Microsoft Expands Power BI Report Server Data Source Support

Using the latest version of the business intelligence software, organizations can now import more types of business data.

Power BI Data Sources

Microsoft has extended Power BI Report Server reach, allowing customer organizations to glean insights from a greater variety of business information.

Debuting earlier this year, Power BI Report Server allows users to host reports created with the business intelligence and data visualization software on their internal networks. In June, Microsoft added the ability to use information imported from SQL Server Analysis Services data sources as a basis for those reports.

Now, in the just-released August 2017 preview version of Power BI Report Server, the software giant has opened the floodgates.

"With this August 2017 preview, users can create Power BI reports in Power BI Desktop that connect to any data source and publish their reports to Power BI Report Server," wrote Microsoft senior program manager Christopher Finlan in an Aug. 26 announcement. "There's no special configuration required to enable this functionality—simply install and configure the August 2017 preview version of Power BI Report Server on your machine, and you're ready to go."

Users can link to their desired data sources using the Power BI Desktop application, which is generally used to configure dashboards, fine-tune data visualizations and author full reports. As with any early software, some compromises were made.

Currently, the functionality in scale-out deployments of Power BI Report Server and Direct Query data connections are unsupported. Scheduled data refresh operations involving imported data are not available and reports using the feature cannot exceed 50MB. Microsoft hopes to lift these limitations when the product is made generally available sometime in the fourth quarter of 2017.

As expected, the software allows users to view interactive, graphically-rich reports in a browser by logging into a web portal. The latest version now supports Excel workbooks, enabling users to view and interact with Excel data without launching the spreadsheet software. With its own data-transformation and number-crunching capabilities, Excel is often used as a companion tool to Power BI.

The new Excel viewing feature requires the Office Online Server software, a separate download. It allows users to access workbooks that contain a PowerPivot data model, have a live connection to SQL Server Analysis Services data source or have no external data source dependencies at all, said Finlan.

Organizations that also use Microsoft Dynamics 365, the company's cloud-enabled customer relationship management (CRM) and enterprise resource planning (ERP) business application suite, the software maker has also released a Power BI template that provides improved visibility into their field service operations.

"This template includes a set of reports designed for field service professionals. The solution template offers a very fast guided experience to create compelling reports on an extensible, scalable, and secure architecture and can be customized as needed," stated Microsoft principal program manager Richard Tkachuk in a separate blog post.

The Dynamics 365 Field Service Analytics template includes reports pending and completed work orders and completed work orders by customer with mapping functionality, among others. The template requires that customers use the free Dynamics 365 Data Export Service add-on.

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the network of...