Power BIte: Power Platform dataflows

INTERIOR: pan over cubicles of happy, productive office workers

CLOSE-UP: office worker at desk

NARRATOR: Is that Susie I see, giving Power Platform dataflows a try?

SUSIE: That’s right! With dataflows I can have all of the data I need, right where I need it!!

NARRATOR: Dataflows. They’re not just for Power BI anymore.

OK, you may not remember that orange juice ad campaign from the late 1970s and early 80s[1], but I’ve had it stuck in my head since I started working on this post and video. I couldn’t figure out how to work it into the video itself, so here it is in written form.

Anyway, with that awkward moment behind us, you probably want to watch the video. Here is it:

As the video discusses, Power Apps now have a dataflows capability that is a natural complement to Power BI dataflows. Power Platform dataflows have been generally available since November 2019, and have been in preview since summer.

Power Platform dataflows use Power Query Online – and the same set of connectors, gateways, and transformation capabilities as Power BI dataflows. But there are a few key differences that are worth emphasizing.

Power Platform dataflows can load data into the Common Data Service, either into the standard Common Data Model entities used by Dynamics 365 apps, or into custom entities used by custom Power Apps. This is important – this makes dataflows more like a traditional ETL tool like SSIS data flows in that at the end of the dataflow creation process you can map the columns in your queries to the columns in these existing tables[2].

Power Platform dataflows can load data into ADLSg2 for analytical scenarios, but Power Apps doesn’t have the same concept of “built-in storage” that Power BI does. That means if you want to use Power Platform dataflows to create CDM folders, you must configure your Power Apps environment to use an ADLSg2 resource in your Azure subscription.

The “link to data lake” feature in Power Apps feels to me like a better integration experience than what’s currently available in Power BI. In Power Apps you define the link at the environment level, not the tenant level – this provides more flexibility, and enables non-tenant admins[3] to configure and use the data lake integration.

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The first time you create a Power Platform dataflow and select the “analytical entities” option, you’ll be prompted – and required – to link the Power Apps environment to an Azure Data Lake Storage resource. You’ll need to have an Azure subscription to use, but the process itself if pretty straightforward.

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I can’t wait to hear what you think of this new capability. Please let me know in the comments or via Twitter.

See you in the new year!


[1] I just realized that this was 40 years ago. Were you even born yet?

[2] CDS entities aren’t tables by the strictest definition, but it’s close enough for our purposes today.

[3] I honestly don’t know enough about Power Apps security to go into too much depth on this point, but I am not a Power Apps admin and I was able to create a trial environment and link it to my own ADLSg2 resource in my own Azure subscription without affecting other users.

7 thoughts on “Power BIte: Power Platform dataflows

    1. There is no parallel capability available today. Power Apps does not have a similar concept to Power BI Premium, so the open question is “where does the compute live?”

      The dataflows team is working on a compute approach for Power Platform dataflows, but until they are ready to share details I can’t really say anything.

      Like

  1. Hi Matthew,

    First of all, really useful post (and video) – thank you for sharing.

    Regarding your comment:

    > The “link to data lake” feature in Power Apps feels to me like a better integration experience than what’s currently available in Power BI. In Power Apps you define the link at the environment level, not the tenant level – this provides more flexibility, and enables non-tenant admins[3] to configure and use the data lake integration.

    Do you know whether there are plans to bring the BYO-data-lake functionality in Power BI Dataflows down to the workspace level, rather than the tenant level?

    As per the Power Apps set up, it seems like a more sensible choice having the data segregation at the workspace level, for greater flexibility, security etc.

    Thanks,

    Ed

    Like

    1. Thanks Ed!

      The “more granular ADLS integration” is something that the dataflows team has discussed publicly multiple times, so I’m comfortable saying that they’re planning to do it. What I can’t say is when these plans will start to become reality…

      Like

      1. Great to hear that. Understand that you can’t elaborate further 🙂

        I don’t suppose you have any links to where the Dataflows team has spoken about this publicly (I can’t seem to find them)? Would love to read about it more and/or start some conversations with those responsible regarding our use-cases/workloads.

        Thanks,

        Ed

        Like

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