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Microsoft Power BI data connectors and supported data sources

What is Power BI Data Connectors and its use cases

The term ‘Data Connector’ refers to a process that enables the transportation of data from one database to another. In the contemporary business world, all major companies use several databases in order to manage data. The process of shifting data between these databases is a difficult task which is made easier with Power BI data connectors. 

Power BI Data Connectors enables a user organization to connect to the Power BI system securely. Subsequently, through this secure connection the organization can create visualistic Power BI reports, perform robust analytics and perform other Power BI services. These custom connectors are capable of transforming the BOT Insights API responses in Microsoft BI into visualistic display of data. 

The database connectors are used for performing the following functions-

  • Authenticating and later connecting to the Enterprise control room and the database data sources.
  • Creating API Connectors
  • Generating the responses within the API 
  • Transforming the responses of the APIs in order to create data models.
  • Creating visualistic representation of data in the form of reports, charts or graphs
  • Creating and sharing reports with other Power BI users.

What are Various Data Sources Of Power BI:

In the context of Microsoft BI, ‘Data Sources’ refer to the pathway used by the systems of a user organization in order to access the relevant data. Data sources can be in the form of a file stored within a hardisk, a URL to a Facebook account or a certain location of a database on a cloud.

All of these data sources can be accessed by using the general Microsoft tools. The Power BI Desktop provides the users to access all kinds of data sources. It can be completed through a certain process. The Home ribbon on the Desktop must be selected, which displays the kinds of data available on the Get Data menu.

Here, all the kinds of data sources are categorized under the following-

  1. All
  2. File
  3. Databases
  4. Power Platform dataflows
  5. Azure
  6. Online Services and
  7. Others.

Data Connectors in Power BI: Various applications

In this current data-driven world, organizations have shifted from a single data source to heterogeneous sources of data. Data connectors help the user organization to combine all data sources in an integrated workspace. Database integration solutions can resolve the issue of transforming data from multiple sources and convert it into meaningful information.

The application of these rich connectors are made for the following purposes-

  • Improving the decision-making patterns: Database connectors provide real-time access to the relevant information to the organizations. It helps in creating visuals, reports and dashboards. Subsequently, the decision-making process of the company improves substantially.
  • Increase productivity:- If an organization requires to move across different platforms in order to acquire information, the productive capacity decreases. Rich business intelligence solutions like Power BI provide data connectors for this purpose.
  • Improving performance of departments: The data can be accessed in real-time. It tends to improve the performance of the various departments of the user organization.
  • Better customer experience: Data Connectors also provide access to previous data of an organization. It helps the company to understand the changing patterns of customer needs. This later improves the customer experience.
  • Predictive Analysis:- An organization can learn to predict future demands by assessing the previous patterns of customer information.

Getting Data using Microsoft BI Data Sources: PBIDS

The term PBIDS is the abbreviated version of the term Power BI Data Source. The PBIDS files are files in the Power BI Desktop which have a predetermined structure. These files have an extension of the PBIDS extension in order to recognize it as a data source. Presently, the PBIDS files are designed to support only one data source and specifying more than one data source results in an error.

A user can create a PBIDS file in order to get the same Get Data experience for new report creators or data analysts. This can be considered as an alternative way of getting access to data through the Power BI Data Sources. If a user already has a Power BI Data Source file that is already connected to the data of their choice then these connections can be easily exported within the Power BI Desktop.

In order to create a file afresh, the following steps need to followed –

  • The File option has to be selected. After that Options and Settings has to be clicked on. Later select the Data Source Settings.
  • A dialog box appears. The data wished to be exported as a PBIDS file has to be chosen. Then select Export PBIDS.
  • After this, the chosen data is exported as a PBIDS file which can then be renamed. 

Power BI and Big Data: Real-time connectivity

Real-time connectivity refers to the process of displaying the relevant organizational data after making refreshes every minute. This provides the user access to the updated information of the changing business patterns. On the other hand, the term big data refers to the huge amounts of data that are acquired, analyzed and stored by the organization.

In this context, the real-time connectivity of Power BI services with Big Data has become an extreme necessity of the current times. Previously, Microsoft BI used to connect with big data in real-time through background gateway services. This used to provide the data to reach the Power BI service from the data source.

But, with time, Microsoft evolved the Power BI services or SAAS BI in order to provide real-time connectivity with big data directly. Currently, this connectivity can be achieved in two ways which are as follows- 

  • Automatic page Refresh – This evolved feature was introduced as early as 2019. It is a preview feature that permits the customization of the Power BI desktop which can provide the refreshed display of information as frequently as one second.
  • Streaming Data – The feature of creating streaming data is the process of creating a streamline of chosen datasets. In this way, the selected datasets can be viewed together as and when needed.
Power BI Process Flow

Power BI Custom Connectors and Data Gateway Support: A Data Source Perspective

The term ‘Custom Connectors’ refers to the connectors that are customized by the user of the Power BI Services. In the Get Data section of the Power BI or Power Query, there are certain connectors that can already connect the user to certain data sources. But, in a scenario where the data source the user wants to connect to does not exist in the list. In this case, the custom connectors are created. The Custom Connector permits the user to customize a code to his own connection provider and re-use it multiple times.

A Data Gateway, on the other hand, is a software and hardware solution. It connects the user to multiple data sources. In Power BI the Data Gateway is a software that is used to connect and access the data stored in an on-premise system. These data gateways are used to facilitate the connection of single or multiple data sources to the on-premise data source.

Implementing Data Connectivity:

Microsoft BI is a self-service system that enables users to connect to multiple data sources at the same time. The custom connector files provide access to data from various sources. The system provides for two data connectivity modes which are as follows –

  1. Import and
  2. Direct Query

These two modes can be enumerated in the following manner :

  1. Import – The Import data connectivity mode lets the user to import data into the Power BI Cache. This mode is recommended for use when the amount of data being imported is less than 1GB and when the data does not change continuously. The data can be imported by scheduling the refresh patterns in order to receive the latest data. This method lets the user take full advantage of the high performing query engine of Power BI.
  2. Direct Query – The Direct Query connectivity method permits the user to directly connect to the data. This mode of data is best suited for situations where the data is constantly changing and the amount of data being connected to is huge. This mode helps in building real-time or close to real-time solutions for power users.

Implementation of Microsoft BI for varied Data Sources: An EPC Group Approach

In the current competitive world, the companies driven by data are facing major challenges in performing their day-to-day functions with expertise. Power BI tools and services lend a helping hand to these organizations by aiding their process of acquiring and analysis of data. One such tool of the Power BI services is the Power BI Embedded. Microsoft Power services provide the user company the access to multiple sources of data within a very small span of time. This saves the time of the company as well as increases its productivity and performance.


In conclusion it can be said that the Power BI services provide for smart data connectivity options in the form of data connectors like the generic ODBC Connector. These native connectors combined in the connectors via gateways procedure aid the user to connect to the data from a multitude of sources in a short span of time.

Errin OConnor

Errin OConnor

With over 25 years of experience in Information Technology and Management Consulting, Errin O’Connor has led hundreds of large-scale enterprise implementations from Business Intelligence, Power BI, Office 365, SharePoint, Exchange, IT Security, Azure and Hybrid Cloud efforts for over 165 Fortune 500 companies.

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