Introduction

Power BI is a business analytics service by Microsoft. It aims to provide interactive visualizations and business intelligence capabilities with an interface simple enough for end-users to create their own reports and dashboards. Currently, there is no direct way of Implementing CICD in PowerBI. Using the Publish menu from the PowerBI Desktop is the easiest way to deploy/publish a report as of now. In this article, we are going to see how we can implement source control and CICD for PowerBI using Azure DevOps.

Disclaimer

 Disclaimer
All the information below is only provided for reference. This article is basically provides an overview on how to implment CICD for PowerBI using Azure DevOps.

The provided best Practices,approaches and solutions are not exactly given by microsoft.This solution is not supported under any Microsoft standard support program or service. It is provided AS IS without warranty of any kind. Microsoft or the author disclaims all implied warranties including, without limitation, any implied warranties of merchantability or of fitness for a particular purpose. The entire risk arising out of the use or performance of the sample script remains with you. In no event shall Microsoft, its authors, or anyone else involved in the creation, production, or delivery of the scripts be liable for any damages whatsoever (including, without limitation, damages for loss of business profits, business interruption, loss of business information, or other pecuniary loss) arising out of the use of or inability to use the sample script, even if Microsoft has been advised of the possibility of such damages.

Difficulties using direct publishing from PowerBI Desktop

There are some difficulties of publishing a PowerBI Report directly from PowerBI Desktop, that includes

  • PowerBI Desktop (Client Tool) needs to be installed in all the Environment (Production,Dev,QA Servers)
  • Without having a proper Source Version Control, the changes couldn't be tracked.
  • The developer needs access to all the data sources across every environment. For E.g, if we have 2 environments say Dev and PROD and the data source is SQL server, then the developer needs access to both Dev SQL Server and PROD SQL Server.
  • The developer needs to manually change the data source settings for every environment

Environments in PowerBI

Here whenever we are saying environment with respect to PowerBI, there are two ways it's possible depends on the users/organization

  • Different PowerBI Tenant itself for each environment
E.g, 

Dev Environment => Dev Azure Tenant 

UAT/QA Environment => UAT/QA Azure Tenant

PROD Environment => PROD Azure Tenant

  • Different PowerBI Workspaces with-in the Same/Common Tenant

E.g 

Dev Environment => Dev Workspace

UAT/QA Environment => UAT/QA Workspace

PROD Environment => PROD Workspae

Best Practice

CICD Process for PowerBI Reports 

As soon as we say the automation(CICD) the things that would come to mind be like using API / Cmdlets. Likewise, we can use PowerBI Rest API  PowerBI cmdlets for automating PowerBI reports.

Maik van der Gaag created a great (Azure DevOps) extension called PowerBI Actions, which makes things easier to handle the CICD for PowerBI. We are going to see how this extension would be helpful for us in the CICD process., This extension will be handly in most way but in sometimes we need to do some additional steps that won't support by this extension for now,so we also going to use some PowerShell Scripts.

Sample PowerBI Reports and Environment Specification

For the demo purpose here you will see two different powerbi reports deploying in two different environments (workspace), keep this as a reference you can do use your own reports.

Dev Environment Workspace  :  PowerBI_CICD

Prod Environment Workspace :  PowerBI_CICD_PROD

PowerBI Report Name Data Source Type Dev data source PROD data source
AdventureReports.pbix Azure SQL Database devenvironment.database.windows.net;devdb prodenv.database.windows.net;proddb
Products.pbix Odata https://services.odata.org/V3/OData/OData.svc/ https://services.odata.org/V3/(S(2z5tfelmekddgffwed3sq4ve))/OData/OData.svc/

 

PowerBI Reports in Azure Repo

The initial step here is to set up a source control version for our PowerBI Reports (.pbix files). In this article, we will see on how to setup the Azure Repo as version control for our PowerBI Reports. Here you can also use Version control like BitBucket,TFVC,GitHub ,SubVersion etc., instead of Azure Repo.

See the Reference section on how to use TFVC for PowerBI Reports

  • Create a new Azure Repo

  • Clone the repo in your local and commit your pbix files in the Azure Repo. Here you can see how you can do that using VS Code

Commit the changes

Push the Commit

  •  Once you pushed the commit, you will see your commit in the azure repo (like below)

 

Azure Build Pipeline (CI) for PowerBI

Now we had our PBI reports in the Azure Repo's. It's time to setup the CICD.Let see how we can setup the Continous Integration

Setup the CI is actually very easy, We just need to include 2 task in the Build pipeline

  • Copy Task
  • Publish Task

Classic Editor with-out YAML

Copy Task to Staging Artifact

Publish Task

Using YAML

# Starter pipeline
# Start with a minimal pipeline that you can customize to build and deploy your code.
# Add steps that build, run tests, deploy, and more:
 
trigger:
- master
 
pool:
  vmImage: 'ubuntu-latest'
 
steps:
- task: CopyFiles@2
  displayName: 'Copy Files to: Staging Artifact'
  inputs:
    SourceFolder: Reports
    TargetFolder: '$(Build.ArtifactStagingDirectory)'
    OverWrite: true
     
- task: PublishBuildArtifacts@1
  displayName: 'Publish Artifact: drop'

Azure Release Pipeline (CD) for PowerBI

This release pipeline is just a demo purpose, actual release pipeline and tasks may varies depends on the various use-cases based on the end-user.So this section is just gives you a basic understanding on how you can use the existing features in azure devops to implement the Continous deployment of PowerBI Reports.

Autentication for PowerBI

The autentication for PowerBI can be done in 2 ways 

  1. Master Account : This basically username and password autentication along you need to reg an application in AAD to access Powerbi API's
  2. SPN (Service Principal): This is basically reg you application in AAD and add your app in powerbi portal. Read more 
Kindly do remember that there are many difference between master account vs service principal autentication

Using PowerBI Action Extension (Master Account Autentication)

As a first step you need to install this extension from marketplace(https://marketplace.visualstudio.com/items?itemName=maikvandergaag.maikvandergaag-power-bi-actions).Using PowerBI Action Extension we can easily do the operations like below from Azure Pipeline, 

  1. Create Workspace
  2. Delete Workspace
  3. Add a new Admin User to worksapce
  4. Refresh a Dataset
  5. Update DataSource Connection
  6. Upload PowerBI Report

As of now this extension is using the legacy approach of autentication using username and password, if you want to use the Service Principal you need to use your own powershell scripting which you can see in the next section.

For this demo we are planning to implement the CD for 2 Environments 1. Dev and 2. PROD

DEV Environment

After adding the PowerBI Action Task into our Release Task, we need to configure the PowerBI Service connection, as this is using master account approach, we need to provide username,password and clientid

PROD Environment

For the Production Environment we need to deploy the reports as well as need to change the datasources.

Deploy Reports

Update SQL DataSource 

Update Odata DataSource

With this you can able to deploy the reports and update the datasource, but the restriction is you couldn't able to update the credentials for the updated datasource

Current limitation of this extension: (As of 18 Aug 2019)

The following features are not yet supported by this extension, but we can expect to include in near future.

  • SPN Autentication
  • Parameter updation
  • DataSet TakeOver
  • Update Credentials for the datasource

Using PowerShell Scripting in Azure DevOps (SPN Autentication)

Using Powershell scripts we can do all the possible deployments and break the limitations of the PowerBI Action Extension.

Here we are not going to see all the possbile actions from PowerBI instead we will see how we can use Powershell script to overcome the limitations of the above extension

Install the Required Modules (For Azure DevOps Hosted Agent)

If you are using hosted agent then you should install the required modules, if you already have a self-hosted agent which already having the required modules then you can skip this step

 

TakeOver DataSet

Update Datasource Credentials for a DataSet

Update Parameters for a DataSet

Variables Used from Azure DevOps

Download Full Script

You can download the full script from https://gallery.technet.microsoft.com/AzureDevOps-CICD-for-fefd58b8

 

Conclusion

PowerBI is still an unmature product which will always keep updating, so we need to try to utilize PowerBI API's and PowerShell scripts to automate the CICD. This article has been gave an overview of how you can implement CICD, using this as a reference you can enhance it much more depends upon your needs.

References