Microsoft Fabric and its announcement gained excessive coverage in May and the following months. No wonder – the company promises that Microsoft Fabric will “reshape how everyone accesses, manages, and acts on data and insights by connecting every data source and analytics service together—on a single, AI-powered platform”.
In fact, Microsoft Fabric is a powerful platform combining Data Factory, Azure Synapse Analytics, Power BI, adding data governance with Microsoft Purview, and data storage with OneLake. If you have not yet familiarized yourself with all the details, you can read all about Microsoft Fabric here.
Nevertheless, Microsoft has recently released to the public preview a brand-new analytics element of the platform, which is Microsoft Fabric Data Activator.
Although the service itself was already announced in May, up until the beginning of October it was only in private preview. It meant that you had to sign up for the Microsoft list and be sort of a Data Activator tester, providing feedback about this new feature, its strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities.
Once you read this article, you will know:
- What is a Fabric Data Activator,
- What are the Fabric Data Activator core concepts,
- What are the main Fabric Data Activator use cases,
- How to use the Fabric Data Activator.
What is a Fabric Data Activator?
Data Activator is a data-event trigger and no-code tool in Microsoft Fabric. It monitors data, drives alerts, and automatically takes actions when certain conditions or patterns are detected in your Microsoft Fabric data. By using this functionality, you can fully eliminate the need for continuous manual monitoring of the operational dashboard and allow the tools to launch actions in a timely manner.
What is more, everyone within your organization can simply use Data Activator. It operates on a simple visual interface requiring no technical knowledge, and alerts can be created directly from your Power BI reports.
Data Activator activities
Data Activator acts as a digital nervous system and is based on three core activities:
- Monitoring Fabric Data (Power BI report visuals and Real-time data in Microsoft Fabric Eventstreams).
- Detecting actionable conditions or patterns that you set with a visual trigger designer. You can set up certain thresholds or other patterns over time.
- Automatically taking actions when a certain threshold is reached or a pattern is detected. You can set it up to start alerting users by:
- E-mail notification,
- Teams notifications,
- Power Automate workflows,
- Call into third-party systems.
With all these elements above, Data Activator is a functionality that allows business users within an organization to fully self-serve their needs and significantly reduces their reliance on internal IT or developer teams, which normally hinders agility. They can easily set up the tool with no-code experience and use Power Automate flows or traditional alerting solutions to get notified about changing data in an unfavorable direction.
Moreover, even customer organizations can benefit from using Data Activator. Since it provides a no-code experience, they no longer need a developer team to manage and maintain custom internal monitoring of all their data or alerting systems.
What are the Fabric Data Activator core concepts?
Data Activator treats all data sources as streams of events. Each event consists of:
- state of an object,
- identifier for the object itself,
- values for the fields you’re monitoring.
Therefore, event streams are different in terms of frequency. They can run from multiple times per second (for example, IoT sensors) to occasional streams once a day, a week, a month, etc. (for example, scanning packages).
Power BI data is also regarded as an event stream, which is worth emphasizing. Events in this context are data observations made on a regular basis, which is often the refresh frequency of your Power BI dataset (for instance, once per day, once per week, once per month, etc.).
In fact, there are numerous business objects that you may want to monitor with Data Activator. It can entail both tangible objects (for example, users, packages) and intangible ones (for example, accounts, user sessions, advertising campaigns).
When you create a reflex item, you can model the object by:
- connecting one or more event streams,
- choosing a column from the object ID,
- defining the fields to be the properties of the object.
Keep in mind, though, that the object instance is a specific object, like a package or a user session, whereas the object is the definition or class of the object, like a population.
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Triggers activate only when there is a specific object instance, and they define two crucial elements:
- conditions you want to detect in your data objects,
- actions you want to take when certain conditions are met.
Finally, properties are useful when you want to reuse logic in many triggers. Once you create a property, you can define a reusable condition or measure and then reference this property in other triggers.
What are the main Fabric Data Activator use cases?
There are multiple use cases for the Fabric Data Activator. In fact, such a data-event trigger service has been long waited for by Power BI users. Limited possibilities for setting up triggers and notifications on Power BI reports have always decreased the usability of reports and dashboards.
Data Activator has numerous use cases in all types of industries worldwide. Some of the most common ones are:
- kicking off an advertising campaign when a specific store or certain product sales data hits a certain level,
- monitoring invoices to verify if they are not overdue and, if so, issue reminders to certain customers,
- retaining customers who have a bad experience by monitoring their customer journey through apps and websites,
- measuring the battery level in IoT devices and alerting if they will run out soon,
- checking shipments made to customers to check if they don’t run late, so you can take proactive actions,
- alerting accounting teams when certain customers reach the limit of arrears,
- tracking data pipeline quality by rerunning failed jobs and alerting about fails and anomalies.
The above examples are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Data Activator possibilities. Each industry can take advantage of this service in a slightly different manner, but each can hugely benefit from implementing this action platform into their Business Intelligence solutions.
How to use the Fabric Data Activator?
As already mentioned, Data Activator is now in public preview. If you have already enabled Microsoft Fabric in the Admin portal, Data Activator should also be automatically enabled.
Once enabled, you can create a Data Activator instance as a Reflex or directly from your Power BI reports:
Data Activator reflex
A reflex is an instance holding all the necessary data to connect to the data, monitor for predefined criteria, and take actions when necessary. Normally, you will be creating reflexes for every business process or field you will be monitoring.
Once you create a reflex, you need to populate it with data. You can find a step-by-step guide here. With this short tutorial, you will be able to go through an example and even create a trigger on your own. It will allow you to get started with Data Activator and check how to describe business conditions within the tool.
Summing up, the public preview of Microsoft Fabric Data Activator is a major update in the Business Intelligence and reporting world. This feature finally equips business users, data analysts, and other stakeholders within organizations to monitor data more effectively, get notifications as e-mails or Teams messages, or start the Power Automate flow and, as a result, take appropriate action when data indicates that action is needed.
It is highly recommended to try out this brand-new Microsoft Fabric functionality. It will probably be upgraded with some minor enhancements in the upcoming months. Nevertheless, it is advisable to know the mechanics right away and think about how you can use this powerful capability to the advantage of your Business Intelligence dashboards and reports.
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