Microsoft has had a strong lead in BI and analytics for a long time now. The introduction of the tabular data models in 2012 was a watershed moment.
Today, they have announced a private preview of Microsoft Fabric. It's a bigger deal than the tabular model was, and will set the direction of BI tooling for a long time to come.
The opposition was already struggling to keep up, and in fact, hadn't managed to do so. Microsoft Fabric will up the ante much, much higher than where we already were.
What is Fabric?
First up, it's a licensing model. Similar to the way you can license Office as a bundle rather than as individual products, it's a product that includes a set of best of breed tools.
But it's not just a licensing model.
Microsoft Fabric delivers a single integrated experience for working with analytics, with widespread integration between the tools, which are known as experiences. At release, these are the experiences:
Data Integration – will be very familiar to anyone who's worked with Azure Data Factory
Synapse Data Engineering – if you love running Spark or Python notebooks and more, this will make you feel happy
Synapse Data Warehousing – this involves both data warehouses, and lake houses, and provides an interface that's familiar to SQL devs.
Synapse Data Science – want to create and run machine learning models across the data? This is for you.
Synapse Real Time Analytics – need to deal with telemetry, logs, etc. and query them for analytics at volume? This is the tooling you need.
Power BI – is enhanced to work with the new storage mechanism. As well as the previous import and direct query modes, there is now a DirectLake mode.
And I'd expect to see more experiences coming.
One of the most critical aspects of Microsoft Fabric is that data for all the experiences is stored in One Lake. This is basically an Azure Data Lake type of storage that is used to hold Delta-Parquet files, but again it's much more than just a storage account.
Having this single copy of the data in a single format, means you can access the same data from within all the different experiences. I can't stress how important this is.
And contrary to what happens with competitors, the file format is a standard open format using Delta-Parquet.
Get Involved !
Importantly, you can now try this too. You'll find free trials as part of the public preview at https://aka.ms/try-fabric. I'd encourage you to get involved.
For a detailed introduction, watch the on-demand session from Microsoft Build: https://build.microsoft.com/en-US/sessions/852ccf38-b07d-4ddc-a9fe-2e57bdaeb613?source=sessions
And make sure to subscribe to our new Fabric Down Under podcast!