What is Microsoft Fabric: A beginners guide

Microsoft Fabric is a new SaaS data platform announced in MS Build Conference on May 23, 2023.

As per the official doc

Microsoft Fabric is a unified data platform in the era of AI.  Fabric integrates technologies like Azure Data Factory, Azure Synapse Analytics, and Power BI into a single unified product, empowering data and business professionals alike to unlock the potential of their data and lay the foundation for the era of AI.

To put it simply, Microsoft Fabric simplifies and unifies data operations. From data ingestion to data engineering, data management, machine learning, real time insights and reporting, you can do all in one unified platform.

The Fabric platform is a SaaS service for data and analytical workloads. The platform provides core capabilities of Azure Data Factory, Azure Synapse, and Power BI.

The platform can be used for:

-> Data Ingestion using Data Factory

-> Data Engineering using Synapse

-> Data Science operations using Synapse

-> Data Warehousing using Synapse

-> Real Time Analytics using Synapse

-> Reporting using Power BI

-> Actions using Data Activator (coming soon)

-> Governance using Purview

Why should I care about?

One obvious questions that comes to our mind is why should I care about it? I can anyways go a create a data pipeline today using Azure Data Factory, I can create Spark notebooks on top of Synapse, and create my reports in Power BI. Why should I go and do the same in Fabric?

The answer is: simplicity and unification.

The answer is: It simplifies data collaboration across multiple data professional disciplines

The answer is: It simplifies licensing and purchasing. You don’t have to spin up multiple capacity and infrastructure for your multiple data workloads

The answer is: It simplifies setup and configuration

The answer is: It simplifies data management. No data redundancy or data silos

The answer is: It simplifies data governance

With Microsoft Fabric – a data engineer can create data pipelines to ingest data, using the ingested data, a data warehouse engineer can create data warehouses, an ML engineer using the same data can create models, and an analyst can create data models and Power BI reports – all within the same platform.

Where is my data stored?

All workloads store the data in something new called as “OneLake”. The way we have OneDrive for documents, Microsoft has introduced “OneLake” for data.

OneLake provides a single, unified storage system for data workloads in Fabric. Each tenant has one OneLake provisioned.

There is also a concept of ShortCuts in OneLake which blows away my mind. You can create “shortcuts” of your data in AWS or other clouds right inside OneLake. This means the data stays in the original source and can be used for analytical workloads right through OneLake.

What happens to current Azure analytics solutions?

As per Microsoft they will continue to remain and provide analytical capabilities as a PaaS. Microsoft Fabric simplifies this in the form of SaaS.

Existing Microsoft products such as Azure Synapse Analytics, Azure Data Factory, and Azure Data Explorer will continue to provide a robust, enterprise-grade platform as a service (PaaS) solution for data analytics. Fabric represents an evolution of those offerings in the form of a simplified SaaS solution that can connect to existing PaaS offerings. Customers will be able to upgrade from their current products into Fabric at their own pace.  

How should I get started?

Head to fabric.microsoft.com and try a free trial today. The free trial is for 60 days that will allow you to create warehouses, lakehouses, notebooks and more.

If you are an existing Power BI customer with Premium capacity, you can try it right away.

How to enable Fabric in my tenant?

You need to go to Power BI Admin portal and enable it.

Once on the admin portal, you can “enable” the setting for the entire org or specific security group

After 15 mins you will see an icon at the bottom left corner in your fabric portal. Clicking on it will take you to the Fabric home page.

Is Power BI same as Fabric?

Somehow I feel this is same as Power BI.

Yes, the experience, the UI and core components of Power BI portal are the same in Fabric. This means:

-> Workspaces

-> Navigation

-> Collaboration

-> Content Management

-> Admin portal

-> Capacity

will look familiar to you.

However Fabric is an umbrella platform and Power BI is a critical component of it.

What happens after free trial?

Starting June 1 you can start purchasing Fabric capacities from Azure to supercharge your data and analytical workloads.

Any more questions? Feel free to ask here in the comments.

Fabric learning resources (from Microsoft)

To help you get started with Fabric, there are several resources we recommend:

  • Microsoft Fabric learning paths: Experience a high-level tour of Fabric and how to get started.
  • Microsoft Fabric tutorials: Get detailed tutorials with a step-by-step guide on how to create an end-to-end solution in Fabric. These tutorials focus on a few different common patterns including a lakehouse architecture, data warehouse architecture, real-time analytics, and data science projects.
  • Microsoft Fabric documentation: Read Fabric docs to see detailed documentation for all aspects of Fabric.

My personal favorite is this YouTube video by Justyna Lucznik, Principal Group PM for Microsoft Fabric, on Microsoft Mechanics channel.


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