You can find out more about this series of posts in an introductory post I published about the series.
By the end of this post, you will have a good overview of Microsoft Fabric. In addition, where your SQL Server background can prove to be useful.
One key point to note is that Microsoft Fabric is now generally available. You can read more about this in detail in the official post by Ryan Majidimehr.
Plus, I share plenty of links in this post. For instance, there are a couple of useful resources to help you get started towards the bottom of this post.
In fact, it is safe to say that this post contains more links than any other post in this series so far.
For those yet to explore Microsoft Fabric, I have published a post on how you can create your own Microsoft Fabric environment.
About Microsoft Fabric
Microsoft Fabric was first publicly announced during the keynote at Microsoft Build 2023. Which took place during the period that this post is published.
It is unifying the functionality you can find in various applications together within one Software as a Service solution to deliver a unified analytics platform.
To help with some jargon here, you can find out more about what I mean when I refer to Software as a Service (SaaS) in an old blog post called ‘SaaS, PaaS, and IaaS.. Oh my!’.
Anyway, in a previous post in the series about Azure Synapse Analytics I mentioned that Azure Synapse Analytics was an integrated solution. Where you could work with various offerings under one roof.
Well, Microsoft Fabric takes it one step further. It allows you to work with multiple services that all connect together and have a unified storage solution. Which can be accessed by one central entry point based on the Power BI infrastructure.
So, all you have to do is go to one URL and all the functionality that you see below will be at your fingertips. Including Data Activator, which is now available.
To clarify something in the above diagram, all of the experiences in the top layer of the diagram store the data within OneLake. Which is the unified storage foundation for Microsoft Fabric.
When I say unified, I mean that all of the experiences in the top layer of the above diagram store data in OneLake as optimized delta parquet files. Allowing them to query and share the same data.
OneLake also raises the game further by providing the option to create shortcuts. Which are basically links to data stored elsewhere.
In addition to all the above, Microsoft Fabric will have AI deeply integrated into it at various levels.
At this moment in time, the Copilot experience for Microsoft Fabric is in private preview. However, you can see it in action in the digital launch videos, which I share the links for later in this post.
Microsoft Fabric experiences
To give you an idea of what you can do within Microsoft Fabric, as you saw in the above diagram it currently offers the below experiences all under one roof.
|Data Factory to ingest data using either Data Pipelines which are based on Azure Synapse Analytics Pipelines or Dataflows which are based on Power Query.
|Data Engineering for those who want to work with Lakehouses at scale. Using similar experiences that you may have used with other services.
|Data Warehousing which allows you to work with a powerful compute engine based on a serverless SQL relational engine.
|Real-Time Analytics, which provides a complete streaming solution inside Microsoft Fabric based on Kusto. Including a KQL Database engine and a capability called eventstream. Which can be used to ingest streaming data.
|Data Science capabilities. Including the ability to work with spark clusters and machine learning models.
|Power BI to deliver Business Intelligence.
One key point I want to highlight here is that Microsoft Fabric introduces a new Power BI mode called “Direct Lake” mode. Which allows Power BI to use the data that is stored locally in OneLake.
|Data Activator to allow you to be more data driven by providing capabilities to gain insights into your data faster.
I tend to explain it as allowing you to be data driven++.
Personally, I think that the ability to work with all of the above in a fully integrated way within one environment is mind-blowing. Due to the fact that it changes the landscape of how we work completely.
In my opinion, I think that this is going to remove a lot of friction. Because it gives you the opportunity to do complex scenarios within one service. Therefore, removing the hassle of having to integrate multiple disparate services.
For example, in the past you had to integrate various services together. Including handling all the networking and security requirements to connect everything together. Like in the below diagram.
Now you can do all of this under one roof within Microsoft Fabric. Which also introduces the option to mount data that is stored elsewhere, as you can see below.
Below is another good example that shows how you can work with real-time analytics within Microsoft Fabric. Instead of working with multiple cloud-based services.
Personally, I think that the above examples show that having everything integrated in one fabric allows for a lot easier integration.
Plus, due to the environment being so integrated some items provide options that allow you to connect to different items that you can work with within a few clicks.
For example, when working within a Data Warehouse you can select a button to start working with a visual query editor. You can then refine your data and create new reports within the visual query editor.
Utilizing SQL Server background in Microsoft Fabric
In reality, you can utilize your SQL Server background in many different ways within Microsoft Fabric.
Below are just some examples to show where your SQL Server background can come in handy. Based on OneLake and the experiences that I covered earlier.
|You can use your background with working with files to work with the contents within OneLake. In reality, the more experience you have working with cloud storage the better.
|You can use your SQL Server Integration Services (SSIS) background to adapt to working with Pipeline and Dataflow functionality in Data Factory.
|Within the Data Engineering experience, you can work with various languages within notebooks. Including Spark SQL, which is similar to T-SQL.
|In the Data Warehousing experience, you can work with a T-SQL query editor. In addition, it comes with a visual query editor which can be an interesting experience for those with a T-SQL background.
|You can query within Real-Time Analytics using the Kusto Query Language (KQL). So, those of you with a SQL Server development background you can look to transfer your skills over to work with KQL as well.
|If you have worked with the Predict functionality in SQL Server, you can look to use it as part of the Data Science capabilities.
|In reality, you can use a lot of your SQL Server background within the Power BI experience. For example, when looking to optimize reports within Microsoft Fabric
One key point I want to highlight here is that Microsoft Fabric introduces various ways to help produce better reports and speed up the time it takes to show them.
|If you have worked with a well-known SQL Server compliance application in the past you can utilize your background to configure the settings there with Data Activator.
To help you visualize where your SQL Server background can come in handy, below is an example of some T-SQL being run within a Data Warehouse.
Online Microsoft Fabric material to help spread your SQL Server wings
In reality, Microsoft have been working on Microsoft Fabric for some time and it shows. Due to how much is available through this offering.
In addition to the video, there is other online material available for those who are interested in finding out more. For instance, there is a website that covers Microsoft Fabric.
One thing I want to clarify is that this website includes a guide on how to enable Microsoft Fabric for your organization for existing Power BI users.
In addition, Microsoft provides some really good end-to-end tutorials in Microsoft Fabric to help you get up to speed with it. Plus, in Microsoft Learn you can find a learning path to help you get started with Microsoft Fabric.
Furthermore, there is already an online Fabric community that you can join.
It is also worth noting that after I first published this post I published another post that covers how you can create you own Microsoft Fabric environment.
Final words about spreading your SQL Server wings with Microsoft Fabric
I hope this post about spreading your SQL Server wings with Microsoft Fabric has proved to be useful. Because this new offering is so full of potential. Especially when you consider just how much you can do under one offering.
You will definitely hear plenty more about it over the coming months. In the meantime, I recommend watching the related Microsoft Build 2023 sessions.
Of course, if you have any comments or queries about this post feel free to reach out to me.