys When Writing DAX in Power BI Desktop

DAX Keyboard Shortcuts in Power BI Desktop

Keyboard shortcuts is an interesting topic for developes that can really improve your report development in Power BI Desktop. In this post I show you some keyboard shortcuts/hotkeys when writing DAX in Power BI Desktop.

 

  • Indend right: Ctrl + ]
  • Indent left: Ctrl + [

Mini-tip: You can also indent your code to ther right by pressing TAB or indent left by pressing Shift + TAB. But, the difference is that if your cursor is in the middle of a line, when you press TAB it divides your code to two pieces and indends the characters to the right from the position that cursor is in.

  • New line keep indent: Shift + Enter
  • New line starting from first of line: Alt + Enter
  • Activate Intellicence: Ctrl + Space
  • Comment multiple lines: Ctrl + KC or Ctrl + /
  • Uncomment multiple lines: Ctrl + KU or Ctrl + /
  • Move the current line up/down: Alt + Up/Down Arrow Key
  • Enter multiple lines of code at once: Ctrl + Alt + Up/Down Arrow Key
  • Find and replace a word: Ctrl + D to highlight the current word, Ctrl + D again to find/highligh the same next word. Continue pressing Ctrl + D to find/highlight all same words, then start typing to replace all words at once
  • Find and replace all of a kind at once: Ctrl + Shift + L to highlight a part of your DAX expression then start typing to replace the highlighted words at once

Continue reading “Quick Tips: Keyboard Shortcuts/Hotkeys When Writing DAX in Power BI Desktop”

Quick Tips: Hiding Multiple Columns in Power BI Desktop

From now on I will post some quick tips to help you accelerate your Power BI Desktop development. As the first post of these series, I explain a simple way for hiding multiple columns in Power BI Desktop. To do so:

  • Navigate to Relationships veiew in Power BI Desktop
  • Maximise the table you want to hide some columns in
  • Select the first column
  • Pres Shift and use arrow keys to highlight multiple columns
  • Here is the trick: DO NOT RIGHT CLICK! Instead, press the menu button on your keyboard. If your keyboard doesn’t have contect menu button, don’t worry, you can press Shift + F10 to do the same job

Menu key on PC Keyboard

  • Then click on “Hide in report view”

Enjoy!

Select Multiple Columns in Power BI Desktop

Time Dimension in Power BI and SSAS Tabular Model Supporting Minutes Time Bands

2018-05-23 12_58_48-Symbols (Open in Visio).vsdx - Visio Professional

Date dimension has been discussed quite a lot on the Internet and you can find lots of valuable articles around it here and there. But what if you need to analyse your data in time level? A customer has a requirement to analyse their data in Minutes level. This means that the granularity of the fact table would be at minute level. So, if they store the data in their transactional database in seconds level, then we need to aggregate that data to minutes level. I don’t want to go there, just bear in mind that the granularity of your fact table is something that you must think about at the very first steps. In most cases, if not all cases, you’d be better to have a separate Time dimension. Then you need to have a TimeID or Time column in your fact table to be able to create a relationship between the Time dimension and the fact table. In this post I show you two ways to create Time dimension in Power BI:

  • Creating Time dimension with DAX
  • Creating Time dimension with Power Query (M)

Alternatively, you can take care of the Time dimension in the source system like SQL Server. Continue reading and you’ll find a T-SQL codes as complementary.

The techniques that I explain here can be done in SSAS Tabular model and Azure Analysis Services as well.

Requirements:

To follow the steps of building the test model you need to have:

  • Power BI Desktop: Download the latest version from here
  • A sample fact table containing time or datetime. I modified FactInternetSales from AdventureWorksDW and made it available for you to download in Excel format (find the download link at the bottom of the post)

Continue reading “Time Dimension in Power BI and SSAS Tabular Model Supporting Minutes Time Bands”

DAX Measure Dependencies in SSAS Tabular and Power BI

DAX measures are the heart of every SSAS Tabular model, Power BI and Power Pivot solution. You write lots of DAX measures and you potentially reference some of them in other measures. So the number of DAX measures you write and reference them via other measures grow very quickly. Especially in complex solutions you may have hundreds of DAX measures. While your solution works perfectly, to make a minor change or adding a new measure to the solution or fixing a problem in your existing measures can be such a pain in the neck. In this post I’m going to take a step further and show you a simple way to get the whole data model dependencies then visualise the dependencies in Power BI. You can find the download link at the end of this post.

A simple search in Google brings you a bunch of useful articles talking about the subject. Some of the bests, in my mind, are as below:

In this post I use a DMV that gives us everything we want. ( Chris Webb already discussed the DMV here: Document Dependencies Between DAX Calculations). Running the DMV we can see what measures are references by other measures, what columns are referenced in the calculated columns and much more.

This is a very useful DMV that helps us getting a better understanding of the model we’re working on. We can also use this method for documentation.

How It Works

This method is fairly simple, you just need to run the following DMV on top of your SSAS Tabular model or your Power BI Desktop file and Import the results in Power BI.

SELECT * FROM $System.DISCOVER_CALC_DEPENDENCY

For Power BI you’ll need to find the local port number then you’re good to go. The only part that might not look very straightforward at first, would be finding the database in Power BI Desktop model.

An easy way, after you find the local port number of an opened Power BI Desktop file, is to find the database name from SQL Server Management Studio (SSMS) when connecting to the Power BI Desktop model:

  • Open SSMS
  • Select “Analysis Services” as “Server Type”
  • Type in “localhost:PORT_NUMBER” as “Server Name” then click “Connect”

Connect to Power BI Desktop Model from SSMS

Continue reading “DAX Measure Dependencies in SSAS Tabular and Power BI”