Sql Business Intelligence Advancement Workshop 2008 – For several years, Visual Studio has been my tool of choice for designing semantic data models used for Business Intelligent reporting. Back in 2005, I used the Business Intelligence Development Studio (BIDS) add-in for SSIS, SSRS, and SSAS projects to develop BI solutions with multidimensional cubes. In 2012 when Microsoft started the transition from on-disk cubes to an in-memory SSAS Tabular model, I used SQL Server Data Tools (SSDT) to create a tabular model. It was a rocky road at first. Tabular Designer is fragile to put it simply.
Enter Power BI… Initially intended for self-service data modeling and report design, Power BI Desktop has grown rapidly into a robust and full-featured BI design tool. Power BI Desktop not only includes many great features, it is also stable and streamlined. It is a joy to use compared to my early experience using SSDT for tabular model design. I prefer to use Desktop to implement model design. It’s faster, easier and more convenient than SSDT. However, at some point in the life of the project it made more sense to move the data model to an enterprise-scale effort.
Sql Business Intelligence Advancement Workshop 2008
“Paul, what a #$@! thinking? Visual Studio is an essential tool and there are certain things you can’t do without it!”
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, I agree and will continue to use SSDT for some key features. So, yes, I’m not completely done with using Visual Studio to manage projects other than SSAS, and maybe for code check-ins … I’ll finish this part of the story in a bit.
I want to be clear – I love Visual Studio. It is a great product for developing software and various business and data solutions. However, history has shown that the notion of stringing together several different products and expecting them all to work seamlessly is untenable. Without understanding all the reasons that Microsoft struggled to develop and maintain a robust tabular model design add-on for Visual Studio, contrast that effort with the evolution of the Power BI product. The Power BI product team focuses entirely on the development of a single product by a development team under unified leadership, with a focused set of objectives. Negotiating the joint development of any product by several different teams is difficult in any organization, especially one the size of Microsoft. The reason new features can be added weekly to the Power BI service and monthly to Power BI Desktop is that one product team manages all those features.
Some of you will remember the time when the Business Intelligence message from Microsoft was that we should be creating coordinated component-based solutions for many products such as SQL Server (relationships, SSIS, SSAS and SSRS), Windows Server, SharePoint and Office – all designed to work with smooth It’s a good idea – and still in moderation – but this approach creates a delicate and complicated beast that is difficult to manage and has a lot of potential for failure.
One of the reasons Power BI Desktop is such a streamlined product is that the feature set is optimized for data analysts and not for IT developers. In order to maintain a streamlined product, we are highly unlikely to see enterprise capabilities (such as version control, multi-developer code merging, and scriptable objects) added to this product. This capability exists, however, for Analysis Services projects and community-supported tools such as Tabular Editor and DAX Studio. But now (drum-roll, please) Power BI datasets can be developed and deployed to workspaces using enterprise tools through the magic of XMLA endpoints.
Microsoft Sql Server 2012 Analysis Services
Call it a learning disability, but I’ve tried many times to use Visual Studio’s table designer to manage SSAS projects with the same results. Demo projects and small POCs go well but not so much when dealing with the complexities of product-scale design. I guess it’s my natural instinct to hope things go better than they did last time, but the laws of the universe dictate that if you do the same thing, history repeats itself.
Here’s how… I started developing the data model in SSDT by importing some tables and queries and adding relationships and measures. All good, right?
At this point in the timeline, I often reassure myself that the development environment is stable and everything will work out so I move forward, trusting that everything will be fine.
I then added a few more tables and a large number of new DAX calculations – and soon everything went to hell. The model designer stops responding or behaves sporadically, Visual Studio crashes, model definition files get corrupted and then I remember that I’ve been down this dark road before.
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Recounting the painful past, it was frustrating to open a support ticket and explain to the engineer that “sometimes when I do that, this happens but not always” and “in all the confusion, I really don’t remember how I can this state. “
I greatly appreciate the efforts of Kasper DeJonge from the SSAS product team in 2012 as we spent hours in remote meetings trying to reproduce various odd behaviors in table designers with large data models. The basic problem is that the Model.bim file, which defines all the objects in the data model, is a very large XML document (we’re approaching 100,000 lines.) Every change in the designer requires the entire file to be rewritten to disk and reloaded into memory. Things improved significantly in 2016 and 2017 when the model definition was streamlined using JSON instead of XML, and the file structure was simplified to reduce file size. Similar meetings with several other product leaders have proven that the product team is seriously dedicated to optimizing the enterprise table model experience.
I’m all about solutions and not just ranting about problems. So what is the answer? How should we manage enterprise BI data models and Power BI solutions from now on? Using the Tabular Editor with Visual Studio is truly a best-of-both-worlds experience. You can open the Model.bim file stored in the Visual Studio SSAS project folder.
The Tabular Editor is a powerful tool for developing and managing tabular data models for SQL Server Analysis Services (SSAS), Azure Analysis Services (AAS), and Power BI. It is a community supported tool created by Daniel Otykier, Microsoft MVP and Senior Business Intelligence Architect with Kapacity.dk in Denmark. The most comprehensive resource for finding these and other community-supported BI tools for Microsoft platforms is at the Italian site at SqlBi.com/Tools
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If the project is under source code control, changes made with the Tabular Editor will be tracked and can be synchronized with the remote source repository from Team Explorer in Visual Studio.
Don’t try to do this – It will be bad. Starting the model design in Power BI Desktop will save you time but once you switch to the Model.bim file format, use the Tabular Editor.
Monolithic PBIX files created with Power BI Desktop containing reports, data models and queries are simple and easy to manage until you have to overcome some of these imposed limitations.
Power BI reports and datasets (data models) should be managed separately in all serious projects. Period. …whether you need to change the data model to Model.bim or not.
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Separating Power BI reports from data models/datasets has many advantages including allowing report and data model development to be done in parallel and by different team members. This is an absolute must to create a certified data set for users to connect to and do their own reporting and analysis.
This is a good thing. Keep doing this but use the Tabular Editor as your primary model design tool.
Data models saved as Model.bim files can have changes compared, split and merged between data model version files, used US databases or Power BI datasets. Manage integrated source control with Azure DevOps or GitHub. Check-in changes, branches, merges, push and pull changes made by other developers but not using Visual Studio
The Tabular Editor is a much better design experience than Visual Studio. It’s streamlined, easy to use and it won’t blow up when writing measurement calculations. You can switch between tools because each tool has features that the others don’t. Just make sure you save and close the model file with one tool before opening it in the other …AND BACK UP! The more I do this, the more I prefer using the Tabular Editor.
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The Tabular Editor does not have a graphical model designer so I prefer to use Visual Studio to model tables and relationships. Set table and column properties, create calculated columns and measures, manage constraints and other table model features in the Tabular Editor.
From the Power BI Desktop, save the file as a .PBIT (template) which is then opened in the Tabular Editor. Once you save the file to .BIM format, it’s a one-way trip because the Enterprise model cannot be saved back to a PBIT or PBIX file. Of course, if you start designing data models in Visual Studio, there is
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