Power BI Adding Dynamic Hierarchies – XMLA, TOM, C#

This post is a continuation of my adventure into the Tabular Object Model and how we can use it to make Power BI scalable and incorporate it into existing .NET applications. Quick refresher, the Tabular Object Model can be accessed through the XMLA endpoint in Power BI Premium workspaces. My previous posts have covered code around adding, deleting, and adjusting columns and measures, but this one will address how to manipulate hierarchies.

Power BI hierarchies are a powerful and easy way to enable end users to dig deeper into their visuals and data. While hierarchies can be a useful resource for self-serve analytics, maintaining hierarchies can be a pain as new levels get added or removed. Thankfully, if you have Power BI premium you can use the XMLA endpoint to add code into existing .NET applications to dynamically add or remove levels from hierarchies as they are created/removed in your application.

Unfortunately, while we can manipulate, add, and delete hierarchies and their levels, visuals already containing the hierarchy will not be automatically adjusted with any new levels/ordinals.

Microsoft TOM Documentation

If you are new to using C# and the Tabular Object Model (TOM), please check out the previous blog post (https://dataonwheels.wordpress.com/2021/10/15/power-bi-meets-programmability-tom-xmla-and-c/) for both an introduction to the topic and detailed instructions on getting the C# portion of this demo stood up. Please reference the DataOnWheels GitHub page for sample PBIX files and C# packages, but note you will need a Power BI Premium workspace with XMLA endpoint write-back enabled in order to run this entire demo.

Power BI Hierarchies

To start out, let’s make sure we understand the components of a hierarchy that we will need to replicate using our TOM script. In the Power BI Desktop app, creating a hierarchy is fairly simple. For example, let’s say I want to have end users drill down from category to subcategory. To do this, I would hover over the category column then click on the three dots next to the category column and select “create hierarchy”.

Next, go to the subcategory column and you’ll notice a new option called “add to existing hierarchy”. Select our newly created hierarchy (default will be named after the top level in the hierarchy), and it will add subcategory underneath category within the hierarchy. Pretty neat stuff but also very manual.

From this, we can see that there are a few components to a hierarchy that we will need to address in our TOM script:
1. Name
2. Levels
3. Order of levels (Ordinal)
4. Column in each level
5. Name of level

Using TOM to See Hierarchies, Levels, Ordinals, and Source Columns

Now that the data model contains a hierarchy, we can publish it up to a Premium enabled workspace in the Power BI service and see it using our TOM script. I won’t go into details on building out this script from scratch, so please reference this blog post for a complete walk through on connecting to your workspace and building a simple C# application to use with this demo.

To list out the hierarchies in the data model, you will need something like this script in your code (entire zip file is in the DataOnWheels github for reference):

  // List out the hierarchies in the product table
            foreach (Hierarchy hierarchy in table_product.Hierarchies)
            {
                Console.WriteLine($"Hierarchies: {hierarchy.Name}");
            }

And poof there it is! Our Category Hierarchy! Next we will have our script list out the levels within the hierarchy.

// List out the levels in our Category hierarchy
            Hierarchy hierarchy_category = table_product.Hierarchies["Category Hierarchy"];
            foreach (Level level_categoryhierarchy in hierarchy_category.Levels)
            {
                Console.WriteLine($"Category Hierarchy Levels: {level_categoryhierarchy.Name}");
            }

Great, and the next piece will be the ordinal, or the order that the hierarchy levels should be placed. I’m going to adjust the last code so now it will tell us the ordinal/order of each level before it gives us the name. Notice that this starts at 0, not 1.

// List out the levels in our Category hierarchy
            Hierarchy hierarchy_category = table_product.Hierarchies["Category Hierarchy"];
            foreach (Level level_categoryhierarchy in hierarchy_category.Levels)
            {
                Console.WriteLine($"Category Hierarchy Level {level_categoryhierarchy.Ordinal}: {level_categoryhierarchy.Name}");
            }

And for our final piece of the puzzle, the column name that this level of the hierarchy comes from.

// List out the levels in our Category hierarchy
            Hierarchy hierarchy_category = table_product.Hierarchies["Category Hierarchy"];
            foreach (Level level_categoryhierarchy in hierarchy_category.Levels)
            {
                Console.WriteLine($"Category Hierarchy Level {level_categoryhierarchy.Ordinal}: {level_categoryhierarchy.Name} from {level_categoryhierarchy.Column.Name}");
            }

Editing a Hierarchy Using TOM

Let’s switch it up and begin editing our existing hierarchy by changing the name of the hierarchy, the name of the levels, the source columns, and swap the ordinances. Typically you will not need to do any or all of these things, but it may be useful in rare use cases.

To start, we will rename the hierarchy itself. Now it will be important to reference the Category Hierarchy by the lineage tag after we rename it. The lineage tag won’t change even after you change the name property of the hierarchy itself. Please note your lineage tag will be different from mine, so run the script that will list the lineage tag next to the name (below) first then replace that portion in the rest of the code where there are references to the reference tag.

// List out the hierarchies in the product table
            foreach (Hierarchy hierarchy in table_product.Hierarchies)
            {
                Console.WriteLine($"Hierarchies: {hierarchy.Name}, Lineage Tag = {hierarchy.LineageTag}");
            }
            // List out the levels in our category hierarchy
            Hierarchy hierarchy_category = table_product.Hierarchies.FindByLineageTag("9aeadacd-d48d-48cb-948f-16700e030fe7");
            foreach (Level level_categoryhierarchy in hierarchy_category.Levels)
            {
                Console.WriteLine($"Category Hierarchy Level {level_categoryhierarchy.Ordinal}: {level_categoryhierarchy.Name} from {level_categoryhierarchy.Column.Name}");
            }

In the Power BI service, we can check if this rename effort was successful by entering edit mode.

Success! Let’s try changing the name of a level next then swap the order around.

 //Hierarchies:
            //Editing an existing hierarchy originally called Category Hierarchy
            {
                hierarchy_category.Name = "Category Hierarchy Rename Test"; //this renames the hierarchy, note the lineage tag will remain unchanged
                Console.WriteLine($"Category Hierarchy Renamed");
            }
            //Editing an existing hierarchy level 
            Level level_Category = hierarchy_category.Levels.FindByLineageTag("fe12a6fc-1023-43f9-bfdc-c59f65435323");
            Level level_Subcategory = hierarchy_category.Levels.FindByLineageTag("fbb4aa00-35dc-4490-bc40-3190b354ea54");
            {
                level_Category.Name = "Category Test";
                level_Subcategory.Name = "Subcategory Test";
                Console.WriteLine($"Category Hierarchy Levels Renamed");

Awesome! Okay now for the final piece of the puzzle – switching the ordinances to make subcategory the top of the hierarchy. Note, you will need to start at level 0. Also, if you are experiencing errors in saving the model, make sure you are out of edit mode in the Power BI Service. While it’s helpful to be in that mode to see your changes, it will be impossible to make additional changes via XMLA until you are out of it.


            //Hierarchies:
            //Editing an existing hierarchy originally called Category Hierarchy
            {
                hierarchy_category.Name = "Category Hierarchy Rename Test"; //this renames the hierarchy, note the lineage tag will remain unchanged
                Console.WriteLine($"Category Hierarchy Renamed");
            }
            //Editing an existing hierarchy level 
            Level level_Category = hierarchy_category.Levels.FindByLineageTag("fe12a6fc-1023-43f9-bfdc-c59f65435323");
            Level level_Subcategory = hierarchy_category.Levels.FindByLineageTag("fbb4aa00-35dc-4490-bc40-3190b354ea54");
            {
                level_Category.Name = "Category Test";
                level_Category.Ordinal = 1;
                level_Subcategory.Name = "Subcategory Test";
                level_Subcategory.Ordinal = 0;
                
                Console.WriteLine($"Category Hierarchy Levels Renamed & Reordered");
            }

            // List out the levels in our category hierarchy
            foreach (Level level_categoryhierarchy in hierarchy_category.Levels)
            {
                Console.WriteLine($"Category Hierarchy Level {level_categoryhierarchy.Ordinal}: {level_categoryhierarchy.Name} Lineage Tag: {level_categoryhierarchy.LineageTag} from {level_categoryhierarchy.Column.Name}");
            }

Boom now we have proven we can reorder the levels as well as rename them and the hierarchy itself.

Adding Hierarchy Levels & Hierarchies via TOM

Now we are finally ready to add a brand new level into our hierarchy! In the sample data, the model column should go below subcategory in my hierarchy. To add a level to the hierarchy we will need a few items – the name of the level, the ordering of the level, and the column it should reference. You can add a lineage tag as well (Power BI will not add one unless you made this level in the desktop application). Don’t forget to add the level you’ve created to the hierarchy or else it will stay in cache and never get added.

            //Hierarchies:
            //Editing an existing hierarchy originally called Category Hierarchy
            {
                hierarchy_category.Name = "Category Hierarchy Rename"; //this renames the hierarchy, note the lineage tag will remain unchanged
                Console.WriteLine($"Category Hierarchy Renamed");
            }
            //Editing an existing hierarchy level 
            Level level_Category = hierarchy_category.Levels.FindByLineageTag("fe12a6fc-1023-43f9-bfdc-c59f65435323");
            Level level_Subcategory = hierarchy_category.Levels.FindByLineageTag("fbb4aa00-35dc-4490-bc40-3190b354ea54");
            {
                level_Category.Name = "Category";
                level_Category.Ordinal = 1;
                level_Subcategory.Name = "Subcategory";
                level_Subcategory.Ordinal = 0;
                
                Console.WriteLine($"Category Hierarchy Levels Renamed & Reordered");
            }
            //Adding a new level to the hierarchy if it doesn't already exist
            if (hierarchy_category.Levels.ContainsName("Model"))
            {
                Console.WriteLine($"Hierarchy Level Exists");
            }
            else 
            {
                Level level_Model = new Level()
                {
                    Name = "Model",
                    Ordinal = 2,
                    Column = table_product.Columns.Find("Model")
                };
                hierarchy_category.Levels.Add(level_Model);
                Console.WriteLine($"Hierarchy Level Added");

Let’s try making our own hierarchy from scratch. To review, we will need to have a name for our new hierarchy, the name of the levels, the order of the levels, and the column of the levels. We will also need to explicitly add the new hierarchy to the model then add the levels to that hierarchy.

//Add a new hierarchy if it doesn't already exist
            if (table_product.Hierarchies.ContainsName("New Hierarchy"))
            {
                Console.WriteLine($"New Hierarchy Exists");
            }
            else
            {
                Hierarchy hiearchy_new = new Hierarchy()
                {
                    Name = "New Hierarchy",
                };
                table_product.Hierarchies.Add(hiearchy_new);
                Console.WriteLine($"Hierarchy Added");

                Level level_one = new Level()
                {
                    Name = "Model",
                    Ordinal = 0,
                    Column = table_product.Columns.Find("Model")
                };
                Level level_two = new Level()
                {
                    Name = "Product",
                    Ordinal = 1,
                    Column = table_product.Columns.Find("Product")
                };

                hiearchy_new.Levels.Add(level_one);
                hiearchy_new.Levels.Add(level_two);
                Console.WriteLine($"Levels added to new hiearchy");
            };

Awesome! Now we know we can programmatically add hierarchies, add levels, rearrange levels, rename levels, and point levels to different columns. This won’t apply to many use cases of Power BI, but for those of you embedding a Power BI solution into your application, this should offer greater flexibility and integration with your existing .NET applications.

Additional Resources:

Power BI DAX Getting the Value of Previous Non-NULL Row

If you are an avid report designer or user, you may have wanted to see the percent difference between one row and the previous one. Sounds easy right? Well let’s break it down. Percent difference follows a consistent formula: (current value – previous value)/previous value. Current value? Easy peasy. Previous value? That’s where this blog comes into play. It’s fairly simple to get the previous month value or previous date period value because Power BI can tell it exactly what the filter would be (September minus one month is always August ). However, there may not have been any invoices in August, so how can we compare September with the last month that had an invoice?

Let’s set the scene for this example. A business user has requested to compare each day’s orders with the previous day they had orders. To get the previous day that had orders, we can create a measure called Last Day Order Quantity (see below). Within this measure, you’ll notice we use a variable to calculate the measure Order Quantity. By pulling this into the variable, it will save the row context for Order Quantity so we can make sure that we are only looking at rows that have orders. The next variable (LastDayOrdered) filters the ship date table to grab the last date where 1. there are orders (Order Quantity is not blank) and 2. the current day (aka the row we are currently on) also has orders. The final variable does the work of calculating our order quantity for the last day that contained orders.

Last Day Order Quantity = 
VAR Orders = [Order Quantity] //grab the charge amount for this line
VAR LastDayOrdered = MINX(FILTER(ALL('ShipDate'),'ShipDate'[DaysAgo]>MAX('ShipDate'[DaysAgo]) &&[Order Quantity] <> BLANK() && Orders<>BLANK()),'ShipDate'[DaysAgo])
VAR LastDayOrders = CALCULATE([Order Quantity],FILTER(ALL('ShipDate'),'ShipDate'[DaysAgo]=LastDayOrdered))
RETURN  
LastDayOrders

As you can see in the screenshot above, there is a gap in ship dates between 1/25/2014 and 1/28/2014 and the last day order quantity pulls in the amount from 1/25/2014 (1) instead of grabbing it from 1/27/2014 (0). Sweet! Now that makes finding the % difference in order quantity very simple. Below is the full code from this example and also a more parameterized version with tons of comments to help you use it as needed. Happy coding!

Final Measure:

% Difference Order Quantity = 
VAR Orders = [Order Quantity] //grab the charge amount for this line
VAR LastDayOrdered = MINX(FILTER(ALL('ShipDate'),'ShipDate'[DaysAgo]>MAX('ShipDate'[DaysAgo]) &&[Order Quantity] <> BLANK() && Orders<>BLANK()),'ShipDate'[DaysAgo])
VAR LastDayOrders = CALCULATE([Order Quantity],FILTER(ALL('ShipDate'),'ShipDate'[DaysAgo]=LastDayOrdered))
RETURN  
DIVIDE(Orders-LastDayOrders,LastDayOrders,0)

Commented version:

% Difference = 
//Make a variable to grab the value of your measure at your current line (we will use this later)
VAR Desired_Measure = [Order Quantity]

//Now we need to grab the time where this desired measure was not null
//In my example, ship date is the column that I want to see the previous order quantity sliced by
VAR Last_Time_Measure_Had_Value = 
    // I use MINX here to ensure I get the previous day, not the next day. Feel free to flip this as desired.
    MINX(FILTER(ALL('ShipDate') 
        //this makes sure that I'm only grabbing ship dates that are before my current ship date.
        ,'ShipDate'[DaysAgo] > MAX('ShipDate'[DaysAgo])
        //this makes sure that the options for days ago only include ones that we had orders on, AKA the desired measure is not NULL for this day. 
        //DO NOT USE Desired_Measure here because desired_measure will only look at your current row and we are trying to look at all the rows to make sure we are grabbing a non-NULL one. 
        &&[Order Quantity] <> BLANK() 
        //this checks that the current row is not blank. 
        && Desired_Measure<>BLANK())
    //I need this variable to return the smallest number of days ago (hence the MINX at the beginning) that meets the criteria above
    //For your use, you should swap daysago with whatever field you are hoping to slice and dice by
    ,'ShipDate'[DaysAgo])

//This final variable calulcates my desired measure (order quantity) and filters my table for the last time that measure had a value.
VAR Last_Instance_Of_Calculated_Measure = CALCULATE([Order Quantity],FILTER(ALL('ShipDate'),'ShipDate'[DaysAgo]=Last_Time_Measure_Had_Value))

//Easy peasy now! We can take our current days orders - last day we had orders number of orders, divded by the last day we had orders number of orders to get the % growth day over day. Phewf!
RETURN  
DIVIDE(Desired_Measure - Last_Instance_Of_Calculated_Measure,Last_Instance_Of_Calculated_Measure,0)

Power BI Adding Translations to Rename Columns – XMLA, TOM, C#

If you are new to using C# and the Tabular Object Model (TOM), please check out the previous blog post (https://dataonwheels.wordpress.com/2021/10/15/power-bi-meets-programmability-tom-xmla-and-c/) for both an introduction to the topic and detailed instructions on getting the demo stood up.

For the TOM and XMLA experts, imagine this. Your customer wants to dynamically rename columns without using the Power BI Desktop and would prefer all existing report visuals not get broken by the new name. Impossible? Not with TOM, XMLA, and translations within Power BI.

If you’ve ever tried to change a column name in a Power BI source, you’ve likely run into this error on any visuals that contained the renamed column. And when you hit that “See Details”, it will tell you the column that you simply renamed is no longer available for your visual.

So how do we get around that? Translations. Translations are typically used to translate report entities to other languages that will change depending on what language the end user has set on their browser. However, we can hijack this functionality to rename columns without having to impact the data model. It is a bit confusing on why this works, but imagine this: you build a Lego pyramid, but learn that one of the blocks needs to be changed from blue to green. Couple of options, you can take apart the entire pyramid (this would be akin to reopening the PBIX in Power BI Desktop and changing all of your visuals) OR you can take a green marker and color that blue brick green (adding a translation from blue to green).

If you don’t need to put this code into C#, the Tabular Editor is an excellent tool for adding translations to your data model (https://tabulareditor.com/creating-multilingual-power-bi-datasets/). However if you would like to programmatically update column names using C#, feel free to use the script below in your solution.

At a high level, here’s the hierarchy of entities used:
Workspace – Dataset – Data Model – Cultures – Object Translations
Workspace – Dataset – Data Model – Table – Column – Translated Properties

Note: There can only be one translated property per culture.

To add translations, we first need to set which culture this translation belongs in. For this example, we will use “en-US” because that is what default browser we want these names applied to. The code snippet below will list out all the cultures (aka website language codes) that are configured in this data model and list out all the translated objects (data columns in this case) that already exist.

After setting the culture/language, narrow down the column that this translation will be applied to and create a variable for the translation object. The translation object consists of two parts, the metadata object (column in this example) and the property of that metadata that we want to translate (caption in this example which is essentially display name).

Once we have these elements, we can check to see if this column already has a translation for this culture. If it does, this script will remove the old translation to allow for overwriting. If it does not, it will add the new translation to the culture within the data model.

And that’s it!

Here’s what it looks like in the service. Don’t forget to refresh your report page if you have it open for the new name to appear. There’s no need to refresh the dataset.

Full C# code:

using System;
using Microsoft.AnalysisServices.Tabular;



namespace PowerBI_TOM_Testing
{
    class Program
    {
        static void Main()
        {

            // create the connect string - powerbi://api.powerbi.com/v1.0/myorg/WORKSPACE_NAME
            string workspaceConnection = "powerbi://api.powerbi.com/v1.0/myorg/YOURWORKSPACE";
            string connectString = $"DataSource={workspaceConnection};";

            // connect to the Power BI workspace referenced in connect string
            Server server = new Server();
            server.Connect(connectString);
            // enumerate through datasets in workspace to display their names
            foreach (Database database in server.Databases)
            {
                Console.WriteLine($"ID : {database.ID}, Name : {database.Name}, CompatibilityLevel: database.CompatibilityLevel}, Last Updated : {database.LastSchemaUpdate}");
            }
            
            // enumerate through tables in one database (use the database ID from previous step)
            Model model = server.Databases["bb44a298-f82c-4ec3-a510-e9c1a9a28af2"].Model; 
            
            //if you don't specify a database, it will only grab models from the first database in the list
            foreach (Table table in model.Tables)
            {
                Console.WriteLine($"Table : {table.Name} IsHidden? : {table.IsHidden}");

            }
           
            // Specify a single table in the dataset
            Table table_product = model.Tables["Product"];

            
            
            // List out the columns in the product table
            foreach (Column column in table_product.Columns)
            {
                Console.WriteLine($"Columns: {column.Name}");
             }


            //Translations can be used to rename existing columns without rebuilding the model. This also updates any visuals that use that column. 
            // List of translations on the model
            foreach (Culture culture in model.Cultures)
            {
                Console.WriteLine($"Existing Culture: {culture.Name}"); 
            }

            // Let's get a list of the existing translations within the en_US culture
            Culture enUsCulture = model.Cultures.Find("en-US");
            
            foreach (ObjectTranslation objectTranslation in enUsCulture.ObjectTranslations) 
            {
                Console.WriteLine($"Translated Object: {objectTranslation.Value}");
            }
            // Narrow down what column within this culture/language you would like to add the translation to
            MetadataObject dataColumn = table_product.Columns.Find("Description"); //this needs to always be the original column name within the data model.
            ObjectTranslation proposedTranslation = enUsCulture.ObjectTranslations[dataColumn, TranslatedProperty.Caption];

            // Only one translation per entity per culture.
            if (proposedTranslation != null)
            {
                Console.WriteLine($"Translation Exists for this Culture & Column combo");
                enUsCulture.ObjectTranslations.Remove(proposedTranslation); //need to remove the existing translation to overwrite it
                ObjectTranslation overwriteTranslation = new ObjectTranslation()
                {
                    Object = dataColumn,
                    Property = TranslatedProperty.Caption,
                    Value = "Blue"
                };
                enUsCulture.ObjectTranslations.Add(overwriteTranslation);
            }
            else
            {
                ObjectTranslation newTranslation = new ObjectTranslation()
                {
                    Object = dataColumn,
                    Property = TranslatedProperty.Caption,
                    Value = "Blue"
                };
                enUsCulture.ObjectTranslations.Add(newTranslation);
            }

            

            // List out the translations to see what they are now that we have run the script    
            foreach (ObjectTranslation objectTranslation in enUsCulture.ObjectTranslations)
                {
                    Console.WriteLine($"Final Translated Object: {objectTranslation.Value}");
                }
            
model.SaveChanges(); //make sure this is the last line! 
       


        }
    }
}

Additional Resources:

https://www.kasperonbi.com/setting-up-translations-for-power-bi-premium/
https://tabulareditor.com/creating-multilingual-power-bi-datasets/
https://www.sqlbi.com/tools/ssas-tabular-translator/
https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/analysis-services/tabular-models/translations-in-tabular-models-analysis-services?view=asallproducts-allversions
https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/dotnet/api/microsoft.analysisservices.tabular.culture?view=analysisservices-dotnet
https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/dotnet/api/microsoft.analysisservices.tabular.culture.objecttranslations?view=analysisservices-dotnet#Microsoft_AnalysisServices_Tabular_Culture_ObjectTranslations

Power BI: Data Model Optimization

Saving the Day from Delay Part 1

Optimizing your data model can be a daunting task. If you read the intro to this series, you know one of the most efficient and sustainable solutions to a bogged-down data model is to remove native date queries and use a date table. This post will dig into how and why this will speed up performance in both refreshes and in the online PBI service and how to make date and time keys.

The key to optimization is compression. An efficiently compressed data model is a lean, mean, query running machine. There are two types of compression – horizontal and vertical. Horizontal compression occurs on a row by row basis while vertical compression occurs column by column. Power BI uses the Vertipaq Engine, a vertical compression model, to compress data inside the data model. While vertical is more CPU intensive, it is also more efficient as it finds the best option for compression based on the data type in the column (values/whole numbers are most efficient). Data mozart does an in-depth look on this process that I highly recommend reviewing if you have more questions (link at bottom of this post).

Vertical compression is significantly slower on date time columns than value columns. DateKeys are your best friend in compressing your data model because they allow you to capture vital date information but store it in a value format (the most optimal format – think whole number). Converting all your primary date fields to a DateKey will allow all calculations using that primary date field to run much faster as Vertipaq can process the requests more efficiently.

Next post we’ll cover making time and date keys in the Power Query Editor.

External Resources:
https://data-mozart.com/inside-vertipaq-compress-for-success/
https://github.com/AnytsirkGTZ/TimeTable_MCode/blob/main/MQuery%20Time

Power BI Data Security – Power BI Report Server

Power BI Security LogoPower BI Report Server was released as a way to host reports on premises. It was one of the highest requested features for Power BI. Power BI Report Server offers a subset of Power BI Service capabilities and as such does not have the rich collaborative or security options as seen in the service (online). I have a number of other thoughts on this tool, but that is not the purpose of this post. I am often asked in sessions on Power BI Data Security about Power BI Report Server. The problem is that Power BI Report Server is not what Power BI was intended to be and as such security is very different.

Power BI Report Server Uses Files and Folder Security Model

Unlike Power BI Service which leverages the Office 365 security model with workspaces and apps, Power BI Report Server only supports deploying Power BI Desktop files as Power BI Reports in SQL Server Reporting Services. Each file is uploaded to the Report Server and it is viewed by opening the report.

Power BI Report Server - Portal

You have essentially three layers of access to the report file security in Power BI Report Server.

  1. The portal itself can be secured. You can and should limit access to the reports by only allowing specific users or groups access to the report portal.
  2. Folders can be used to provide more granular security over a group of assets in the report portal. In the image above, I created a folder called PBI Secure Reports. A specific AD group has access to this folder. If a user does not have permissions to the folder, the folder does not show up in the portal and they cannot access the folder or the assets, including Power BI reports, stored in this folder.
  3. Individual reports can be secured as well. I never recommend this option as it becomes administratively difficult to manage. However, the capability is there is a single asset needs to be secured in this fashion.

These options work for any asset stored in the Report Portal and are not limited to Power BI reports.

Power BI Report Server Report Nuances

If you have read many of my posts around Power BI Data Security, I have discussed gateways, workspaces, and even Office 365 groups. The following items are uniquely related to Power BI reports stored in the report server.

Data Sources

Because it is not possible to use a Reporting Services Shared Data Source with your Power BI reports at this time (not sure if this will change), the data source information will need to be managed by report. This is not dissimilar to the Power BI Service. However, for on premises data we use the gateway with the service. There is not a common or shared data access feature in Power BI Report Server. Data sources are included in the report and can be managed in the deployed report by clicking the ellipses on the icon and selecting manage.

Power BI Report Server - Data Source

Only the report creator, Content Managers, and Publishers have permissions to see and modify this information.

Protecting Data Sources

One concern raised is whether data sources with credentials are downloaded when the Power BI file is downloaded. First key idea is that only users with the Publisher and Content Manager roles can download the files

When a Power BI report file is downloaded, you are prompted for credentials when refreshing data. Passwords are encrypted so they must be reentered when the file is opened or data refreshed in the desktop.

Mapping SSRS Roles to Power BI Functions

The portal, folders, and files are secured using SSRS roles. Here is a high level summary of the roles and how it impacts Power BI Reports

  • Browser – This is similar to a read only function or if you would deliver the report as a Power BI App in the service. This should be used by anyone who needs access to the report, but does not create content.
  • Content Manager – This is for a content creator with admin privileges. This role can manage content and user access.
  • Publisher – This is for content creators who do not need to manage users. Most content creators fall into this category.
  • Report Builder – does not apply to Power BI Reports which use Power BI Desktop to develop reports.

Avoid Deploying to the Portal Home Page

I would recommend you not allow Power BI reports to be deployed to the primary portal, but create folders to manage the group of content creators and managers based on the department or group level needs.

Reports deployed to the home page of the portal should be managed as enterprise assets. Use the folders and related security groups to manage who can deploy at this  level.

Wrap Up

I would like to extend a special thanks to Kathy Vick, Principal Consultant at Pragmatic Works. She provided guidance on implementing Power BI Report Server. Thanks Kathy for the help on this topic. Check out Kathy’s Twitter (@MsKathyV)  and LinkedIn account to learn more.

Check out more about Power BI Data Security in my blog series.