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Streamlining cloud connection management for datasets, paginated reports, and other artifacts

Headshot of article author Kay Unkroth

We are excited to announce the public preview of shareable cloud connections for datasets and paginated reports. Shareable cloud connections are the future for datasets and paginated reports and will soon become the connection type of choice!

Before diving deeper, let’s review the various connection types that Power BI supports. At the highest level, there are connections created on a data gateway and direct cloud connections that don’t require a data gateway. Within these two categories, connections can be subdivided further into personal and shareable connections, as summarized in the following table.

Data gateway connections Direct cloud connections
Connections via a personal data gateway Personal cloud connections
Connections via an enterprise or VNET data gateway Shareable cloud connections (new)

Shareable cloud connections offer the following benefits that are not supported by personal cloud connections.

  • Support multiple connections to the same data source. This is particularly useful if you want to use different connection settings for different datasets, paginated reports, and other artifacts. It is also useful if you want to assign individual artifacts their own separate connections so that their connection settings are isolated from each other.
  • Let you share these connections with other users. You can assign other users Owner permissions so that they can manage all aspects of the connection configuration including credentials. You can give them Resharing permissions so that they can use and reshare the connection with others. And you can give them the User permission so that they can use the connection to bind their artifacts to the data source.
  • Lower the overhead of maintaining data connections and credentials. With the recently released new data source and gateway management experience, you can centralize data source connection management for gateway and cloud connections. This is already commonplace for enterprise and VNET data gateways, on which a gateway administrator creates, shares, and maintains the connections. And you can now extend this centralized connection management to cloud data sources as well thanks to the availability of shareable cloud connections.

Let’s review personal cloud connections in comparison to shareable cloud connections in the context of datasets. When you display the settings for one of your Power BI datasets that connects to a cloud data source, you can check if it is using an existing personal cloud connection. On the dataset settings page, open the Gateway and cloud connections section, under Cloud connections, note the Personal Cloud Connection option, as the following screenshot illustrates.

Personal cloud connections can only create a single connection object to a given data source. All your datasets that connect to this given data source use the same personal connection object. If you changed the credentials of this personal connection, for example, you affected all your datasets that use this personal connection whether that is the desired behavior or not. Moreover, personal connections cannot be shared with others, so other users cannot bind their datasets and paginated reports to the personal connections you own.

Fortunately, you can now have multiple shareable cloud connections for the same data source. So, if you have access to at least one shareable cloud connection to the same data source, you don’t have to use your one-and-only personal cloud connection anymore. Simply select the desired shareable cloud connection and click Apply. Your dataset can now access the data source with the configuration that the connection owner already defined for you.

Of course, you can also create a new shareable cloud connection straight from the dataset settings page. In the connection listbox labelled Maps to, you can select the option to Create a connection, which brings you to the new data source and gateway management experience and populates the data source configuration parameters automatically, as in the following combined screenshots. This makes it easy to create separate shareable cloud connections for individual datasets if needed. But you can also display the connection management page from anywhere in the Power BI UI if you click on the Settings wheel in the upper right corner of the Power BI portal page and select Manage connections and gateways. For more details about managing connections and gateways see the new data source and gateway management experience blog article.

For paginated reports, the user experience is basically the same as for datasets. If you uploaded a paginated report created by using Power BI Report Builder, connecting directly to a cloud data source, you can modify the cloud connections for the report by selecting Manage in the report context menu in the workspace. In the report settings, you can then select the desired shareable cloud connection from the connections that are available to you, as in the following combined screenshot.

And that’s pretty much it for a quick glance at shareable cloud connection support in datasets and paginated reports. Just one final note. If you are planning to share your cloud connections with others, keep in mind that you are letting your co-workers connect their own datasets, paginated reports, and other artifacts to the corresponding data sources by using the connection details and credentials you provided. So, make sure you only share connections that you are authorized to share.

And as always, please provide us with feedback as you try out shareable cloud connections with datasets and paginated reports and evaluate their usefulness for streamlining cloud connection management in your organization. We would love to hear from you!