Data science with Microsoft – An introduction

Let’s be honest, Microsoft isn’t a name that would traditionally be associated with data science.
But just as we’ve witnessed in other areas, they have quickly caught up!

in the last year we’ve seen the following appear on the Microsoft Data Science radar:

  • Azure Machine Learning
  • Power BI
  • Cortana Analytics Suite
  • Acquisition of Datazen & Revolution Analytics
  • Integration of R in SQL Server

Looking at it like this, it’s just a list like any other. Not even a big list.
The magic happens when we look at what this means for the developers, consultants and ultimately the business.


Azure Machine Learning

We now have the ability to create AND deploy predictive models in minutes using Azure Machine Learning.

AzureMachineLearning2 AzureMachineLearning

This opens up interesting possibilities where we can send data from SQL Server, a SQL Azure Database or just live from a mobile application or excel to gain insights


Power BI

If you still need an introduction to Power BI then you’re doing something wrong.
Contact me on twitter, LinkedIn or via the comments.
I’ll gladly talk you through Power BI and why you should be using it for almost everything you do with data in your company.
I mean that, get in touch with me. Now! 🙂

But on a more serious note, I’m going to be crude to Microsoft here.
A long time ago, Power BI started as an over-hyped and underwhelming experience. Everyone saw the potential this Excel stuff had but I’m guessing the experience most people had was similar to mine. That is, Power BI back then was a disappointment because of what we were expecting.
The one good thing it did have at one point was PowerPivot.

Skip forward to august 2015.
The Power BI dream had suddenly come true!
Most of the things we were expecting in the past suddenly were there, in a web service AND a desktop application.
AMAZING!

Skip forward 3 more months and Power BI has exceeded our wildest dreams.
I could literally fill books with all the great stuff the Power BI team has done and enabled for the community.
The Power BI API, a plugin for PowerPoint, custom visualizations, support on all devices, enterprise ready and a lot more all combined with a CRAZY pace of new releases!

If you haven’t used Power BI yet, skip all the praise and commercial talk, go download the desktop application and start working with it. Soon you’ll be an Power BI evangelist as well 😉

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Cortana Analytics Suite

If I had to summarize Cortana Analytics for anyone, I’d say it is basically Azure Machine Learning for predictive analytics combined with Power BI for a beautiful presentation of your data. And sprinkled on top are some of the most incredible and integrated services you can dream of.

Cortana Analytics is not really a product, it’s more a combination of several services that work really great together and form a solution to your questions.
It enables different scenario’s for any case you can think of.

Whether you have a scenario with real-time data analytics, (real-time) predictive analytics or you’re just in need of a data lake to fill with your data for analysis, Cortana Analytics is where you need to be.

This picture from Microsoft summarizes the Cortana Analytics Suite the best.
It shows you how different tools fit different purposes in the chain from data to insight to action.

Cortana-Analytics-Suite[1]


Acquisition of Datazen & Revolutions Analytics

Not much to say except: WOW!
I bet I’m not the only one who did not see both of these coming.

Datazen was already known for it’s mobile dashboarding solutions. It’s acquisition could only mean something big was coming for on-premises BI.
And it did, Microsoft announced at PASS Summit 2015 that Datazen would basically be integrated with SSRS to provide an outstanding mobile BI solution for those who must stay on-premises.

Revolution Analytics was widely known in the world of the R programming language.
Where R standard is limited to a single machine and the memory that machine has, Revolution Analytics provided a scalable solution.
How cool is that? So cool that Microsoft wanted it integrated in SQL Server 2016!
I’m sure that the R services in SQL Server 2016 are just a starting point. But imagine the possibilities from a data science perspective when you combine this with the columnstore and in-memory technologies.

splash[1] architecture[1]

Integration of R in SQL Server

This isn’t just R in SQL Server, it’s an implementation of Revolution R Enterprise in SQL Server!

No longer do you have to pull data to your developer machine, data can just stay in the database where it should be.
Combine this with columnstore indexes and the in-memory technology and you know that the data scientists are now drooling.
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Summary

Microsoft has improved so much in the last year, it’s as if it’s a whole new company.
Data professionals are getting a lot of shiny new toys and can expect a lot more solutions to be build end to end on a Microsoft platform.
Whether that platform is on-premises or in the cloud is up to the business to decide.

Data science is no longer unknown territory for people who work with SQL Server, it’s already on our doorstep.
On top of that, Microsoft’s Cortana Analytics solution offers incredible value and an ease of use I’ve never seen before with something like this.
It took me only an hour to set up a solution that parsed real-time sensor data, combined it with reference data in a database and then show it on a Power BI dashboard.

One thing is sure, you can expect some interesting blog posts in the feature.
Not only from myself but the entire SQL Server community!

When you’re ready, move on to this list of training materials I compiled for you. Let’s get started!

Microsoft Foundation Sessions at PASS Summit 2015

This years PASS Summit has seen some of the biggest announcements in SQL Server and Microsoft Business Intelligence history.

  • We’ve finally gotten a clear vision where Microsoft is heading.
    And it even makes sense!
  • Microsoft already was the leader in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for Operational Database Management Systems
    But SQL Server 2016 will bring even more improvements.
  • In the past year, Power BI has gone from “OK” to “Nice” to “Wooooooooow“.
    With all the new announcements, it seems like Microsoft is not even taking it’s foot of the throttle.
  • Cortana Analytics Suite is Microsoft’s way to help you get insight and take action on your data.
    It’s basically everything you need for your Data Science scenario’s.

Below are some Microsoft Foundation sessions from the PASS Summit that talk about these products and what you can expect from them, now and in the future.

If you’re interested in just a list of features, check out Chris Webb’s blog post about the announcements.


Business Intelligence


Advanced Analytics


Big Data and Data Warehousing


Developing Modern Applications on Azure

 


Video’s via http://www.sqlpass.org/summit/2015/PASStv/Microsoft.aspx

Microsoft’s Vision for BI Reporting

Watch out everyone, here comes Microsoft’s vision for the future of BI Reporting!
Straight from the PASS Summit 2015, thanks to several people on twitter kind enough to share.

From On-premises to Cloud solutions, the vision is complete starting right now!


In other news, SQL Server 2016 CTP 3.0 has been announced.
Not only is it feature complete and amazing, it will just change the way we look at business intelligence.
Read more about it on the official blog and some more in this official post.

UPDATE:


Clicking below picture opens them in full size, for the last 2 it’s very useful because of the quality.
CloudandOnPremSolutions

MicrosoftProvidesCompleteSolution

TheFourMicrosoftBIREportTypes

This last picture is a bit blurry, but those who know the platform can discern the complete picture.

From creating Analytical and Power BI reports, to Mobile and Paginated reports.
It will all be manageable in the cloud on PowerBI.com or on-premises in Reporting Services.
And of course, the journey ends when the end user opens the reports on PowerBI.com, his mobile device or the corporate SharePoint.

VisionForMSBIReporting

 

Cortana Analytics Suite – 2015/9 Workshop Videos

With all this news about Power BI it’s easy to forget about the important role it plays in the Cortana Analytics Suite.

Most of us couldn’t attend the Cortana Analytics Suite workshop in Seattle but that doesn’t mean you have to be sad!
Now you can watch all the videos from the comfort of your own chair!

Wait, you don’t know about the Cortana Analytics Suite or the workshop yet?

Quick, read on!

Read moreCortana Analytics Suite – 2015/9 Workshop Videos

Power BI news: Starting now, play with 44+ new features

Wow, have I got something for you. Some real insider information that I got after talking with a Microsoft employee. Now it’s my duty to share this rumor with all of you!
Here it goes: According to a secret Microsoft source, the Power BI team gets paid in food per feature  😉
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This also seems to be the only plausible explanation for the incredibly HUGE release they had this month. Which and how many features? Read on!

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Read morePower BI news: Starting now, play with 44+ new features

Holding off the cloud?

I’m interested to know some of the reasons you’re currently not moving your data, or at least a part of it, to the cloud.

Tell me the reason you’re not likely to use a cloud service like PowerBI.com.
Or do you know someone who’s not going to put their data in the cloud? Let me know as well!

Did you know about Power BI’s ability to connect to your on site data? And it’s ability to not put your data in the cloud? Does this want to make you adopt Power BI?

 

Seriously, tell me your reasons and I’ll do my best to address these issues in an upcoming blog post.

I want YOU to comment, tweet, hit me up on LinkedIn, or use whatever method suits you the best. Just let me know the reason (or reasons) you’re currently holding off the boat on adopting “the cloud” for your data analytics.

Let’s get this discussion going!15145-illustration-of-a-stormy-cloud-with-a-warning-symbol-pv[1]

Plotting time series in Power BI

Today we’ll match up the data visualization power in Power BI to the ARR in R.
Every time I see one of these post about data visualization in R, I get this itch to test the limits of Power BI.

Tonight I read a post about Plotting time series in R using Yahoo Finance data by Joseph Rickert on the Revolution Analytics blog.
In his blog he describes, in its most simple form, how he gets stock data from the Yahoo Finance API and plots it on a chart.
Sounds like something Power BI can do!

Plotting time series in Power BI - 1

He then goes on to describe making the chart interactive using fancy R magic.

Read morePlotting time series in Power BI

Power BI Custom Visual Contest!

You already know Power BI allows custom data visualizations to be build.
And now Microsoft has created a contest with a $5000 grand prize for those who want to contribute to a better Power BI experience.

Afraid you won’t be the best?
2nd place awards $2500 and 3rd awards $1500 !

You’re not the 3rd best?
there will be THREE (!!!) “People Choice Awards” up for grab as well. Each worth $1000.
These will be judged by the number of twitter mentions for each entry.

Sadly winning one of the first 3 prizes won’t be possible by mentions.
But they will use the following criteria

  • 35.00% – Originality and creativity of the Visual
  • 35.00% – Usefulness and applicability
  • 30.00% – Design and code quality

Interested?
Check out the full post on the official Power BI blog

Power BI 2.0 – Day 2: Power BI Desktop and our first dashboards

This entry is part 2 of 2 in the series Power BI: Zero to hero

Power BI Logo

Power BI: Zero to Hero series
Day 2: Power BI Desktop and our first dashboards

Today we’ll take a look at the new Power BI Desktop application and we’ll create our first (or 3 first) simple dashboard(s).
We’ll be using different data sources like Excel, an OData feed and even a web page!


In this blog series, together we’ll go from beginner to expert in Power BI as fast as humanly possible.
On our path, we’ll use Microsoft and non-Microsoft resources and we’ll try to explore what Power BI can add to an enterprise BI stack.

We’ll be using datasets like the old AdventureWorks database and any useful databases we can get from opendata initiatives.
But we’ll also explore the new data source possibilities included with Power BI.
These include web pages, OData feeds, On-Premise Tabular models and much more.

Read on to get started!

Read morePower BI 2.0 – Day 2: Power BI Desktop and our first dashboards

Power BI 2.0 – Day 1: Introduction

This entry is part 1 of 2 in the series Power BI: Zero to hero

Power BI Logo

Power BI: Zero to Hero series
Day 1: introduction

Today we’ll look at what Power BI was, is and can be thanks to users everywhere.


In this blog series, together we’ll go from beginner to expert in Power BI as fast as humanly possible.
On our path, we’ll use Microsoft and non-Microsoft resources and we’ll try to explore what Power BI can add to an enterprise BI stack.

We’ll be using datasets like the old AdventureWorks database and any useful databases we can get from opendata initiatives.
But we’ll also explore the new data source possibilities included with Power BI.
These include web pages, OData feeds, On-Premise Tabular models and much more.

This series will be split into “days”. With each day representing a bitesize and mostly self-contained “module”.
You can either go through all the content at once or pace it 1 day at a time.
As busy as everyone is these days, it is my suggestion to go through each “day” during a lunch, a quiet evening or even in a short group session at work.

This way, together we’ll go step by step through the desktop application and the web service.
Along the way we’ll learn to work with Power BI and discover in which way, different parts can be fitted into an existing Enterprise Business Intelligence solution.

Read on to get started!


Read morePower BI 2.0 – Day 1: Introduction

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