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Empower Power BI users with Microsoft Fabric and Copilot

Headshot of article author Kim Manis

From MIT1 to Harvard Business Reviewto Deloitte,3 study after study show the benefits of creating a data-driven culture. That’s why at Microsoft, we’ve spent years working with organizations around the world to help them realize these benefits. Unfortunately, for most organizations, cultural, organizational, and process roadblocks have slowed their journey. Already over-strained data teams struggle to scale to the needs of the business. Business users lack the technical skills to uncover insights on their own. Data is siloed across the company and inaccessible to those who need it. Analytics tools are disconnected, slowing time to insights. This paradigm is now shifting.

We are thrilled to announce the general availability of Microsoft Fabric and the public preview of Copilot in Microsoft Fabric, including the experience for Power BI. With the launch of these next-generation analytics tools, you can empower your data teams to more easily scale to meet the demand of the business. You can create a well-orchestrated data estate that minimizes data fragmentation and makes it easy for business users to find continually up-to-date, accurate data. And it even enables business users to explore and consume governed data, helping them answer questions on their own.

Microsoft Fabric is reshaping how teams work with data by bringing everyone together on a single end-to-end analytics platform. Data analysts can work side-by-side with data engineers, data warehousing professionals, data scientists, and business users—all working in the same software as a service (SaaS) experience and from the same unified data lake, OneLake, to uncover insights. We are also excited to announce even deeper integration between Power BI and OneLake through the expansion of Direct Lake mode and seamless integration for import-mode semantic models with OneLake.

We also believe Copilot in Fabric has the potential to dramatically change the way we work with data. Seasoned business intelligence professionals can use Copilot to scale and create stunning reports faster. Less skilled users can use Copilot to explore their data, create reports, and answer their questions without burdening their data teams.

Learn more about all these features and more below.

Announcing the general availability of Microsoft Fabric

We are thrilled to announce that Microsoft Fabric is now generally available for purchase. Microsoft Fabric is an end-to-end data platform that can reshape how everyone accesses, manages, and acts on data and insights by connecting every data source and analytics service together.

Watch a quick overview:

There are four ways Microsoft Fabric is redefining the current analytics market:

  1. Fabric is a complete analytics platform. By bringing together seven role-specific workloads—Data Factory, Data Engineering, Data Warehouse, Data Science, Real-Time Analytics, Data Activator, and Power BI—in a single, unified experience and architecture, Fabric can help you reduce the typical cost and effort of integrating services and streamline your data estate. This unified architecture also simplifies both governance with built-in features that span every workload and billing with a single pool of capacity and storage that can be used for every workload.
  2. Fabric is lake-centric and open. You can easily connect all your data across clouds, accounts, and domains to Fabric’s unified, multi cloud data lake, OneLake, to create a single source of truth for your data. OneLake is automatically wired into every Fabric workload and with OneLake’s open data format, you only need to load the data into the lake once to use it across every Fabric workload and engine, minimizing data duplication and sprawl.
  3. Fabric empowers every business user. Microsoft Fabric can ensure business users in your organization have access to the data and insights needed to make data-driven decisions. With Power BI natively built into Fabric, anyone can quickly go from data sitting in a lake to stunning Power BI visuals embedded in a Microsoft 365 app.
  4. Fabric is AI-powered. Fabric has infused AI at every layer to help data professionals get more done, faster. With Copilot in Fabric, you can use natural language to create dataflows and pipelines, write SQL statements, build reports, or even develop machine learning models. And with our recently announced integration with Azure AI Studio, you can build generative AI solutions in Azure AI Studio tailor-made to your organization using data integrated, prepared, and modeled in Microsoft Fabric.


Announcing the public preview of Copilot in Microsoft Fabric

We are thrilled to announce the public preview of Copilot in Microsoft Fabric, including the experience for Power BI, which helps users quickly get started by helping them create reports in the Power BI web experience. Based on a high-level prompt, Copilot for Power BI in Fabric creates an entire report page for you by identifying the tables, fields, measures, and charts that would help you get started. You can then customize the page using our existing editing experiences. Copilot can also help you understand your semantic model and even suggest topics for your report pages. It’s a fast and easy way to get started with a report, especially if you’re less familiar with report creation in Power BI.

The image is a Graphics Interchange Format showing a user clicking the "Suggest content for the reader" Copilot button and then showing the report that Copilot has created

In addition to report creation, we’re excited to bring the Copilot’s unique ability to summarize data to the Smart Narrative visual, now rebranded as the Narrative with Copilot visual. This visual summarizes the data and insights on the page, across your report, or even for your own template if you need to define a specific summary. However you choose to use it, the Narrative with Copilot visual accelerates how you communicate insights about the data that matters most. The visual is available in the Power BI service and in Power BI Desktop.

The image is a Graphics Interchange Format showing a user creating a Copilot-powered narrative summary of their Power BI report. The user asks for a 5-bullet summary of the top insights and then Copilot then summarizes the narrative as a visual in the report.

Lastly, in Power BI Desktop, Copilot can help model authors improve their models and save time. The first capability we’re releasing in November 2023 helps authors generate synonyms for their fields, measures, and tables using Copilot. But this is just the start. Future Power BI Desktop updates will bring even more new Copilot experiences, including the report creation experience from the service, a Data Analysis Expressions (DAX) writing experience, and more. These experiences are just the beginning. We will continue to release Copilot features that make the promise of generative AI a reality for our customers.

The preview of Copilot in Microsoft Fabric will be rolling out in stages with the goal that all customers with Power BI Premium capacity (P1 or higher) or Fabric capacity (F64 or higher) will have access to the Copilot preview by the end of March 2024. You don’t need to sign up to join the preview, it will automatically become available to you as a new setting in the Fabric admin portal when it is rolled out to your tenant. When charging begins for the Copilot in Fabric experiences, you can simply count Copilot usage against your existing Fabric or Power BI Premium capacity. Check out the Copilot for Power BI documentation for complete instructions and requirements and don’t hesitate to contact your Microsoft representative, partner, or leave a comment in the Fabric Community site if you have any questions.

Use Direct Lake mode for all your data in OneLake

Power BI semantic model support for Direct Lake on Synapse Data Warehouse

We are delighted to announce that Power BI semantic models can now leverage Direct Lake mode in conjunction with Synapse Data Warehouses in Microsoft Fabric. Until now, Direct Lake mode was limited to semantic models on Fabric lakehouses, while warehouses were queried only in DirectQuery mode. Now, we’ve expanded Direct Lake mode to support warehouses in Fabric as well. Direct Lake mode is a groundbreaking data access technology for semantic models based on loading Delta-Parquet files directly from OneLake without having to import or duplicate the data. Direct Lake combines the advantages of import and DirectQuery modes to deliver blazing-fast query performance without any data movement. That’s why we are so excited to introduce support for Direct Lake semantic models on top of Synapse Data Warehouses. For more information, read the Direct Lake in Power BI and Microsoft Fabric page in the product documentation.

Announcing public preview of stored credentials for Direct Lake semantic model row-level security and object-level security

We are thrilled to announce the public preview of row-level security (RLS) and object-level security (OLS) and stored credentials for Direct Lake semantic models. RLS and OLS security is a Power BI feature that enables you to define row-level and object-level access rules in a semantic model, so different users can see different subsets of the data based on their roles and permissions. Stored credentials help reduce configuration complexity and are strongly recommended when using RLS and OLS with Direct Lake semantic models. The following screenshot shows how you can add users to RLS roles in a Direct Lake model using the web modelling experience. The web modeling security roles dialog will be fully deployed in the coming days or weeks. For more information about how to set up stored credentials, see the Direct Lake product documentation. For RLS and OLS, see the articles Row-level security (RLS) with Power BI and Object level security (OLS).

This is a screenshot of an admin managing the security roles in Power BI. In this case they are adding two new members to an defined role.

Instantly integrate your import-mode semantic models into OneLake

We are absolutely thrilled to introduce yet another groundbreaking semantic model technology. We are announcing the public preview of Microsoft OneLake integration for import models. With the flick of a switch, you can enable OneLake integration and automatically write data imported into your semantic models to delta tables in OneLake and enjoy the benefits of Fabric without any migration effort. The data is instantly and concurrently accessible through these delta tables. Data scientists, database administrators, app developers, data engineers, citizen developers, and any other type of data consumer now have direct access to the same data that drives your business intelligence. Enable OneLake integration to include these delta tables in your Lakehouses and Synapse Data Warehouses through shortcuts, enabling your users to use T-SQL, Python, Scala, PySpark, Spark SQL, R, and no-code and low-code solutions to query the data.

Quickly answer your data questions with Explore

We are thrilled to announce a new public preview feature called Explore that will enable anyone to quickly explore a semantic model. Similar to exporting and building a PivotTable in Excel, you can open the Explore experience and create a matrix or visual view for your data. Analysts could use Explore to learn about a new semantic model before building a report for example, or a business user could answer a specific question they have about the data without building an entire report.

The image is a Graphics Interchange Format showing a user right clicking on a semantic model, clicking on the new Explore feature, and exploring their data with a pivot table-like experience.

Announcing the public preview of Data Analysis Expressions query view

DAX queries help you quickly explore and analyze your semantic model. The new DAX query view in Power BI Desktop lets you utilize the powerful DAX query language to discover, analyze, and see the data in your semantic model. Like the Explore feature above, model authors can quickly validate data and measures in their semantic model without having to build a visual or use an additional tool. Changes made to measures can be seamlessly updated directly back to the semantic model. This capability along with several existing features like auto formatting, integration with the Report View’s Performance Analyzer, quick measures, and measure-reference expansion all mean DAX query authoring in Power BI have just become much more productive for data professionals and advanced data analysts.

We plan to continue adding functionality to the DAX query view, including Copilot integration, support for live connect reports, and adding it to the Power BI service. Learn more on the DAX queries documentation page and get started by turning on this public preview feature in Power BI Desktop Options > Preview features.

The image is a Graphics Interchange Format showing a user in the Data Analysis Expressions query view creating measures. They use the DAX query view to quickly create a DAX measure for showing the top 100 rows, showing column statistics, evaluating, defining and evaluating, and more. They run the query and then use performance analyzer to optimize their query.

Announcing the general availability of semantic model scale-out, now with Direct Lake compatibility

We are thrilled to announce semantic model scale-out is now generally available. With scale-out, Power BI automatically scales out read-only replicas to ensure there are no performance slowdowns when many users are using the system at the same time—enabling large-scale production solutions to support high user concurrency. We are also announcing that automatic scale-out now works for Direct Lake semantic models. Additionally, import-mode semantic models will benefit from refresh isolation, ensuring business users are unaffected by resource-intensive refresh operations, and continue to enjoy blazing-fast queries for interactive analysis.

Semantic-model scale-out is the last of the key features to make Microsoft Fabric and Power BI a superset of Microsoft Azure Analysis Services. Scale-out in Fabric is even superior to Analysis Services since scale-out takes place based on live user demand and adjusts automatically to changes in usage patterns. Analysis Services on the other hand requires detailed analysis to determine peak usage times, create automation scripts, and monitor to ensure optimum set up. Additionally, cost in Analysis Services increases linearly per replica, unlike Fabric’s usage-based billing model.

Please refer to the configure semantic model scale-out documentation page for more information on how to enable semantic model scale-out.

Minimize costs with new Microsoft Fabric licensing options

In June 2023, we announced pay-as-you-go prices for Fabric that allow you to dynamically scale up or scale down and pause capacity as needed. We are excited to announce reservation pricing for Fabric that will allow you to pre-commit Fabric Capacity Units in one-year increments, helping you save up to 40.5 percent over the pay-as-you-go prices (excluding Power BI Premium capacity SKUs). We are also announcing OneLake business continuity and disaster recovery (BCDR) and cache storage prices, expanding on our already announced OneLake storage pricing. Check out all these pricing options on the Microsoft Fabric pricing page.

With these announcements, current Power BI Premium per capacity customers have an additional pricing option to experience everything Fabric has to offer. Along with the pay-as-you-go option, Fabric customers also enjoy smaller SKUs that start far below the entry level P-SKU. And since Fabric SKUs are eligible for Microsoft Azure Consumption Commitment (MACC), Fabric customers can deprecate their Fabric spend against their MACC commitment.

Get started with Power BI and Microsoft Fabric

If you are an existing Power BI Premium per capacity customer, you can already access Microsoft Fabric by simply turning on Fabric in your admin portal. Get step-by-step guidance.

If you don’t already have Power BI Premium capacity, you can try out everything Fabric has to offer by signing up for the free trial—no credit card information required. To start your free trial, sign up for a free account (Power BI customers can use their existing account), and once signed in, select Start Trial within the account manager tool in the Fabric app. Each trial user will receive a 64 CU trial capacity—your billing unit—to use against any workload during your 60-day free trial. Learn more on the Fabric get started page.

Join us at the Microsoft Fabric Community Conference

If you would like to gain hands-on experience with Microsoft Fabric and learn directly from the people who created it, join us from March 24 to 29, 2024, at the Microsoft Fabric Community Conference. We will bring together experts from Microsoft and the global analytics community to share, demo, and discuss the latest developments in Microsoft Fabric, Power BI, and more. At this event, you will be able to learn from top data experts and AI leaders while having the chance to interact with your peers and share your story. We hope you will join us and see how cutting-edge technologies from Microsoft can enable your business success with the power of Microsoft Fabric. Register today.

Build the skills you need to take full advantage of Microsoft Fabric

We’re announcing an enhanced portfolio of Microsoft Credentials, including the new “Microsoft Certified: Fabric Analytics Engineer Associate” certification along with several new Microsoft Applied Skills covering scenarios using Microsoft Fabric, like implementing lake houses, data warehouses, and real-time analytics solutions. These credentials are coming in the next months.

Ready to dive into Fabric and start preparing for these credentials? Take the “Microsoft Fabric Challenge” as part of the Microsoft Learn Cloud Skills Challenge, Microsoft Ignite edition. Skill up for in-demand technical scenarios and enter to win a VIP event pass for the next Microsoft Ignite or Microsoft Build. Terms and conditions apply. See official rules for more details. The challenge is available now through January 15, 2024, so get started to avoid missing a beat.

Engage with a vibrant community of data professionals to get all your Fabric questions answered, suggest new features, stay current on the latest updates, and so much more.

Stay connected

If you want to learn more about Power BI and Microsoft Fabric, consider:

1- How to build data literacy in your company, MIT Sloan (February 2021).

2- 10 Steps to Creating a Data-Driven Culture, Harvard Business Review (February 2020).

3- Deloitte Survey: Analytics and Data-driven Culture Help Companies Outperform Business Goals in the ‘Age of With’, Deloitte (July 2019).