On Thursday, Microsoft unveiled some updates to its Power BI analytics service that aim to streamline and expand data prep, while also making it easier to unify data platforms.

As noted in a Microsoft blog post, ingesting and preparing data are often some of the most time-consuming processes when performing analytics. As such, Microsoft is seeking to expand self-service prep for big data by providing new ways for data scientists to get insights.

“Using the Power Query experience familiar to millions of Power BI Desktop and Excel users, business analysts can ingest, transform, integrate and enrich big data directly in the Power BI web service – including data from a large and growing set of supported on-premises and cloud-based data sources, such as Dynamics 365, Salesforce, Azure SQL Data Warehouse, Excel and SharePoint,” the post reads.

SEE: Big data policy (Tech Pro Research)

Additionally, once the data is ingested, it can be shared across multiple Power BI models, reports, and dashboards, the report said. This also makes data reuse easier.

Microsoft is also improving collaboration across its platforms–analysis using Power BI will now be able to operate on data stored in Azure Data Lake Storage, the post said. Other integrations with Azure Data Factory, Azure Databricks, and Azure Machine Learning will allow data engineers and data scientists to extend access to insights.

“For example, data engineers can add, enrich and orchestrate data; data scientist can build machine learning models; and business analysts can benefit from the work of others and the data available in the Azure Data Lake Storage while continuing to use the self-service tools in Power BI to build and share insights broadly,” the post said.

Power BI will now support the common data model as well, the post noted.

SQL Server Analysis Services integration will enable larger data volumes, lifecycle management, and third-party BI tool connectivity to come to Power BI datasets. This is made possible by new support for the XMLA protocol.

SQL Server Reporting Services are also now a part of Power BI, the post said. Also, Power BI Premium users can now deploy in specific global regions to meet geographic compliance.

The big takeaways for tech leaders:

  • Microsoft has updated its Power BI analytics service in an effort to expand data prep capabilities and unify data analytics across platforms.
  • Power BI now supports data in Azure Data Lake Storage, and integrates with SQL Server Analysis Services and SQL Server Reporting Services.