PASS Summit 2015 Women in Technology Luncheon Live Blog

29 October, 2015 (13:52) | Live Blog, PASS, Professional Development | By: Mark V

Getting ready for the Women in Technology luncheon.



Huge thanks to SQL Sentry for sponsoring!


This year’s special guest is Angie Chang of Hackbright Academy, an engineering school for women.


Angie will sit down with Denise McInerney, PASS VP of Marketing.


I love looking around the room at the Women in Technology Luncheon and seeing so many men in attendance.


Denise McInerney taking the stage. Here we go.


Angie Chang joining Denise on stage.


Chang has a BA in English and is in Technology. Me too. Liberal Arts = Learning How to Learn


Chang has long been involved in helping women network and improve themselves


Chang: Hackbright has graduated over 300 women at this point.


Chang: Hackbright started by folks who attended a coding bootcamp in San Francisco.


Hackbright: We’ll teach you how to code in ten weeks.


Chang: we are teaching python as a full stack framework. We also do Angular and teach women how to mentor each other


Chang: Each student gets three mentors to help with code reviews, etc


Chang: People choose Hackbright because of the Community. #CommunityMatters


Chang: Hackbright students and alumna have come from so many various backgrounds.


McInerney: I know you have a high rate of job placement from Hackbright. Can you share success stories?


Chang: We have several women who have gone onto senior software engineering positions and engineering managers


Chang: Survey Monkey has, I think, hired more Hackbright alums than any other company


McInerney: How are companies supporting Hackbright Academy?


Chang: We invite partners companies to a career day to come and meet all our graduating students.


Chang: Several companies also offer scholarships for Hackbright students


Chang: For the first GirlGeek dinner I hosted in the Bay Area, we have 400 people sign up in 5 days. #Winning


Chang: Often, people get hired based on networking, etc, at Girl Geek dinners.


Chang: Train your managers so that women who are already IN tech have a good experience


Chang: There are so many roles that women of ANY age can fill. It’s a shame we only focus on the youngest


Chang: Making sure women can start having a better experience in Tech is going to help with retention of women in in Tech.


Chang: We encourage our students to BE THE CHANGE THEY WANT TO SEE #GoodAdviceForAllOfUs


McInerney: What advice to you have for parents that want to make a difference in this area?


Chang: Don’t just enroll your boys in tech camps, etc. Enroll your girls, too. #ProudToSayIDoThat


Chang: Encourage your girls to be brave instead of afraid they are going to break things. #ItsOKToFail


McInerney: How can people help support Hackbright Academy?


We are opening up to questions. People online can ask via hashtag #passwit


McInerney: What’s your perspective on how schools need to change?


Chang: One example is a project called Technovation that helps girls write Android apps and pitch them


Chang: I was really lucky to have a computer programming class in high school. We need more of that.


McInerney: There is a documentary on Technovation coming to YouTube next week called Code Girl


Chang: We have never had a student directly out of high school. We’re wondering why that would be.


Chang: At Hackbright, we have lots of hackathons and they have been women of all ages.


Twitter Question: Are there plans for paths other than software engineering at Hackbright?


Chang: Currently, we are trying to fill the gap in software engineering. These are good-paying jobs, etc.


Question: Have you seen blowback form that fact that Hackbright is not a four-year degree?


Chang: It’s kind of silly that so many positions require a four-year degree. It is just not that important these days.


Chang: Eliminating the degree requirements does NOT lower the bar. It just makes the job description more accessible.


Chang: We’re working on piloting some Hackbright hackathons in companies to help them elevate their women


Question: Why more women in tech?


Chang: Diverse teams have better results. The helps everyone.


Chang: Autodesk is one our partners. Internet of Things and Data Science have been interesting topics for our graduates.


Twitter: Do you think it is damaging to refer to females as Girls instead of Women?


Chang: There are far more important things to worry about than Girls vs Women


McInerney: There’s a lot of information our there about Unconscious Bias.


Chang: In a lot of companies, some managers bring up women in there team, others… not so much


Chang: Good mentors are needed. So many women leave tech over a bad manager


Chang: Field trips are great. They have inspired our students tremendously. Show them a good tech experience.


Chang: We also mentor our mentors to make sure they learn how to be good mentors.


Chang to Mentors: If you are asking me how you are doing, you are probably doing a good job.


Chang: THANK YOU for having this conversation!


Thanks to Angie Chang, Denise McInerney, and sponsor SQL Sentry for a great Women in Technology Luncheon.


That wraps up the live blogging to this Summit. Thanks for following along.

PASS Summit 2015 Keynote Live Blog – Day 2

29 October, 2015 (10:06) | Live Blog, PASS, Professional Development, SQL | By: Mark V

Good morning! It’s almost time for the Day 2 keynote!



Folks are filing into the hall. There is quite a bit of excitement in this room.


Here we go, yo.


Adam Jorgensen taking the stage.


All PASS financial information is available at


Summit attendees have doubled since 2007! I have certainly gained weight…


In 2008, there were 5 SQL Saturdays… in the US. In fiscal 2015, there were 99 globally….


PASS has over 150,000 members worldwide from 163 countries. This covers 86% of the countries in the world.


Total fiscal year 2015 spend was a bit over million. 78% of those dollars went directly back into the community


Starting this fiscal year 2016, PASS will be publishing portfolio budget summaries for better transparency


SQL Rally resources are being routed to SQL Saturday


Also this year, a goal is to do a redesign of


Denise McInerney taking the stage


Great recognition for Amy Lewis and Bill Graziano for their contributions to PASS on the board.


Volunteers work so hard to make PASS what it is. THANK YOU!


Passion Award goes to Lance Harra!


Wow. Lance has done so much that I can’t keep up. Way to go, sir!


There are 3000 people tuning in LIVE on PASSTV from 95 countries right now. HI!


Since 2009 12 24 Hours of PASS events have been delivered in Spanish, Portuguese, or Russian. Awesome!


PASS Summit 2016 will be October 25-28 here in Seattle!


Welcome to Dr. David DeWitt and Dr. Rimma Nehme! If you want to learn about presenting, watch them. They rock!


Dr. Nehme (Nehme) taking the stage!


Nehme: I will be the appetizer, David will be the entree, then I will be the dessert.


Nehme: We thought the Internet of Things (Thingernet) would be a great topic.


Nehme: Why should you, as data professionals, care about this technology?


Nehme: What is IOT? A collection of connected devices that work together to do something useful.


No pizza this year.


Nehme: Two types of IOT: Consumer (wearables, etc), Industrial IOT (machines etc)


Nehme: Consumer IOT examples, Fitbit, Nest, etc


Nehme: Industrial IOT…. Can we build more intelligent roads? Hospitals?


Nehme: Significant value will be realized from the Industrial IOT


Nehme: Four Types of IOT Capabilities: Monitoring, Control, Optimization, Autonomy


Nehme: We are somewhere between monitoring and control right now. I call it the Terrible Twos of IOT


Nehme: In 2003 we have about 500 million devices connected to the Internet. In 2010, we had 12.5 billion.


Nehme: Somewhere in 2008, the number of Internet connected devices exceeded the population of the Earth


DeWitt taking the stage to talk about the HOW if IOT…


DeWitt: Lots of challenges to IOT. Huge variety of sensors. Lots of devices. Dirty sensor readings. Data volume/scale


DeWitt: Device security is a huge challenge as well. Challenges also with cloud to device messaging


DeWitt: the last major challenge is deployment. When you have billions of “things” how do you manage that?


I say it every year. But notice that neither Dr. Nehme nor Dr. DeWitt have READ to us…


DeWitt: Even the cutting edge IOT is still rather primitive


DeWitt: Pretty much every IOT device has a sensor. Most of them also have an actuator to perform an action


DeWitt: Once the data gets to the Cloud, you have a lot of options for what you can do with it


DeWitt: Occasionally, a command will be sent from the Cloud back to the device: Cloud to Device Command


DeWitt: IOT Hubs are cloud-based services for interacting with the “things”


DeWitt: Real-time streaming systems, like Azure Stream Analytics, operating on a finite window of time


DeWitt: They only PROCESS data. They don’t have time to store it.


DeWitt: The Azure IOT hub provides device authentication since security is so critical


There is not way I can keep up with either Dr. Nehme or Dr. DeWitt. But trying is really fun


DeWitt: If you want to store the IOT data, you need a consumer that will take it out of the hub to store it


DeWitt: You have a number of options for storage, but SQL DW is the best one. #WinkWink


DeWitt: Azure Machine Learning is a great solution for “predicting when the boiler will explode” #NoPressure


DeWitt: So what IS a real-time query engine? In my mind, it is a streaming database system


DeWitt: You have queries that operate over events across time windows.


Now I have “Islands in the Stream” in my head. Thanks, Doc.


DeWitt: The stream can send the ID values of boilers about to explode to a system to open the release valve


DeWitt: Raspberry Pi is not running SQL Server.. yet. That’s NOT a product announcement…


If you visualize an array of Raspberry Pi devices, that is a Pi Chart. #JustSaying


DeWitt: Right now Azure IOT is pretty limited. Currently, metadata is not stored in a DBMS. So, no query support


DeWitt: Devices must poll in order to keep checking for commands.


DeWitt: IOT events are PUSHED up into the cloud.


DeWitt: issues with pushing only: bandwidth, connectivity, latency, data deluge, storage


DeWitt: In our opinion, pushing everything to the cloud is a huge waste of resources


DeWitt: Have a streaming query engine near the device to aggregate and send results to the cloud instead of each event


DeWitt: This reduces what we push into the cloud, and allows for dealing only with IMPORTANT events


Dr. Nehme taking the stage again.


Nehme: Fog Computer aka Edge Computing. This is not Cloud VERSUS Fog. It is Cloud + Fog


Nemhe: We are taught that you never move the data to the computation. You move the computation to the data.


Nemhe: The Cloud is basically this big gorilla… #TheOneAndOnlyIvan


Nehme: IOT is not just a Networking problem. It is also a database problem.


Nemhe: Polybase for IOT. This is NOT a product announcement… but if you make enough noise…


Nehme: Today you have to specify everything you want to do about IOT


Nehme: How about IOT-SQL? Why not query Devices like we query Tables? #Dude


Nehme: Regular attributes can be inserted, deleted, etc. Extended Attributes are set by the device alone


Nemhe: Scalable metadata management with a Shell Database. Essentially, metadata only.


Nehme: Where could the Shell be stored? Anywhere, really. DocDB, HDInsight, Azure SQL DB… It’s just a database.


Nehme: Make sure only meaningful, important, information is sent up to the cloud.


Nehme: Larger computations happen in the Fog near the device instead of sending it all to the Cloud


Nehme: Why should as Data Professionals care? You either part of the steamroller, or part of the road.


Nemhe: The amount of data to manage is increasing exponentially. So, what does success look like?


Nehme: This is our last PASS Keynote. #Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo


HUGE THANK YOU to Dr. Dewitt and Dr. Nehme for so many AWESOME keynotes. We will miss you!


DeWitt: It is time to give up on the full time gig and start collecting Social Security. #YouHaveEarnedIt


HUGE Standing Ovation for Dr. DeWitt and Dr. Nehme.


That wraps up the Day 2 Keynote. Thanks for following along.

PASS Summit 2015 Keynote Live Blog – Day 1

28 October, 2015 (10:09) | Live Blog, PASS, Professional Development, SQL | By: Mark V

The PASS Summit Day 1 Keynote is about to get under way.



It’s so fun to watch everyone file into the room for the keynotes.




PASS President Thomas LaRock taking the stage.


Official Announcement: #SQLHugs are a thing.


Folks from 58 countries present at Summit.


PASS Board Q&A at 3:30pm. Come ask questions and get answers.


Big welcome to the first time Summit attendees! Get ready for an awesome ride.


Tom: Data Professional are the true life force for companies around the globe. #ItsAllAboutTheData


For me, PASS has been a HUGE factor and my taking my career to where it is today. Thank you!


Stop by the Community Zone on the 4D Skybridge! Great place to Connect Share and Learn.


Hurray for Speaker Idol! Growing new speakers is AWESOME!


Super huge thanks to sponsors who help PASS have such a tremendous impact for us.


Thanks for your service as PASS President, Tom!


Microsoft Corporate VP Joseph Sirosh about to take the stage!


Sirosh: The ability to understanding data is transforming our daily lives.


Sirosh: Once data got an IP Address, we got abilities to connect everything.


Sirosh: In the Age of Software, the goal was to digitize everything. A computer on every desktop.


Sirosh: In the Age of Data, data and the analysis of data is driving us forward.


Dartmouth-Hitchcock used Microsoft technologies to create a new health care platform called ImagineCare


ImagineCare: The Internet of People Things – personalized care using devices and cloud-based monitoring


Sirosh: In the new world, Data will predict everything.


Sirosh: Today’s hospitals are optimized for treating things that already happened instead of preventing them from happening.


Sirosh: It used to cost 0 million to sequence one person’s genome. Now it costs less than 00.


The future of HealthCare: Instead of the treatment that works for others, you get the treatment that will work for YOU.


Sirosh: A lot of genomic analysis is done in R


Sirosh: DocuSign has 50 million users today. Someone signs electronically with DocuSign every .4 seconds!


DocuSign Chief Architect Eric Fleischman taking the stage


DocuSign uses #SQLServer for their OLTP systems. #YouShouldToo


Fleischman: We bet BIG on Always On #sqlserver


Fleischman: We’re not database people. We don’t want to write a database engine. I want to USE one. #sqlserver


Fleischman: We made a major investment into the telemetry inside the system. We have systems for tracking the systems.


Fleischman: Always Encrypted is a big deal for us. We’re in the Trust business.


Sirosh: High-performance OLTP has been vital for a long time. The importance of USING that data effectively is on the rise.


Stop just STORING your data. Start USING it.


Sirosh: We have our feet on the ground and our head in the cloud


Sirosh: When we have that and a community like PASS, you help us become #1


Shawn Bice Micrrosoft GM for Database Systems Group taking the stage


Bice: In this era, companies who embrace data will be far more competitive than those who don’t


Bice: SQL Server 2016 is backbone of Azure. Billions of queries hit that every single day


Bice: Everything I am going to show you on SQL Server 2016 today is BUILT IN


Bice: SQL Server is mission critical ready – It is backbone for train transportation in an entire country


Bice: R is the #1 choice for data scientists and statisticians in the world. Welcome to SQL Server!


You want cloud? Choose Microsoft. You want on-prem? Choose Microsoft. You want to straddle both? Choose Microsoft.


Bice: Do you realize you can enroll an Azure VM in an on-premises availability group in about 5 minutes?


Bice: We had a data center ACTUALLY LIGHT ON FIRE. We failed over all our customers there in 5 hours.


Bice: Polybase is baked right into SQL Server 2016 #TheNeedsOfTheMany


Bice: Auto insurers tying telemetry data to customers for rate calculation using SQL Server


Bice: Real-time is not just throughput. It’s the ability to learn and adjust as tings are happening.


Sometimes, you need to learn NOW, not just AFTER ETL ran…


Bice: Real-Time Operational Analytics ftw!


Operational Analytics with R in SQL Server: Learn from your data where it lives


Rohan Jumar, Microsoft Partner Director in Engineer is joinig Shawn Bice on stage


Jumar showing map of PCubed showing lighted dots based on financial transactions everywhere in the world.


Bice to Jumar: With that kind of scale, how do you even begin???


Jumar showing the realtime dashboard used by PCubed to track their system. #NoPies


Jumar: With SQL Server 2016, you can achieve the realtime analytic without impacting our OLTP queries


Jumar showing an R script directly into a T-SQL stored procedure while the data never leaves the safety of SQL Server


Typos…. Kumar, not Jumar… sorry.


Bice: We have invested more on security in SQL Server 2016 than ever before


Bice: There is a big hole in the data world – open access to the buffer pool. Always Encrypted fixes that for SQL Server


Bice: With Always Encrypted, the work happens on the client side, not in the engine


Rohan Kumar coming back on the stage


Kumar: Always Encrypted allows encryption at rest AND in transit.


Dear Man-in-the-Middle Attackers, SUCK IT. Sincerely, SQL Server 2016 Always Encrypted


Bice: This is a new SQL Server. We’ll take the most complex things and simplify them for you.


Bice: Stretch DB allows “stretching” tables into Azure for CHEAP storage while keeping data queryable!


Bice: Stretch Database and Always Encrypted work awesome together


Do you want speed or security? With SQL Server 2016 you get BOTH


Kumar: We worked to make Stretch Database easily usable by DBAs who have not done much in Azure


Kumar showing a query from two tables, one Stretched, one not.


Kumar: We’ve built Stretch on the distributed query infrastructure we have had with SQL Server


Joseph Sirosh taking the stage again.


Sirosh: Building great projects is a journey. SQL Server 2016 took twenty years of work


Sirosh: We believe in dog-fooding all of these. We are using this ourselves


Sirosh: We don’t believe in nickle-and-diming customers for every new feature


Sirosh: We are creating better and new human experience – WITH DATA


Sirosh: This is the age of the data professional. It is our time.


That wraps up this keynote. Thanks for following along. These are great times we live in, friends.

Cross Filtering Versus Slicers In Power BI

15 October, 2015 (12:58) | Power BI | By: Mark V

This post is inspired by a question on the Power BI Community site: PBI Graph Scaling. The question relates to the behavior of scaling of graphs when using Cross Filtering in a Report. It seems, as Seth Bauer (Eno1978) pointed out, that they may want to use a Slicer instead.

I figured an analysis of the behavior of cross filtering and slicers would help people learn what to expect in each situation and guide folks in choosing which feature they want to use. For this example, we will use the report shown in Figure 1 relating to student chocolate bar sales for a fundraiser.

Figure 1


This report features three visuals in Power BI Desktop:

1. Column chart showing Sales Amount – Total by Flavor

2. Bar Chart showing Sales Amount – Total by Size

3. Slicer allowing for filtering by Size

Cross Filtering

Cross Filtering is the feature that allows clicking on a part of a visual, like a Column in a Column chart, and filtering all other data on the Report page to highlight the values associated with that Column. Doing this allows for comparison to the full totals by leaving references to data not meeting the filter in each visual, but shown faded. For example, if we click the Large bar in the Sales Amount – Total by Size Bar chart, we will filter the visuals to highlight the values relating to Large bar sales as shown in Figure 2.

Figure 2


Note that the values for the Small bar sales are still visible for comparison, but are clearly lightened so that the Large sales are easily seen. We can return to the unfiltered view by clicking the Large bar again.


Slicers actually remove the values that do not meet the filter from the visuals entirely. For example, if we click the Large option on the Size slicer, we get the view shown in Figure 3.

Figure 3


Notice in this view that the Small bar has been completely removed from the bar chart. With quick comparison to Figure 2, you can also see that the scale of the column chart has changed so that the top value is just over $3k, which corresponds to the columns in the cross filtered version. The portion of the sales corresponding to the Small bars is completely removed.

Incidentally, the behavior of a Slicer matches the behavior you would see if you put the Size field in the Filter area at the Report or Page level.


As we can see, the behavior of cross filtering is certainly different from the behavior of using a Slicer. Cross Filtering allows you to see how the filtered value(s) compares to the overall total. A Slicer filters such that only values meeting the filter are allowed to appear at all. There are occasions when one or the other might be preferred. Understanding which is which will save you time and effort while visualizing your data with Power BI.

While the example here is from Power BI Desktop, the behavior in the Power BI Service is currently the same.

Note: The behavior here is current as of October 15th, 2015. It is subject to change in the future as Microsoft continues to make the awesomeness of Power BI even better.

Current Power BI Service Limits

23 September, 2015 (11:04) | Power BI | By: Mark V

Not long ago, Microsoft announced that the limits for Datasets and Reports per Dataset had been increased to 200. You can read their announcement here. That raised some additional questions for me. I asked Microsoft and have now gotten the answers I sought.

Please note that these answers are valid as of September 23, 2015, but are subject to change in the future.



A Dataset is a connection to a single source of data, a single file, a single database, etc. So, this means you can connect to up to 200 distinct sources from your Power BI service account. Note that a Power BI Desktop file, which can connect to many sources at once, counts as a single Dataset in the Power BI service. Therefore, effective use of Power BI Desktop raises your limit of data sources well above 200.

NOTE: I don’t, as of the time of this writing, have the limit on sources supported by a Power BI Desktop file. I will provide that info once I have it.

Reports per Dataset

A Report in Power BI connects to one and only one Dataset. If you think 200 Reports per dataset does not seem like much, remember that Reports can have multiple pages of visualizations. I don’t have a maximum on number of pages at the moment.

NOTE: I got confirmation from Microsoft that tiles created via Q&A DO NOT count against this 200-Report limit. So, with effective use of Q&A for creating Dashboard tiles, you can get a lot of mileage out of 200 Reports by only using them for things that a Q&A tile cannot do.


With 200 Datasets each supporting up to 200 Reports, some simple arithmetic leads to the conclusion that you can have up to 40,000 Reports in your Power BI account. I have not seen an Enterprise environment with anything close to that number of Reports. I would think they could be out there, but, still: That’s a LOT of Reports.


You can have up to 100 Dashboards in your Power BI account. To me, this is the most limiting out of all of these numbers. The reason is that there is no real wiggle-room here as there is no comparable alternative to Dashboards. While there is not a technical reason that dictates your Dashboard tiles have to all fit on a single screen without scrolling, it is definitely a best practice to keep them to a single screen. Still, if you remember that your dashboards should be for the MOST important information that needs to be seen at a glance, you can make good choices about what gets pinned to Dashboards and what stays on the underlying Report(s). Keep in mind, too, that Dashboards can support Tiles from multiple Reports and from multiple Datasets via Q&A. So, it is possible to to have multi-purpose Dashboards if you are approaching this limit. That said, I would recommend you avoid mixing unrelated data in the same Dashboard as it could create confusion and make the Dashboard less effective overall.


There you have it. I hope that provides some clarification. I have to say, for a service with the elegance and flexibility of Power BI, and price points of FREE and $10/Month, these limits are VERY generous.

PASS Board of Directors Election

17 September, 2015 (22:20) | PASS | By: Mark V

Greetings. It’s time to vote for the open PASS Board of Directors positions. I want to start by thanking some folks.

Thank you to the Nomination Committee for their time and effort on this process:

Bill Grazziano
Grant Fritchey
Robert Davis
Lori Edwards
Bob Pusateri

I would like to thank the four candidates, all of whom have shown a passion for this community, not just with their words, but with their actions.

Ryan Adams
Tim Ford
Argenis Fernandez
Jen Stirrup

This is never an easy decision to make. I know each of these great people and have no doubt that the outcome would be great for PASS for any of them to sit on the Board.

Here are my votes, with the rationale behind each.

Jen Stirrup

I know that Jen is the only candidate for EMEA and a vote here isn’t really necessary. I am voting for her anyway because I have tremendous respect for her and the work she has already done on the PASS Board. I love how great she has been in terms of transparency. I love how she has served as a champion for the data professionals out there that aren’t DBAs or Database Developers. While the core of PASS has long been, and continues to be, with our Database Administrators and Developers, it is vital, in my opinion, for PASS to also embrace the data analysts, data scientists, and consumers of data. One way is via the PASS Business Analytics Conference. Our DBA and Database Developer friends put a lot of time and effort into helping to store our vital data and keep it safe and secure. We keep and safeguard that data so we can USE it. Jen has served well in speaking for those people.

Tim Ford

Tim has shown excellent leadership in continuing the success of the SQL Saturday program, which I believe in very strongly. To me, between his direct involvement with SQL Saturdays, his efforts on SQL Cruise are also fantastic. I hope to do one some day. :) I think Tim has demonstrated his passion and ability to lead and I would like to see him continue those efforts. I do also appreciate his support for the PASS Business Analytics Conference and serving that community.

Ryan Adams

I met Ryan Adams when I was a PASS Regional Mentor. We chatted at a Regional Mentor’s meeting at PASS Summit and participated in discussions at the PASS Chapter Leaders meeting as well. I was amazed to hear how he performed that role. I was amazed at his organization and his passion for his chapters and for PASS. He made me want to be a better Regional Mentor myself. I chatted a bit with the Chapter Leaders in his region. They were in awe at how helpful he was for them and had nothing but praise and appreciation for Ryan. I knew during those conversations that it was only a matter of time before I would see his name on a ballot for the PASS Board. I also knew that I would vote for him when it happened. The time has come.


I mentioned that this is a very hard decision. Argenis is a brilliant SQL Server professional with a tremendous passion for this community. I think he is a great candidate for the PASS Board. I have every confidence that we will see his name on a ballot again. At this time, I feel that my three choices above are the ones I need to make.

My fellow PASS members, I implore you to vote. Please make your voice heard.

Power BI Weekly Update: Oh, The Places You’ll Go

16 September, 2015 (19:14) | Power BI | By: Mark V

Microsoft has released this week’s update to the service. You can find the details here. There are a few updates this week, but I want to focus on just one.

How many times have I added a Dataset and created a Report only to discover I did so in the context of the wrong dashboard? OMG so many times. I am a slow learner, apparently. Well, it no longer matters.

As of TODAY, when pinning a visualization to a Dashboard in the Power BI service (, you get to select which Dashboard to pin it to. What??? I know! So cool. Not only that, but you can ALSO choose to create NEW dashboard during this process instead of pinning to an existing one.

I have broken this post into two sections. The first section will be a straightforward blog post on this new feature of Power BI. The second section will cover this feature again, this time via poetry as I channel my own inner Dr. Seuss.


When you are choosing to pin a visualization (either in a report OR already on a dashboard) in the Power BI service, you now have some choices to make. Until today, those choices were made for you. Figure 1 shows a shiny new visualization I created against my Chocolate Sales dataset in a Report.

Figure 1


The Pin button is located in the upper-right, as shown by the red arrow in Figure 1. Yesterday, clicking that pinned that visualization to the last dashboard you visited. For me, that was often NOT the right one. And, since there was no way to change this after the fact, I had to delete that visualization (and sometimes entire Reports) and start again after going to the right dashboard, even just for a moment. Gr.

NOW, clicking that Pin button brings up the dialog shown in Figure 2

Figure 2


Bam! The dropdown list shown by the red arrow in Figure 2 contains the list of all my dashboards so I can select which one to pin my fabulous visualization to. OR, I can choose New Dashboard and have this be the first visualization on that dashboard.

The post from Microsoft referenced at the beginning also includes the ability to choose whether to use the theme of the dashboard or keep the formatting (colors) you have on the report. That option didn’t appear for me in this case. I’ll have to play with that a bit. For now, I wanted to focus on choosing the dashboard.

I am so very happy about this.

Dr. Seuss

Today is your day!
You have Power BI!
You’re off and away!

You have data to use.
And questions to ask.
You can do it yourself.
You’re up to the task.
You head to the cloud, with that login you know.
To Power BI; you even have Pro.

You have your dataset already there.
You click on Explore and take to the air!
You click a few clicks and a bar chart appears
With no help at all! Hey, Microsoft: Cheers!

Your dataviz done, you just have to share.
You click on the Pin, and pin it to… where?
It went to some dashboard. You’re not sure which one.
You hope it’s the right one… It isn’t… Son (of a…)

Has this happened to you? Or friends that you know?
It’s happened to me. It ends happy, though.
Do not despair. Do not get the blues.

Oh, the places you’ll go, now, when you pin your viz!
I hope I am clear on how awesome this is.

Power BI Weekly Update–Drill, Baby, Drill

8 September, 2015 (22:06) | Power BI | By: Mark V

In this week’s update to the Power BI service, Microsoft added the ability to drill down into hierarchies. You can read the announcement here. There are some other cool additions as well.

I thought I would take Drill for a spin and share my thoughts.

How to Use Drill

In my Free Power BI account (I have a Free one and a Pro one for testing, etc), I have a dataset related to students selling chocolate for a school fundraiser. I decided to be really cryptic and called it Chocolate Sales.

Figure 1 shows the empty palette.

Figure 1


To start, I’ll choose my visualization, the simple Column Chart, shown by the arrow in Figure 1. That leads to Figure 2.

Figure 2


Figure 2 shows the empty Column Chart. I’ll click the box for the Teacher field, shown by the arrow. This leads to Figure 3.

Figure 3


The Teacher column now occupies the Axis of the chart. The next step requires some accurate mouse-work. You may want to stretch out a little. You don’t want to pull something. I’ll wait.


Cool. We want the drill path to lead from Teacher to Student Name First Last. So, when we click on a Teacher column in the chart, we want to drill to a column chart of the students in that class. To do that, we need to drag the Student Name First Last column into the Axis box UNDERNEATH the Teacher, as shown in Figure 4.

Figure 4


If done correctly, both Teacher and Student Name First Last will be in the Axis box, with Teacher on the top, as in Figure 5.

Figure 5


The order of the fields here is important.  The field at the top of the list in the Axis box will serve as the top level of the hierarchy, ie the top level of the drill path. Each other field below it will serve as a deeper level.

EDIT: I just played around with this more and putting the Student Name First Last ABOVE Teacher in the Axis resulted in the proper behavior anyway. So, perhaps there is some cardinality estimation behind the scenes to ensure proper behavior.

You can add more than one, but we’ll just use one to keep it simple. Our next order of business is to add a measure. For that, we can just choose Sales Amount – Total from the Chocolate Sales table, shown by the Blue arrow in Figure 5. The result is shown in Figure 6.

Figure 6


Here we have a fabulous Column Chart. Feel free to take a moment and soak it all in.


Life is good. OK. The default behavior when click on one of the columns is to filter this page of the report according to the value in that column. For example, if we click on Mr. Roboto’s column, it will cross-filter all other visualizations on the page to just Mr. Roboto’s class, as shown in Figure 7.

Figure 7


You can see in Figure 7 that the columns for the other Teacher values have become transparent, making Mr. Roboto stand out. Thank you very much, Mr. Roboto, for helping me demonstrate just what I needed to. Thank you. If we had other visualizations on this page, they would be filtered for just Mr. Roboto’s class.

In order to make the new Drill feature work, we have to change this default behavior to something new. First, we can click on Mr. Roboto’s column again to clear that cross-filtering. This takes us back to Figure 8.

Figure 8


Notice the shiny new icon in the upper right of the chart, shown by the Red arrow in Figure 8. This is the Drill Down button. This changes the mode of the visualization to Drill Down mode instead of the default Cross-Filtering mode. I made those modes up. They are not official names or anything, they just seem to fit with the behavior.

In the upper left of the figure, shown by the Blue arrow, is the Drill Down Level button. We will come to that shortly.

For now, I’ll click the Drill Down button in the upper right, resulting in Figure 9.

Figure 9


Notice the Drill Down button in the Red rectangle. It has reversed itself: instead of a dark arrow on a light background, it is a light arrow on a dark background. This is the subtle indicator that the Drill Down mode of the chart has been enabled. Now, if we click on the column for Mr. Roboto, we get the result in Figure 10.

Figure 10


Instead of cross-filtering, we have drilled down one level from Teacher to Student Name First Last, showing the Sales Amount – Total for each student in Mr. Roboto’s class. Hazzah! We can then click the Drill Up button, shown by the Red arrow in Figure 10 to go back up to the Teacher level, as in Figure 11.

Figure 11


Now, the Drill Down Level button is shown by the Red arrow. This one will take us down to the next level, but apply no filtering. So, instead of getting to the Student Name First Last level for a particular Teacher, we get all of the students, as shown in Figure 12.

Figure 12


As you can see, there is a horizontal scroll bar on the chart now, indicating there are too many values to display in the space provided. This is because this chart now holds all students from all four classes.

That sums up the explanation of how to use this new Drill feature. You can turn off the Drill mode, and return to the default Cross-Filtering mode, by clicking the Drill Down button again.

My Thoughts

I am glad this feature is there, for sure. The ability to drill up and down through hierarchical levels is a really important bit of functionality. I also acknowledge that this is just the first pass at it. The fact that the Power BI team is able to keep going with WEEKLY releases here is outstanding. I must confess that I like the way this works in Power View better, where Drill is not a mode for the visualization, but an ability you use by double-clicking instead of single-clicking. That way, you do not have to choose between cross-filtering and Drill. As it is currently, you get one of the other, but not both. I do like, however, the Drill Down Level that lets you go down a level without having to filter. That can be quite handy at times. It will be great, at some point, to be able to guide the Drill to a new report that you have designed for the purpose of being the next level of Drill. But that is getting more structured, for sure, maybe a bit too structured for the current Power BI vision.

I hope you will try this out yourself. Power BI is such an exciting offering from Microsoft. Take it for a spin. If you haven’t already, head over to and get a FREE account.

Power BI and The Open Bar

3 September, 2015 (15:53) | Power BI | By: Mark V

Back in July, the mighty Adam Saxton (Blog|Twitter) blogged about there being a limit of 10 reports per Dataset in Power BI. On your attempt to create your 11th report, you would get an error. Adam did point out, though, that you could have many pages within a report. That helped. That post from Adam mentioned above is no longer there because… <pause for effect> that limit has been raised to 200! Hazzah! Bar

I saw some grumbling over the 10-report limit. Granted, 200 is still a limit, but I feel there should be a limit. Power BI, after all, is currently an offering with only two subscription levels: FREE and $10/month. SOME manner of limit only makes sense. And 200 is definitely more than 10. It’s true. I looked it up on the Internet.

When the initial limit of 10 was announced, I asked for info from Microsoft on the maximum number of pages a Report could handle so I could write up a post and help spread the word and make sure people knew they could still do quite a bit even within that limit. When I checked back on the answer recently, I was told (per my Non-Disclosure Agreement with Microsoft) of the impending announcement and the new limit. Grand. That post would not be necessary. Hazzah, again!

This got me thinking, though. I felt the limit of 10 was pretty low and limiting, but I liked the fact that there was a limit. What???? You WANT to be limited???? Yeah. To an extent, I think it is a good thing. Here is the way I see it.

Events I have been to often have bars where people can get liquid refreshments. I, personally, seldom drink alcohol. But the vast majority of my friends do. To them, whether there is an Open Bar or a Cash Bar makes a difference. With an Open Bar, all drinks are paid for by the event rather than drinkers having to pay for them as they get them. With a Cash Bar, the drinkers have to pay as they go. I have often heard it said that an Open Bar leads to a lot more waste as people put their drinks down and forget them and just go get another cuz, hey, it didn’t cost anything. With a Cash Bar, people tend to pay more attention to their drink since they have made an investment of their own. I have not dug around in the data on this, but it seems reasonable, so let’s go with it for now.

When it comes reporting, a lot of organizations I have seen view their reporting environment, like SQL Server Reporting Services, for example, as an Open Bar. There is not a hard limit on reports. So, when in doubt, make a new report. Hey, it doesn’t cost anything, right? Ug. It actually does. Between the dev time for that report, and the testing (sigh, PLEASE test your reports, k?), and then resources involved in maintaining that report and perhaps running it via a schedule and dealing with issues, etc, there is very definitely a cost. When there is a limit on a resource, organizations tend (not always) to think more strategically about that resource. So, if you have a limit on the number of Reports you can create, you will think more about when to create a NEW report and when use an existing one that already has 99% of what the users are looking for. I have worked for several clients in a serious report sprawl situation. They may have dozens of copies of the SAME REPORT with the only difference being a hard coded value referring to a particular customer. Someone needs to learn about Parameters. But, I digress.

Even with this limit being raised to 200 in Power BI, my hope is that people take the few extra moments NOW to consider whether they REALLY need that new report, or if they can accomplish the same thing with what is already there. This hope applies to Enterprise reporting solutions (like SSRS) just as much, if not more than with Power BI.

Still, I have to hand it to Microsoft, here. It is a great example of customer feedback driving a change in a meaningful way. If you have feedback to offer around Power BI, please head over to and make your voice heard. Whether it be an idea for a feature or even just a question, the Power BI Community site is a great place to go.

My Full-Day Power BI Pre-Con for SQL Saturday 453 (Minnesota)

27 July, 2015 (12:00) | Power BI, Pre-Cons, Presentations, SQLSaturday | By: Mark V

Greetings, friends! I am delighted to announce that I will be providing a full day pre-con on Power BI as part of SQL Saturday #453 in Minnesota in October. Woohoo! As you might guess, I am really excited about Power BI. Been there, done that, got the t-shirt. It’s the old branding, but that’s fine for now. Hey, Microsoft, if you want to send me one with the new branding, I wear an XL. Thanks.

Embedded image permalink

You have a account, right? Right? Get a FREE one here.

I love the way Microsoft has been enabling users with the self-service offerings over the past few years. With Power BI, they have not just created a new offering, they have established an ecosystem for growing the Data Culture in pretty much any organization. Below is the abstract for this pre-con that just barely scratches the surface of what is possible with this fantastic technology. With their plan to release updates to the service on a weekly basis and Power BI Desktop on monthly basis, it will be even better come October. :)

Click, Click WOW: The Exciting World of Power BI

With Power BI, Microsoft makes working with data even easier… AGAIN. After years of enabling IT and Power Users, they have released a new set of capabilities that truly enables EVERYONE. The NEW Power BI includes a cloud service,, as well as a FREE, standalone application that combines Power Query, Power Pivot, and Power View into a single environment completely independent of Excel called Power BI Desktop.


This Pre-Con will cover the entire Power BI user experience, from creating dashboards in the Service to using Power BI Desktop to create data models that help you get the answers you need.


Power BI Service

·         What is Power BI?

o   General offering overview

·         Datasets

o   Importing data from a number of sources, both on-premises and in the cloud

o   Scheduling data refresh

·         Reports

o   Visualization overview

o   Pinning Reports to a Dashboard

·         Dashboards

o   Putting it all together in Tiles

o   Using natural language search to create new Tiles

o   Sharing your Dashboard with others

·         Configuration

o   Setting up the Power BI Personal Gateway to access on-premises data

o   Managing Groups for sharing and collaboration


Power BI Desktop

·         Getting/Transforming Data (Power Query)

o   Importing data from a number of sources, both on-premises and in the cloud

o   Renaming, combining, splitting columns

o   Changing formatting like Capitalization and removing unwanted spaces

o   Creating new columns

o   Replacing invalid values

o   Brief introduction to the M language

·         Designing Your Data Model (Power Pivot)

o   Creating relationships between tables

o   Using DAX to bring your model to life

o   Modeling and DAX Best Practices

·         Visualizing Data (Power View)

o   Choosing from the vast array of visualizations

o   Configuring visualizations for color, formatting, etc

o   High-level data visualization best practices


Microsoft’s goal with Power BI has been, “Five minutes to WOW!” Imagine how many WOWs we can get in a full day pre-con!