Understanding Microsoft Fabric: An Overview

What is microsoft fabric?

Microsoft Fabric is a comprehensive software-as-a-service (SaaS) solution that operates in the cloud and is designed for data and analytics. It is constructed on an open lakehouse platform called OneLake and integrates various Microsoft tools to simplify and optimize all processes related to data and analytics, including data integration, engineering, and data science.

Microsoft introduced Fabric at the most recent Microsoft Build event on May 23, 2023, and subsequently made it widely accessible for purchase at its Ignite conference on November 15, 2023.

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In this article, we will examine the structure and elements of Microsoft Fabric, along with a brief overview of how to begin using the tool.

We will also cover the frequently asked questions that data professionals have had about Microsoft Fabric since its release, including its pricing and how it compares to other analytics tools.

Contents Page

  1. Introduction to Microsoft Fabric
  2. Overview of Microsoft Fabric’s architecture
  3. Updates and developments following the GA announcement of Fabric in November 2023
  4. Examples of Microsoft Fabric in use
  5. Common inquiries about Microsoft Fabric
  6. Additional resources to explore about Microsoft Fabric

An interesting fact about Microsoft Fabric is that it is a set of UX guidelines and UI components for creating seamless, consistent, and visually appealing user interfaces across Microsoft products and services.

Microsoft Fabric: What is it?

Microsoft Fabric is a software-as-a-service (SaaS) solution hosted in the cloud, which integrates various data and analytics tools essential for organizations. These tools encompass Data Factory, Data Activator, Synapse Data Warehouse, Synapse Data Engineering, Synapse Data Science, Synapse Real-Time Analytics, and Power BI.

Fabric is constructed with a focus on an open, lake-centered structure, featuring a central, multi-cloud storage system known as OneLake.

It is the most significant release of a data product from Microsoft since the introduction of the SQL Server,” stated Satya Nadella, CEO and Chairman of Microsoft, at Microsoft Build 2023.

Microsoft Fabric enables the use of open data formats (such as Delta-compatible formats and Trino-based platforms) across all its workloads and tiers.

It serves technical and business data professionals and counts clients such as Accenture, T-Mobile, Ferguson, Zeiss, Ernst and Young, and ABN AMRO.

Latest information about Microsoft Fabric from Ignite 2023. – Reference: YouTube.

The tool is designed to establish a contemporary data structure that utilizes the concepts of data mesh, data fabric, and data hub, which is an open and regulated platform for data storage and processing.

Before we continue, let’s grasp two components of Fabric – experiences and workspaces.

Microsoft Fabric Experiences

Every function or task provided by Microsoft Fabric is referred to as an experience.

The offerings encompass Synapse Data Warehouse, Synapse Data Engineering, Synapse Data Science, Synapse Real-Time Analytics, Data Activator, Data Factory, and Power BI.

As of November 2023, Microsoft Fabric offers seven different experiences. This information is sourced from the official Microsoft Fabric documentation.

Another interesting fact is that Microsoft Fabric provides a wide range of customizable components such as buttons, navigation bars, and input fields, making it easier for developers to maintain a cohesive design language in their applications.

Microsoft Fabric’s Workspaces

Microsoft Fabric allows you to customize workspaces based on your specific workflows and needs. These workspaces provide a collaborative environment for creating reports, notebooks, lakehouses, and more with others.

Here is a visual representation depicting the typical work environment of a data engineer using Microsoft Fabric.

The Microsoft Fabric environment designed for data engineering professionals – Reference: Microsoft Fabric documentation.

Next, let’s examine the different elements that constitute Microsoft Fabric.

The fundamental elements of Microsoft Fabric architecture

The Microsoft Fabric architecture consists of seven workloads that operate on top of OneLake, which serves as the storage layer capable of retrieving data from Microsoft’s platforms, Amazon S3, and potentially from the Google Cloud Platform in the future.

– Microsoft Fabric incorporates Microsoft Synapse Analytics tools, including Synapse Data Warehousing, Synapse Data Engineering, Synapse Data Science, and Synapse Real-Time Analytics, which offer lake-centric warehousing, Spark service for data estate management, end-to-end data science workflow creation and deployment, and cloud-based analysis of data from various sources. Additionally, it includes Data Factory, a data integration service.

Power BI is the primary business intelligence service offered by Microsoft.

Data Activator: A code-free solution for observing and monitoring data.

The structure of Microsoft Fabric and its elements – Information from Microsoft Fabric documentation.

‘OneLake serving as the storage foundation’

OneLake serves as the primary storage for Microsoft Fabric and operates on a lakehouse architecture. All information is stored in the delta lake format, moving away from relational storage.

The various ways data can be stored in Microsoft Fabric and how they are integrated into OneLake – According to information from Microsoft Fabric documentation.

Because delta lake is open-source, the Fabric architecture is also open, allowing for integration with any product capable of reading from a delta lake.

OneLake’s data hub serves as the central component for discovering, exploring, and utilizing the diverse data resources within Fabric.

One convenient aspect of OneLake is the ability to generate shortcuts directing to different data locations, like ADLS Gen2 or AWS S3. This eliminates the need to duplicate your assets multiple times.

Additionally, check out the Databricks Lakehouse Platform, which is constructed using the open-source Delta Lake.

Comparison of Microsoft Fabric and Databricks

Data unification is a crucial process in modern data management, and Microsoft Fabric’s data integration capabilities play a vital role in ensuring that data is gathered from diverse sources and then harmonized. This harmonization process is essential for creating a cohesive and consistent dataset that can be effectively utilized for analysis and decision-making. Once the data is unified, Databricks steps in to leverage this consolidated information and provides the necessary tools and techniques to extract valuable insights through advanced analytics.

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Data unification involves the process of integrating data from different sources, such as databases, applications, and systems, into a single, coherent dataset. This process is essential for organizations looking to gain a comprehensive view of their data and make informed decisions based on a complete understanding of their information landscape.

Microsoft Fabric’s data integration capabilities are designed to streamline the process of collecting and harmonizing data from various sources. This ensures that the data is consistent, accurate, and readily available for analysis. By unifying data, organizations can avoid the pitfalls of working with disparate datasets, such as inconsistencies, redundancies, and inaccuracies, which can hinder the effectiveness of data analysis and decision-making.

Once the data is unified, Databricks provides a powerful platform for performing advanced analytics. This includes techniques such as machine learning, predictive modeling, and data visualization, which can uncover valuable insights and patterns within the unified dataset. By leveraging Databricks, organizations can extract actionable intelligence from their data, enabling them to make data-driven decisions and gain a competitive edge in their respective industries.

For example, a retail company may use data unification to integrate customer transaction data from its online and offline channels. By harmonizing this data, the company can gain a comprehensive view of customer behavior and preferences, which can inform targeted marketing strategies and product offerings.

In comparison, organizations that fail to prioritize data unification may struggle with siloed and inconsistent data, leading to missed opportunities and suboptimal decision-making. Therefore, it is essential for organizations to invest in robust data integration and analytics capabilities to unlock the full potential of their data assets and drive business success.

Updates following the official release of Fabric in November 2023

After being unveiled at Build 2023, Microsoft has rolled out various features, including:

Virtualize data in OneLake without relocating or duplicating it; Shortcuts are supported for OneLake, Azure Data Lake Storage Gen2, Amazon S3, and Microsoft Dataverse.

– Access and control any database or warehouse from Fabric without changing database clients through mirroring, a data replication feature; Mirroring will be accessible for Azure Cosmos DB, Azure SQL DB, Snowflake, and Mongo DB.

– Utilize Purview’s data security and compliance capabilities to oversee sensitive data on Fabric; Employ the Microsoft Purview Data Catalog to explore and search through your Fabric assets.

Protecting and managing your Fabric data’s security and governance using Microsoft Purview. – From a post on the Microsoft Blog

– Data Activator is now in public preview, and since October 2023, it has been accessible to all Fabric users without the need to sign up as a preview user.

– Copilot will be available in Power BI, Data Factory, Data Engineering, and Data Science experiences as part of Fabric’s public preview. It can be used for creating reports, summarizing insights, building pipelines, and developing ML models. The preview will be rolled out in stages, and customers with Fabric capacity (F64 or higher) or Power BI Premium capacity (P1 or higher) will have access to the Copilot preview by the end of March 2024, according to Arun Ulagaratchagan, Corporate VP, Azure Data-Microsoft.

The latest updates regarding Microsoft Fabric as of November 2023 can be found on the Microsoft Blog.

Microsoft Fabric and Artificial Intelligence

Microsoft is integrating Azure OpenAI Service into Fabric at all levels, allowing data practitioners to utilize generative AI to enhance their everyday tasks.

As per Arun Ulagaratchagan, here is a guide on utilizing Copilot across different Fabric experiences.

  • Generate reports and condense your findings into narrative summaries in Power BI.
  • In Data Factory, specify the data ingestion and transformation process using natural language, and let Copilot take care of the rest.
  • When using a notebook in Data Engineering or Data Science, efficiently enhance, model, analyze, and explore your data with Copilot.

Satya Nadella explores the features of Copilot during Ignite 2023. – Source: YouTube.

Using MS Fabric: A Guide

Fabric can be activated at either the tenant or capacity level, and new users have the option to try it out. To determine if you have access, simply look for the Power BI icon. If the icon is visible, then you are all set to start using Fabric. If not, you will need to follow the setup steps to gain access. Once you have access, you can create a Fabric workspace, which allows you to effectively manage various items such as lakehouses and pipelines.

Fabric in Power BI provides a centralized platform for managing and organizing data-related resources. By enabling Fabric at the tenant or capacity level, users can streamline their data management processes and improve collaboration within their organization. The trial option for newcomers allows them to explore the features and benefits of Fabric before committing to its full implementation.

To check for access to Fabric, users can simply look for the Power BI icon. If the icon is present, it indicates that Fabric is ready to be used. However, if the icon is not visible, users will need to follow the setup steps to enable Fabric within their Power BI environment.

Creating a Fabric workspace is essential for effectively managing data assets such as lakehouses and pipelines. A Fabric workspace serves as a centralized hub for organizing and accessing these resources, allowing users to efficiently work with their data assets. By utilizing Fabric workspaces, organizations can ensure that their data management processes are streamlined and well-organized.

For example, a company that deals with large volumes of data from various sources can benefit from using Fabric to create a workspace dedicated to managing their lakehouses and pipelines. This allows them to have a clear overview of their data assets and facilitates collaboration among team members working with the same data resources.

In summary, enabling Fabric at the tenant or capacity level, checking for access through the Power BI icon, and creating a Fabric workspace are essential steps for effectively managing data resources within Power BI. By leveraging Fabric, organizations can optimize their data management processes and improve collaboration among their teams.

Microsoft Fabric in use: Utilizing data science and real-time analytics

Microsoft Fabric is utilized to address needs related to data warehousing, integration, real-time analytics, data science, machine learning, and similar demands.

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Arun Ulagaratchagan stated that currently, 25,000 organizations globally are utilizing Fabric, with 67% of the Fortune 500 among them. Additionally, 84% of these companies are employing three or more workloads.

To begin, select the appropriate option when setting up Fabric, such as Power BI, Data Factory, Microsoft Purview, Synapse Data Engineering, Synapse Data Science, Synapse Data Warehouse, or Synapse Real-Time Analytics.

The Fabric workspace will be tailored based on the persona you select. For instance, opting for Data Engineering will display specific features at the top, such as options for setting up a Lakehouse, Notebook, or a Spark Job.

Is Azure being replaced by fabric?

Fabric is considered to be the next iteration of Azure Synapse, but there are notable differences and gaps in terms of their architecture and capabilities. This article will delve into the disparities between Microsoft Fabric and Azure Synapse Analytics, while also addressing common inquiries about the two platforms.

Microsoft Fabric and Azure Synapse Analytics are both powerful data analytics and processing solutions offered by Microsoft. While they share some similarities, such as their ability to handle big data and provide insights for decision-making, there are distinct differences that set them apart.

One of the key differences lies in their architecture. Azure Synapse Analytics is built on a cloud-based, integrated analytics service that encompasses data warehousing, big data analytics, and data integration. It provides a unified experience for ingesting, preparing, managing, and serving data for immediate business intelligence and machine learning needs. On the other hand, Microsoft Fabric is designed as a distributed computing platform that focuses on real-time and scalable data processing, making it suitable for applications that require low-latency and high-throughput data processing.

In terms of capabilities, Azure Synapse Analytics offers a comprehensive set of tools for data integration, enterprise data warehousing, and big data analytics, making it a versatile solution for organizations with diverse data needs. It also provides built-in connectors to various data sources and supports multiple programming languages for data processing and analysis. In contrast, Microsoft Fabric is optimized for real-time stream processing and is particularly well-suited for scenarios such as IoT data processing, real-time analytics, and event-driven applications.

When considering which solution to choose, it’s essential to evaluate the specific requirements of your use case. If your organization needs a unified platform for data warehousing, big data analytics, and data integration, Azure Synapse Analytics may be the better fit. However, if your focus is on real-time and scalable data processing for applications like IoT, real-time analytics, and event-driven processing, Microsoft Fabric could be the more suitable option.

In conclusion, while both Microsoft Fabric and Azure Synapse Analytics are powerful data processing solutions, they cater to different use cases and have distinct architectural and capability differences. Understanding these disparities is crucial for organizations to make informed decisions about which platform aligns best with their specific data processing needs.

Commonly asked questions regarding Microsoft Fabric

Now, we’ll explore some of the frequently asked questions about Microsoft Fabric.

Is Microsoft Fabric categorized as a PaaS or a SaaS, and what sets them apart?

Microsoft Fabric is a type of Software as a Service (SaaS).

It brings together Microsoft’s current PaaS offerings (such as Synapse, Data Factory, Power BI, etc.) to provide a unified, comprehensive platform for users working with various types of data.

What sets Microsoft Fabric apart from Azure Synapse Analytics?

Microsoft Fabric is considered to be the next generation of Azure Synapse Analytics.

In contrast to Synapse, which operates as a Platform as a Service (PaaS), Fabric functions as a Software as a Service (SaaS). This distinction has a significant impact on the architecture and pricing of Fabric.

What makes Microsoft Fabric a step forward from Azure Synapse? – Source: Twitter.

‘There is significant similarity between the two solutions, particularly in the areas of warehousing, data engineering, data science, and real-time analytics capabilities.’

This may result in users attempting to comprehend the variations in features and capabilities.

Nevertheless, it is crucial to emphasize that while Synapse is centered on warehousing, Fabric strives to serve as a unified platform for all data users and their everyday tasks.

Learn more → Microsoft Fabric compared to Azure Synapse Analytics

Therefore, Fabric not only provides nearly all the features of Synapse, but also enhances the user experience by consolidating all data types into a single storage (with a lakehouse) and utilizing Power BI for its user interface.

Is it possible to integrate my current workloads from Synapse into Microsoft Fabric?

As per Bogdan Crivat, who is the Partner Director of Engineering at Microsoft, the company is focusing on investing a substantial amount of resources into developing migration processes and tools. Additionally, their migration efforts are giving priority to existing PaaS Synapse Analytics customers.

Microsoft is in the process of creating tools to assist in code migration and the reuse of notebooks and pipelines. Nevertheless, there is currently no automated process for upgrading existing Synapse workloads. Therefore, manual migration is required, involving adjustments to notebooks, SQL scripts, pipelines, and so on.

It is crucial to mention that Microsoft Fabric does not currently have support for various T-SQL commands, which may impact certain warehouse-related migrations. A comprehensive list of unsupported commands by Fabric is available.

Is Microsoft planning to stop Azure Synapse Analytics?

As of November 2023, Microsoft does not intend to discontinue Azure Synapse Analytics.

How does Microsoft Fabric compare to Databricks and Snowflake?

Databricks provides a comprehensive data analytics platform that integrates the strengths of both a data warehouse and a data lake. The platform includes various components such as Delta Lake for storage, Runtime for processing, Workspace for collaboration, Machine Learning, and SQL Analytics for business intelligence.

Snowflake is a data warehouse designed for cloud environments, capable of handling various workloads through its Data Cloud.

Microsoft Fabric is designed to provide a comprehensive platform that caters to the needs of different data professionals, offering a wide range of services including data integration, data engineering, data warehousing, real-time processing, analytics, and business intelligence all in one place.

For example, its OneLake functions similarly to a ‘OneDrive for data’. Additionally, the user interface is created using Power BI instead of Synapse Studio, with an emphasis on providing improved user experiences.

Is it possible to use Microsoft Fabric on-premises?

Currently, Microsoft Fabric is a software as a service (SaaS) solution that operates in the cloud.

How expensive is Microsoft Fabric? Is it available for free?

Microsoft Fabric offers a pay-as-you-go pricing model that begins at $0.36 per hour for 2 Capacity Units (CU). Additionally, users have the option to reserve capacity, with prices starting at $0.215 per hour for 2 CUs.

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At the moment, the cost for OneLake storage begins at $0.023 per gigabyte per month. However, the specific billing information for Networking has not been released.

What does the term Capacity Unit (CU) mean?

A capacity refers to the capability of a resource to carry out an action or generate results. Capacity Units (CUs) quantify this capability, indicating a group of resources available for use at any specific moment.

How the pricing will function in relation to Capacity Units (CU) – Information from Microsoft.

– Data Fabric Architecture: Its Components, Tools, and Deployment

– Data Fabric: Its Potential to Future-Proof Your Architecture, Unify Your Data, and Reduce Costs

– Implementing a Data Fabric: A Scalable and Secure Solution for Maximizing Data Value

– Data Mesh vs. Data Fabric: Selecting the Best Approach for Your Business Requirements

– Data Fabric Use Cases: Assessing its Suitability and Applicability for Your Business

Can Microsoft Fabric revolutionize the game?

Looking ahead, the combination of Microsoft Fabric and Databricks represents a significant shift in the way data is utilized. This partnership goes beyond simply overseeing data; it’s about harnessing data to foster creativity, improve customer interactions, and secure a competitive advantage. By integrating Microsoft Fabric and Databricks, organizations can streamline their data management processes, enabling them to extract valuable insights and make informed decisions. This collaboration empowers businesses to leverage the full potential of their data, driving innovation and enhancing the overall customer experience. Furthermore, the convergence of these two platforms opens up new opportunities for organizations to stay ahead in a rapidly evolving digital landscape. With the ability to seamlessly integrate and analyze data, businesses can gain a deeper understanding of their operations, customer behavior, and market trends. This, in turn, allows them to adapt quickly to changing market conditions and deliver more personalized and impactful experiences to their customers. The integration of Microsoft Fabric and Databricks is a game-

changer in the realm of data management, offering organizations the tools they need to thrive in an increasingly data-driven world. By harnessing the power of these platforms, businesses can unlock new possibilities, drive innovation, and ultimately, gain a competitive edge in their respective industries.

Is Microsoft Fabric a reliable choice?

Microsoft Fabric Data Analytics is revolutionizing our understanding of the entire data infrastructure, similar to how Microsoft previously transformed Analytical Databases with Power BI. In the ever-changing data environment, Microsoft Fabric Data Analytics has established itself as an innovative and trailblazing solution.

Microsoft Fabric Data Analytics represents a paradigm shift in the way organizations approach data analysis and management. By leveraging advanced technologies and cutting-edge methodologies, this platform enables businesses to gain deeper insights, make informed decisions, and drive meaningful outcomes. It offers a comprehensive suite of tools and capabilities that empower users to extract, transform, and analyze data from diverse sources, providing a holistic view of their operations.

One of the key strengths of Microsoft Fabric Data Analytics is its ability to seamlessly integrate with existing data systems and infrastructures, ensuring a smooth transition and minimal disruption to ongoing operations. This interoperability allows organizations to harness the full potential of their data assets, unlocking new opportunities for innovation and growth.

Furthermore, Microsoft Fabric Data Analytics is designed to scale with the evolving needs of businesses, accommodating large volumes of data and complex analytical processes. Its robust architecture and flexible deployment options make it suitable for a wide range of industries and use cases, from small-scale operations to enterprise-level deployments.

In practical terms, organizations can leverage Microsoft Fabric Data Analytics to streamline their data workflows, automate repetitive tasks, and uncover valuable insights that drive strategic decision-making. For example, a retail company can utilize this platform to analyze customer purchasing patterns, optimize inventory management, and personalize marketing campaigns based on real-time data.

Compared to traditional data analytics solutions, Microsoft Fabric Data Analytics offers a more agile and responsive approach to data management, enabling organizations to adapt to changing market dynamics and customer preferences. Its intuitive interface and powerful visualization tools empower users to explore data in a meaningful way, fostering a data-driven culture within the organization.

In conclusion, Microsoft Fabric Data Analytics represents a significant leap forward in the realm of data analytics and management, empowering organizations to harness the full potential of their data assets and drive sustainable growth. By embracing this innovative solution, businesses can stay ahead of the curve and capitalize on the transformative power of data.

Is Microsoft Fabric costly?

The pricing structure for Microsoft Fabric includes a cost for using OneLake, the storage layer that facilitates data connectivity within the Fabric platform, at a rate of $0.023 per gigabyte per month. Additionally, Databricks incurs a storage cost, which is essentially the expense of storing Databricks data on either Azure Blob Storage or S3.

When considering the pricing for Microsoft Fabric, it’s important to understand the cost implications of utilizing OneLake, the storage layer that enables seamless data integration within the Fabric platform. The cost of $0.023 per gigabyte per month for OneLake usage should be factored into budgeting and cost projections for utilizing the Fabric platform.

Furthermore, it’s crucial to take into account the associated storage cost for Databricks, which involves storing Databricks data on either Azure Blob Storage or S3. This cost should be considered alongside the OneLake cost to gain a comprehensive understanding of the overall storage expenses associated with using Microsoft Fabric and Databricks.

To put this into perspective, let’s consider an example where a company is planning to leverage Microsoft Fabric for its data integration needs. In this scenario, the company would need to assess the amount of data it intends to store and process within the Fabric platform. Based on this assessment, the company can calculate the anticipated storage costs, factoring in both the OneLake usage cost and the storage cost for Databricks data on Azure Blob Storage or S3.

It’s also important to compare these storage costs with alternative solutions to determine the most cost-effective option for the organization’s specific requirements. For instance, comparing the storage costs of using Microsoft Fabric with OneLake against other data integration and storage solutions available in the market can provide valuable insights into the cost efficiency of adopting Microsoft Fabric for data management needs.

In summary, understanding the pricing structure for Microsoft Fabric, including the costs associated with OneLake usage and Databricks storage, is essential for making informed decisions about utilizing the Fabric platform for data integration and management. By carefully evaluating these costs, businesses can effectively budget for their data storage requirements and assess the cost-effectiveness of leveraging Microsoft Fabric in comparison to other available options.