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Embracing TMDL Functionalities in Power BI and Preparing for General Availability

Ever found yourself stuck in a data jam? Managing your data with Power BI might be tricky, but I've got some game-changing tips and strategies that'll help you navigate these challenges with confidence. Let's dive into a common hurdle many teams face – the notorious lack of version control in Power BI. Working on a data project with your team can get messy without version control, leading to confusion and a lack of a standard version of the truth. 


Just a few months ago, maintaining version control in Power BI was like walking blind on a tightrope. No matter how well we communicated with our team, changes would slip through the cracks, forcing us to resort to poorly integrated third-party solutions.


But Microsoft heard our cries and announced the Tabular Model Definition Language (TMDL) update earlier this year.


Power BI’s Version Control

Previously, juggling two or more people working on the same data was a recipe for disaster. Changes would collide, resulting in two different versions of your data and a whole lot of confusion. Enter the Power BI TMDL update – a native solution to manage and track changes in your reports.


Power BI TMDL Availability

The TMDL update is currently available in preview mode. Besides Power BI Premium, the new feature is also available for SQL Server and Azure Analysis Services.


The Tabular Model Definition Language enhances data integration and analysis by easing large and complex datasets, which often require incremental changes to include additional data, create or modify a calculation, or create and organize display folders.


What Benefits Does Power BI TMDL Update Offer?

One of the biggest benefits of this update is the ability to track changes to your data. This is because users can log in and edit a text-based tabular model rather than having to log into Power BI and compare different versions of the data.



[Example of a TMDL Folder][Example of a TMDL Folder]


Additionally, this solution organizes your models by object. This means that users will be able to edit just one object without affecting anyone else’s work.  


Tabular Model Definition Language (TMDL) targets the mentioned restrictions by offering: 

  • A human-readable format using a YAML-like syntax. Each tabular metadata object has a textual representation with minimal delimiters. Indentation is used to indicate parent-child relationships between objects. 
  • A better editing experience, especially for properties containing DAX and M expressions. 
  • A standard folder output format where each model object has an individual file representation, making TMDL more source-control friendly, and well-suited for collaboration. 
  • TMDL is a crucial step toward better integration with source-control systems and is designed to enable multiple developers to work on the same model. 


This update isn't just about version control; it's a game-changer. The ability to track changes to your data is far improved. 


Moreover, this solution organizes your models by object, allowing users to edit one object without affecting anyone else's work. It's a dream come true for collaborative teams. 


Life Before Reliable Version Control 

Remember the frustration of making changes, only to have them unknowingly overwritten by someone else? We've all been there. Countless workarounds and pages of notes listing versions and changes – the struggle was real.  


Before the Tabular Model Definition Language (TMDL) feature revolutionized Power BI, version control was a challenge that demanded creative solutions. Here's a look at the struggles and workarounds: 

  • Manual Version Control: Saving different versions of Power BI reports as separate files, with version numbers or dates in the filenames. It required meticulous management and discipline to maintain consistency and avoid confusion. 
  • Source Control with PBIX Files: Storing PBIX files in a source control system like Git allows for version tracking. However, understanding changes between versions was limited due to the binary nature of PBIX files. 
  • Third-Party Tools and Services: Tools like Power BI Helper, ALM Toolkit, or Tabular Editor offered more control and seamless integration with source control systems. These tools were essential for comparing and merging model changes. 
  • Integration with Azure DevOps: Some organizations integrated Power BI with Azure DevOps for deployment processes and version control. However, this often involved scripting and automation for handling PBIX file uploads and updates. 


The TMDL evolution in version control isn't merely an upgrade; it's a game-changer. The enhanced ability to track data changes coupled with organized model structures transforms collaboration for teams. No more overwriting each other's work — it's a dream come true for collaborative success. 


New Opportunities With TMDL 

Now, with Power BI’s TMDL update, constant data integration and delivery are on the horizon. Spend less time tracking versions manually and more time diving into data analysis. Sharing information directly from the Tabular Editor makes editing and updating data lightning-fast. 


Key Considerations for Your Power BI Journey 

If your data models aren't ready for multiple developers, it's time for a rebuild. Keep it simple with straightforward naming conventions – new developers should jump in seamlessly. And, of course, a solid Power BI foundation is key. 


Ready to elevate your Power BI skills? Reach out in the comments for tips and tricks, and let's power up our data game together! 


Exploring the integration of ADO Git with Power BI/Fabric workspace has been a fascinating journey, shedding light on a plethora of possibilities for enhancing reporting and analytics capabilities. Recently, I undertooka Proof of Concept leveraging ADO Git integration within Power BI/Fabric workspace, and the results were promising.


One apsect that stans out is the seamless bi-directional workflow facilitated by Visual Studio (or tool of choice) pull/push request. Whether its modifying the report and saving the project file directly or publishing reports to the service and synchronizing changes, the process offers unparalleled accessibility. This accessibility is key in bridgingn the gap between tradtional IT developers and business end-user developers. 


However, amidst this innovation, the quesiton of governance looms large. Defining clear guidelines, especially concering business end-user development and source control requirements, is imperative. Establishing robust governance frameworks will ensure that endeavors remain aligned with organizationl objectives and regulatory standars.