Sql Business Intelligence Advancement Workshop 2008 – For several years, Visual Studio has been my primary tool for designing semantic data models used for business intelligence reporting. In 2005, I used Visual Studio’s Business Intelligence Development (BIDS) plug-in for SSIS, SSRS, and SSAS projects to develop BI solutions with multidimensional cubes. In 2012, when Microsoft began the transition from on-disk cubes to in-memory SSAS Tabular models, I used SQL Server Data Tools (SSDT) to create tabular models. At first, the road was stone. Tabular Designer was simply fragile.
Enter Power BI… Originally intended for self-service data modeling and report design, Power BI Desktop quickly evolved into a powerful, full-featured BI design tool. Not only does Power BI Desktop include many great features, it is also stable and efficient. It is a pleasure to use compared to my early experiences using SSDT for tabular model design. I prefer to use Desktop for model design. It is faster, easier and simpler than SSDT. However, over the life of a project, it makes more sense to transition the data model to an enterprise-scale effort.
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“Paul, what the #$@! they think? 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 a few key features. So, yes, using Visual Studio to manage non-SSAS projects, and perhaps for code review, isn’t quite over yet… I’ll wrap up that part of the story in a bit.
I want to be clear – I love Visual Studio. It is a great product for software development and all kinds of business and data solutions. However, history has shown that the concept of stitching together several different products and expecting them all to work seamlessly together is untenable. Without going into all the reasons why it has been difficult for Microsoft to develop and maintain a solid tabular model design plugin for Visual Studio, compare this effort to the evolution of the Power BI product. The Power BI product team is fully focused on the development of a product by a development team under unified leadership, with a focused set of goals. It is difficult to negotiate the joint development of any product by several different teams in any organization, especially one as large as Microsoft. The reason new features can be added weekly to the Power BI service and monthly to Power BI Desktop is because one product team manages all those features.
Some of you will remember when the message from Microsoft’s business intelligence was that we should build solutions based on the coordinated components of many products such as SQL Server (Relational, SSIS, SSAS and SSRS), Windows Server, SharePoint and Let’s create an office – everyone is coordinated. It was a good idea to work seamlessly together – and it still is in moderation – but this approach produced a delicate and complex beast that was difficult to manage and had many potential points of failure.
One of the reasons Power BI Desktop is such a simple product is that the feature set is optimized for data analysts, not IT developers. In order to maintain a functional product, we do not see any enterprise features (such as version control, multi-developer code integration, and writable objects) being added to this product. However, these capabilities are available 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 a workspace using enterprise tools through the magic of the XMLA endpoint.
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Call it a learning disability, but I’ve tried time and time again to use Visual Studio’s Tabular Designer to manage SSAS projects with the same result. Demo projects and small POCs are fine, but not so much when it comes to solving the complexities of product-scale design. I guess it’s my natural optimism to hope things go better than last time, but the laws of the universe dictate that if you do the same, history will repeat itself.
Here’s how it works… I start developing a data model in SSDT by importing some tables and queries and adding relationships and criteria. Everything is fine, right?
At this point in the timeline, I often convince myself that the development environment is stable and everything will be fine, so I move forward with the belief that everything will be fine.
Then I add a few more tables and a whole bunch of new DAX calculations – and pretty soon everything goes to hell. The model designer stops responding or behaves sporadically, Visual Studio crashes, the model definition file crashes, and I remember being down this dark path before.
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By recounting the painful past, opening a support ticket and explaining to the engineer that “sometimes when I do this, it happens but not all the time” and “in all the confusion, I can’t really remember exactly how to I got it, it’s boring. This state.”
I sincerely appreciate the efforts of Kasper DeJonge from the SSAS product team in 2012, as we spent hours in remote sessions trying to reproduce various odd behaviors in Tabular Designer with a large data model. The main problem was that the Model.bim file, which defined all the objects in the data model, was a huge XML document (we were approaching 100,000 lines.) Every change to the designer required the entire file to be rewritten. to disk and reload to memory. In 2016 and 2017, things improved significantly when the model definition was simplified 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 tabular model experience.
I am all about solutions and not just about problems. So what is the answer? How should we manage enterprise BI data model and Power BI solutions now? Using the Tabular editor alongside Visual Studio is truly the best of both worlds. You can open the Model.bim file stored in the Visual Studio SSAS project folder.
Tabular Editor is a great 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 Chief Business Intelligence Architect with Kapacity.dk in Denmark. The most comprehensive source for finding these and other community-supported BI tools for the Microsoft platform is on 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 are detected and can be synchronized with the remote source repository from Team Explorer in Visual Studio.
Do not try to do this – it will turn out badly. It will save you time to start designing the model in Power BI Desktop, but after converting to the Model.bim file format, use the Tabular Editor.
An integrated PBIX file created with Power BI Desktop containing reports, data models, and queries is simple and easy to manage until you need to overcome multiple constraints.
Power BI reports and datasets (data models) should be managed separately in all serious projects. period. … Do you need to transfer model data to Model.bim or not?
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Separating Power BI reports from the data model/dataset has many advantages, including allowing the report and data model to be developed in parallel by different team members. This is required to create a validated dataset for users to connect to and perform their own reporting and analysis.
This is a good thing. Keep doing this but use the tabular editor as your main model design tool.
A data model saved as a Model.bim file can have changes compared, split, and merged between data model version files, AS databases, or Power BI datasets. Manage integrated source control with Azure DevOps or GitHub. Declare, branch, merge, push, and drag changes made by other developers but do not use Visual Studio
Tabular Editor is a design experience far superior to Visual Studio. It’s simple, easy to use, and doesn’t blow up when writing measurement calculations. You can switch between tools because each tool has features that the other lacks. Just be sure to 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 partitions and other tabular model properties in the tabular editor.
From Power BI Desktop, save the file as PBIT. (template) and then open in Tabular Editor. When you save the file in .BIM format, it’s a one-way trip because an Enterprise model cannot be saved in a PBIT or PBIX file. Of course, if you start designing the data model in Visual Studio, there is
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