Overview of Business Intelligence October '18 release

With a focus on delivering immediate, out-of-the-box value to business users, Power BI has enabled users to address their own needs through a combination of prepackaged content and the ease of developing and sharing reports and dashboards. The resulting access to insights has proven a key enabler to organizations adopting a data-driven culture.

The October '18 release includes several innovations that further the democratization of business intelligence across the enterprise. (These release notes describe functionality that may not have been released yet. Delivery timelines and projected functionality may change or may not ship (see Microsoft policy.)

Power BI Desktop

Microsoft has rapidly delivered over 215 Power BI Desktop features in a series of monthly updates in response to passionate user feedback on proposed features. This October '18 release includes ways for report consumers to tweak visuals to answer a specific question about their data, even if they don’t have edit access to the report, support for a pivot-table-like expand/collapse on the matrix visual, and continued improvements to Q&A usability.

For Power BI authors, the desktop adds composite models that allow data mashups across Direct Query and imported data sources, to augment data with additional insights. New navigation options, more flexible theming and branding, and expression-based formatting enable authors to create rich Power BI content with ease.

Power BI Desktop continues to use AI and natural language to make authors’ lives easier. By leveraging new telemetry from Power BI, ISVs can learn how Q&A is being used in their apps and use this data to improve Q&A results. In addition, Quick Insights works over non-additive measures with complex business logic. These capabilities allow report authors to ensure users get the best results by leveraging both AI and the author's domain knowledge.

Power BI Service

The October '18 release brings new capabilities in two primary areas, big data and enterprise BI.

Working with big data

  • Starting with the Common Data Model – Power BI supports a Common Data Model, published by Microsoft, that provides a standard yet extensible collection of data schemas (entities, attributes, and relationships) for business applications. Users can take advantage of a standard schema – or customize it based on their unique needs – to simplify how they enrich their data with other data sources, from Microsoft and third parties, to accelerate analysis.

  • Self-service data prep for big data – We’re expanding self-service data prep in Power BI with new capabilities to help business analysts extract insights from big data. Using the Power Query experience already familiar to millions of Power BI Desktop and Excel users, business analysts can ingest, transform, integrate, and enrich big data with Power BI – including data from a large and growing set of supported on-premises and cloud-based data sources, such as Dynamics 365, Salesforce, Azure SQL Data Warehouse, Excel, and SharePoint. Users can directly map data to known entities, modify and extend existing entities, or create custom entities all within Power BI.

  • Advanced analytics and AI with Azure - We’re fueling collaboration across roles by unifying access to data between Power BI and Azure Data Lake Storage. Business analysts can seamlessly operate on data stored in Azure Data Lake Storage with the self-service capabilities in Power BI, while data engineers, data scientists, and other users can extend access to insights with advanced analytics and AI from complementary Azure Data Services like Azure Data Factory, Azure Databricks, and Azure Machine Learning. For example, data engineers can add, enrich, and orchestrate data; data scientists can build machine learning models; and business analysts can benefit from the work of others and the data available in Azure Data Lake Storage while continuing to use the self-service tools in Power BI to build and share insights broadly.

Enterprise BI

  • Enterprise reporting – Popular and proven SQL Server Reporting Services technology is now part of Power BI, creating a unified, secure, enterprisewide reporting platform accessible to any user across devices. Pixel-perfect paginated reports can now be included alongside Power BI’s existing interactive reports.

  • Multiple geographies – New flexibility to deploy Power BI in specific global regions enables organizations to keep data close to users for optimal performance and to meet data residency requirements.

  • Enterprise-scale BI models – We’re integrating the full power of SQL Server Analysis Services into Power BI, expanding the service with a highly scalable platform for semantic BI models. Organizations can provide users with reports that are fast, highly available, and easy to manage, while aligning with their unique compliance requirements. And with incremental refresh and aggregation capabilities, Power BI can query large amounts of data, while still enabling quick, interactive user experiences.

  • Application lifecycle management (ALM) – Adds new capabilities for enterprise-grade lifecycle management, as well as full API support for datasets through the XMLA protocol to help customers connect a variety of third-party BI tools to Power BI to create a unified enterprise semantic model repository.

Power BI Mobile

Power BI Mobile apps bring data and insights to any device. Business users can securely access and view Power BI dashboards and reports on any device, with mobile-optimized experiences for Windows, iOS, and Android. Key capabilities for the October '18 release include shared credentials with Office apps, new personal navigation and landing experience, and collaboration capabilities on data.

Power BI Embedded

The October '18 release includes:

  • A developer center with the resources developers need to develop their Power BI solutions.
  • Automatic end-to-end deployment of Power BI Embedded solutions.
  • Integration with Azure diagnostics and Azure health.

Power BI Report Server

With the Power BI Report Server, customers can meet their unique governance and deployment requirements while enjoying modern Power BI reports. In the November '18 update to Power BI Report Server, customers will benefit from many of the features released in Power BI Desktop over the previous months, including drill-through on measures and conditional formatting based on another column.

Azure Analysis Services

Azure Analysis Services offers the proven analytics engine of SQL Server Analysis Services as a fully managed hosted service. All new in October '18 are:

  • Resource governance properties – Ability to set maximum memory size per query and maximum number of rows for results to improve your control of resource use.
  • MDX column controls – Turn off MDX usage of certain columns to dramatically reduce processing times and memory consumption.