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?

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Four Different Ways to Find Your Power BI Desktop Local Port Number

Power BI Desktop Local Port

About two years ago I wrote a blog post on how to connect to a Power BI Desktop model from different tools like SSMS, Excel and SQL Server Profiler. A big chunk of that blog post was about different ways of finding Power BI Desktop local port. Having the port number is crucial if you want to connect to a Power BI Desktop model from any sort of tools for different purposes like monitoring in SQL Server Profiler or analysing the model in Excel. I’m asked several times here and there about different scen people need to find Power BI Desktop local port number, so I decided to dedicate a post to Power BI Desktop local port number.

When you run Power BI Desktop, it runs a local instance of SSAS Tabular model in the background and it assigns a random port number to that local instance. Therefore, if you want to connect to the model to analyse it in Excel you need to know that port number. There are several ways to achieve that port number which this post will cover most of them.

As you may know, Power BI Desktop is now available as a Windows App that can be installed from Windows Store. In general, the main difference between the App and the downloaded edition from Micrsosoft website is that you will get notification whenever a newer version is available to download. Then you have to manually download and install the newer version on your machine, but, the App will be updated automatically. But there are some other differences that are out of scope of this article. There is just one difference which is relevant to this article which is that Power BI Desktop creates its temporary folders in a different location than the Power BI Desktop App does.

The methods described in this post works for both downloaded edition and the Store edition.

Different Methods to Find Power BI Desktop Local Port

· Using DAX Studio

· Tabular Editor

· Power BI Desktop Temporary Location

· Command Line (CMD)

The reason that I explain different methods is that not all methods are doable in all environments. You may work at a customer site that doesn’t allow you to install new software like DAX Studio on their machines. But you always have access on Power BI Desktop temporary files.

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