News from PASS Summit’14 for Business Analytics Professionals: #sqlpass #summit14

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This post is a quick summary for all Business Analytics related updates that I saw at PASS Summit’14:

1. Theme of the Keynote(s)/Session(s) seemed to be around educating the community about the benefits of the NEW(er) tools. I saw demos/material for cloud-based tools like SQL databases, Azure stream analytics, Azure DocumentDB, AzureHDInsight & Azure Machine learning. The core message was pretty clear: A data professional does two things – 1) Guards data OR 2) helps to generate Insights from Data – And they will need to keep up-to-date on the new tools to future-proof their career.

Read more about this here: http://blogs.technet.com/b/dataplatforminsider/archive/2014/11/05/microsoft-announces-major-update-to-azure-sql-database-adds-free-tier-to-azure-machine-learning.aspx

2. Coming soon: Power BI will be able to connect to on-premise SSAS data sources (multi-dim & tabular).

3. Coming soon: A better experience to create Power BI dashboards.

Read more about Power BI updates here: http://www.jenunderwood.com/2014/11/05/pass-summit-2014-bi-news/

4. Azure Machine Learning adds a free-tier! You won’t need a credit-card/subscription to sign up for this.

5. I also saw sessions proposing new way of thinking about an architecture for “Self Service BI” and “Big Data” which might be worth following because since these are newer tools, it’s definitely worth considering an architecture that’s designed to make the most of the investments in these new tools. That’s it & I’ll leave you with a quote from James Phillips from Day 1’s keynote:

Power Pivot: How to get Month Name from a date field?

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Problem:

How do you get a Month Name from a date field in Power Pivot?

Solution:

here’s a code snippet that should help:

[code language=”SQL”]
=FORMAT([date],"MMM")
[/code]

This should give you month names (Jan, Feb, …) instead of integers that are returned by the MONTH function.

couple of notes:

1. date field needs to be used to get the month name

2. MMM needs to be in uppercase.

I hope this helps.

Licenses required in Excel 2013 & Office 365 for Power View and/or Power BI:

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Here’s a quick chart that I created based on reading up from different sources about licenses required in office 2013/office 365 to use Power View and/or Power BI. It was not straight forward and I had to use multiple sources to find this information, so hopefully this helps you:

Power View Power BI Excel 2013 License

Please Note:

Double check w/ official sources. The chart is meant to guide to find the right license for your needs. Please use this as a starting point & use official resources before making a purchase decision.

Sources Used:

http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/powerBI/pricing.aspx#fbid=ygmkLW5EEH9

http://blogs.technet.com/b/the_microsoft_excel_support_team_blog/archive/2013/02/27/unable-to-use-excel-2010-powerpivot-workbooks-in-excel-2013.aspx

http://sqlblog.com/blogs/marco_russo/archive/2013/08/19/excel-2013-stand-alone-now-includes-powerpivot.aspx

http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/excel-help/power-view-explore-visualize-and-present-your-data-HA102835634.aspx

http://cwebbbi.wordpress.com/2013/02/01/office-2013-office-365-editions-and-bi-features/

Three Power Pivot Installation FAQ’s:

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Q1: How Can I upgrade Power Pivot on my machine?

A1: Uninstall Existing version (Yes, it’s not intuitive, but you have to uninstall existing version). Download the version that you want to upgrade to. Install it.

Q2: I’ve SQL 2008 R2 on my machine. Can I install “Microsoft® SQL Server® 2012 SP1 PowerPivot for Microsoft Excel® 2010”?

A2: Yes, go ahead! “SQL server 2012 sp1” in the name is confusing 🙂 It doesn’t matter which version of SQL server you’ve on your machine – In fact, Power Pivot does not need a SQL server to be installed on your machine.

Q3: How do I check Power Pivot version?

A3: Excel > Power Pivot > Settings > You’ll see version # on the top part of the screen.

Power Pivot Settings Excel

I hope this helps!

Time Intelligence in DAX: Last n days

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Problem:

How to formulate Last n days in DAX?

Solution:

It can be achieved using the combination of CALCULATE & DATESINPERIOD function.

Formula to sum up values for last 10 days

[code type=”sql”]
MeasureName:=CALCULATE(SUM([YourColumnName]),DATESINPERIOD(Calendar[DateKey],TODAY(),-10,day))
[/code]

Note the use of a calendar table in the DATESINPERIOD. It is pretty common to have a “date” dimension & I’ve used it the DateKey from the dimension as the “date” column which is required by the DATESINPERIOD function.

You can use the above example as a starting point now.

Example of an DAX Substring Equivalent:

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DAX (Microsoft’ Data Analysis Expressions Language) does not have a Substring function but I needed something like that for the following problem:

I had domain/username as input and I needed to extract just the username part of the string.

Input format: domain/username

output format needed: username

Input column name: UserID

so here’s the DAX formula I used: RIGHT([UserID],LEN([UserID])-SEARCH(“”,[UserID]))

Note: The Formula is shown for demo purpose only, It may not work directly before making appropriate changes to the formula like making sure the column name is right & If the double quotes show problems, try deleting it & typing them back again.

Note that I combined some of the available DAX text functions to achieve what I was looking for. There might be other way to do this and I would be happy to learn about it too. Meanwhile, I hope if you reading this, this might give a good starting point while researching your DAX problem.

Using Excel as BI Tool? Consider 64-Bit version.

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Excel as Business Intelligence Tool. What do I mean?

For the purpose of this blog post, If you’re creating Excel based reports against Power Pivot Model, SQL Server Analysis Services data or creating reports by combining data from other data sources – then you are using Excel as a Business Intelligence Tool.

What’s the problem?

when you’re using Excel as a Front end tool for creating Business Intelligence reports – there’s a chance that you’ll be bringing in more data than excel could handle which would create “performance problems”.

How can 64-bit help?

Performance power offered by Excel 64-bit > 32-bit version.

Why? Because of the advantages that 64-bit computing has over 32-bit computing

How can YOU decide whether you need 64-bit version? (FOR BI FOLKS ONLY)

(prerequisite: your OS should be 64-bit)

If you don’t have Excel & planning to get it. Consider 64-bit!

If you already have Excel & it’s 32-bit – Do you see slow performance when you create your reports against Power Pivot model or SSAS? Do you have more than 4 GB RAM in your machine? YES? Try 64-bit.

What’s the down-side of 64-bit?

There are compatibility issues with 32-bit Excel add-ins. Read more here: Choose the 32-bit or 64-bit version of Office

Microsoft does not recommend using 64-bit excel.

What version of Excel support 64-bit?

Excel 2010 & onwards.

Case Study

In my current project, a Business Analyst who was creating reports against a SSAS (SQL Server Analysis services) cube & was seeing 1-2 min delays in “data refresh” each time filter values used to change. Clearly, She was not happy!

I looked at her computer configuration. She was using:

  • Excel 2010 32 bit
  • 8 GB RAM
  • 64 Bit edition of Windows 7

so I recommended 64-bit version of Excel. After the version was upgraded, we tried again! This decreased the time delays by 25x. The data was now getting refreshed in 2-4 seconds!