Today, fueled by the growth and demand of AI, data plays a crucial role in digital transformation and gaining a competitive Edge. Microsoft say that today’s data lakes can be fragmented, messy and complicated, making it hard for organisations to create, integrate, manage, and operate data lakes.
Microsoft, having recognised this, announced at Microsoft Build 2023, Microsoft Fabric, which provides an end-to-end platform that can bring together all the necessary data and analytics tools for an organisation. Fabric integrates Azure Data Factory, Azure Synapse Analytics, and Power BI into a single, seamless product, empowering data, and business professionals to unlock the full potential of their data.
What is the use of Microsoft Fabric?
Microsoft Fabric is made up of multiple subsystems, is “lake-centric”, open and extensible and is backed by a shared platform providing world class, enterprise grade, robust data security, governance, and compliance.
Microsoft Fabric is essentially umbrella that sits over the top of Microsoft’s three main Data Analytics products – Power BI, Azure Data Factory, and Azure Synapse. It is a third generation of data platform.
First generation data platforms, such as SQL, SQL Data Warehouse and HDInsight, were inherently isolated data platforms built on traditional data products. Second generation data platforms such as Azure Synapse Analytics, went further by providing integrated platforms at a UX level were still disjointed at the data level. This third generation of data platforms like Microsoft Fabric, builds upon the Synapse “unification” approach but are focussed on enabling data-level interoperability and insights powered by Azure AI.
What are the benefits of using Microsoft Fabric?
The benefits of using Microsoft Fabric include reduced complexity, increased agility, improved security, and reduced costs through unified capacities. Powered by Microsoft AI, and natively integrated into Microsoft 365 applications such as Excel, PowerBI, Teams, and Dynamics 365. Fabric also supports thousands of connectors and deep APIs to allow organisations to better to connect almost any application, workflow, or data source.
Fabric has been designed to empower every business user by deeply integrating with Microsoft 365 applications and provides a rich set of connectors and APIs. Power BI, a core component of Fabric, is seamlessly integrated with popular applications like Excel, Teams, PowerPoint, and SharePoint and as such this deep integration allows users to discover and analyse data directly within these applications, driving a data culture and enabling better decision-making without the needs to switch applications or context.
How does it compare?
Fabric is a complete analytics platform that should eliminate the complexity and expense of integrating and administering multiple subsystems from different vendors. This means users get a truly unified experience and architecture, providing all the capabilities required for extracting insights from data and presenting them to business users. Moreover, Fabric offers role-specific experiences for various teams involved in the analytics process, ensuring a seamless workflow for data engineers, data scientists, analysts, and business users.
Fabric’s lake-centric and open approach is another key differentiator. Fabric includes a multi-cloud data lake called OneLake, which simplifies data management, integration, and operation. OneLake aims to eliminate data duplication and vendor lock-in by organising data into an intuitive hub. OneLake supports open data formats such as Delta and Parquet and allows organisations to work with a single copy of the data across all their Fabric workloads. This reduces cost, vendor lock in, complexity, and management overhead.
Fabric is powered by AI, through Azure OpenAI Service, which is integrated at every layer, it will enable users to leverage the latest generative AI capabilities to quickly find insights across all their data. The upcoming Copilot feature will provide conversational dialogue that will let users quickly create dataflows, build models, and visualise the results using natural language queries and dialogue.
Availability and Pricing
Microsoft Fabric is currently available in preview, and organisations can sign up for a free trial to experience its capability.
Whilst this is in preview, pricing is not final, however, Microsoft say that to share content and collaborate in Microsoft Fabric, your organisation needs to have an organisational license and at least one individual license. A Microsoft Fabric subscription consists of tenants, capacities, and workspaces and can be organised in different ways to fit the needs of your organisational needs.
Capacity is a dedicated set of resources reserved for exclusive use. It offers dependable, consistent performance for your content. Each capacity offers a selection of SKUs, and each SKU provides different resource tiers for memory and computing power
Individual licenses allow users to work in Microsoft Fabric.
- Free – which allow users to create and share Fabric content in Microsoft Fabric so long as they have access to a Fabric Capacity (trial or paid).
- Pro – A Pro license lets users share Power BI content with other users. Every organisation needs at least one Pro license if they intend to work with Power BI. If you’re purchasing a Microsoft Fabric license for your organisation, ensure you purchase at least one Pro license for your organisation.
In summary, Microsoft Fabric is comprehensive and integrated solution for data and analytics designed to maximise the AI era. Fabrics’ unified platform, lake-centric approach (OneLake), AI-powered features (including its own Copilot), seamless integration with Microsoft 365, and cost-saving benefits. Fabric aims to simplify, align, and streamline how organisations leverage the power of their data for insights and decision-making.