In the fast changing world of software programming and business intelligence, Microsoft has been the leader for three (3) decades now. It’s Visual Studio platform for developing software first in C, then C++, and now C# and support for many other languages and scripts continues to remain extremely popular among programmers. It’s SSRS (SQL Server Reporting Service) and SSIS (SQL Server Integration Service) tools with their tight integration with SQL Server backend database have been used extensively to build integrations and dashboards.
In this edition, briefly discuss three (3) new technologies that Microsoft has introduced as PaaS (Platform as a Service) in what is popularly referred to as Power Platform. Their low entry points and tight integration with Office 365, which is already ubiquitous, are making them very popular in the business world.
1) Microsoft Power BI: Introduced to the public in 2015, Power BI is a business intelligence platform that allows for connecting with data from disparate sources and interactively visualizing them. There are five (5) essential parts to Power BI: (i) Power BI Desktop, (ii) Power BI Service (SaaS), (iii) Power BI Mobile Apps, (iv) Power BI Report Builder, and (v) Power BI Report Server. Which components of Power BI one needs depends on his/her role in the enterprise. For example a business development executive may need Power BI Service and Phone App to view reports on desktop and mobile, whereas an analyst responsible for creating reports and may need all 5 components to build proper dashboards. It’s low price point (of first 2- tiers) combined with powerful features, and ease of building attractive dashboards and interactive visualizations, have catapulted Power BI to the top of the list of available BI platforms in the industry. There are, however, a few limitations of Power BI that organizations considering this platform should take into account. One such limitation is the costly on-premise storage and processing (often due to industry compliance), which would require Report Server available in the Premium plan that starts at around $5K per month. The other is the limitation of 1GB data set limit, which for most data analysis situations should not be a problem, however, going beyond this threshold may necessitate going with the Premium plan.
3) Microsoft Power Apps: Power Automate is online development platform designed to allow developers to automate processes and tasks with little or no coding. The automation may also include connecting two (2) or more apps, moving data from one to the other, and performing repetitive business processes. Almost 300 pre-defined connectors, allows for integrating applications like Outlook, Sharepoint, Dropbox, Facebook, Google Drive, etc., whether on-premise or in the cloud. The desktop version from Microsoft is now available for Windows 10 users at no additional cost. The desktop allows for creation of desktop-centric workflows, which Microsoft refers to as “attended RPA” (Robotic Process Automation) using prebuilt actions as well custom scripts to automate repetitive and time-consuming tasks.