Microsoft Fabric Gets More Secure, More Open and More AI

The inaugural Microsoft Fabric Community Conference took place last week in Las Vegas, Nev., giving attendees insights into the inner workings of Microsoft's data and AI plans -- what's in the works, what's now available, and what's still to come.

Fabric, as Microsoft describes it, is an integral piece of its broader Intelligent Data Platform. As explained by Microsoft data MVP and Redmond columnist Joey D'Antoni, Fabric "aims to be an end-to-end platform that combines some of the best data tools Microsoft has [like Azure Data Factory, Azure Synapse Analytics, Power BI and OneLake] and integrates them into a single software-as-a-service (SaaS) offering."

Generally available since last November, Fabric is set to receive a flurry of new capabilities this year, many of which were announced at the Microsoft Fabric Community Conference. This Microsoft blog provides a comprehensive rundown of all of them.

Data Security via Microsoft Purview
At Ignite last fall, Microsoft indicated it was taking steps to integrate Fabric more tightly with Microsoft Purview, its data governance solution. At last week's conference, it described its progress.

Microsoft is working on a capability, available "soon," that would let admins "automatically enforce access permissions to sensitive information in Fabric."

Second, it plans to extend Purview's data loss prevention capabilities to Fabric, with that integration first being rolled out to Fabric Lakehouses.

Finally, Fabric will eventually be able to take advantage of Purview's Insider Risk Management capability. This integration is "upcoming," according to Microsoft.

This Purview-specific blog has more details about these capabilities.

Third-Party Data Integrations
Microsoft also touted Fabric's expanding net of third-party data integrations, many enabled by OneLake, its data lake solution that comes with every Fabric implementation. OneLake has a "shortcuts" feature that lets users build lakes that span their entire data estate, regardless of where their data comes from.

At last week's conference, Microsoft announced the preview of a capability that lets OneLake shortcuts support data stored in the Google cloud. Another feature in preview lets users create shortcuts to cloud-based data sources that are compatible with the Amazon Web Services (AWS) S3 service.

More OneLake shortcuts are still to come, including those for "on-premise S3 compatible data sources," per Microsoft. "These sources include Cloudflare, Qumulo, MinIO, Dell ECS, and many more."

Microsoft is also developing a new "external data-sharing" feature that would let organizations share objects from their Fabric environment with external users, while maintaining security. "Because this experience is built on top of OneLake's shortcut capabilities, you can share data in place from OneLake storage locations without copying the data," Microsoft explained. "External users can access it in their Fabric tenant, combine it with their data, and work with it across any Fabric experience and engine."

Called a "holy grail" of business analytics by D'Antoni, mirroring lets organizations "easily stream data in real-time from a wide variety of data sources into a standard format that analytical tools can digest."

Specific to Fabric, mirroring, according to Nadella at Ignite, is "a frictionless way to add existing cloud or data warehouses, as well as databases, to Fabric from Cosmos DB or Azure SQL DB, as well as Mongo and Snowflake -- not only on our cloud, but any cloud to Fabric."

This feature is now available in preview, Microsoft announced at the Fabric conference last week. More information is available in this blog.

Copilot AI Enhancements
Like seemingly everything else in Microsoft's product arsenal these days, Fabric is "AI-powered" thanks to the Copilot in Fabric product, currently in preview.

At last week's conference, Microsoft announced it is beefing up two features in Copilot in Fabric -- Explore and DAX query view. Explore is getting a "data overview" button as a preview in early April. This button will "[provide] a summary, powered by Copilot, of the semantic model to help users get started."

Meanwhile, DAX query view, which lets users build semantic models using DAX queries, now works with Copilot. This feature is in preview.

An upcoming Copilot-related feature will let users interact with their Fabric data using natural language. "You can simply select the data source in Fabric you want to explore and immediately start asking questions about your data -- even without any configuration," according to Microsoft. "When answering questions, the generative AI experience will show the query it generated to find the answer and you can enhance the Q&A experience by adding more tables, setting additional context, and configuring settings."

About the Author

Gladys Rama (@GladysRama3) is the editorial director of Converge360.


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