What is Microsoft Fabric? Exploring Its Significance and Impact

Microsoft Fabric is a cloud-based SaaS solution for data and analytics. It’s built on an open lakehouse (OneLake) and combines Microsoft tools to streamline data and analytics workflows. This includes data integration, engineering, and data science. Microsoft launched Fabric at the Microsoft Build in May 2023 and made it available for purchase in November 2023.

This article will cover the architecture and components of Microsoft Fabric. It will also provide a quick guide to using the tool. We will answer common questions about Microsoft Fabric, including its pricing and how it compares to other analytics tools.

What is Microsoft Fabric?

Microsoft Fabric is a cloud-based SaaS offering that combines essential data and analytics tools. These include Power BI, Data Factory, Data Activator, Synapse Data Engineering,  Synapse Data Warehouse, Synapse Data Science, and Synapse Real-Time Analytics.

Fabric uses an open, lake-centric design with a central, multi-cloud repository called OneLake. It supports open data formats for all workloads and tiers. The platform is designed for both technical and business data practitioners. Notable customers include T-Mobile, Zeiss, and Ernst and Young.

Microsoft Fabric aims to establish a modern data architecture that incorporates the principles of data mesh, data fabric, and data hub, creating an open and governed lakehouse platform.

cloud-based SaaS solution

Microsoft Fabric Features

A complete analytics platform

Each analytics project relies on several supporting systems. These systems often have unique requirements and need input from multiple vendors. Integrating products from different vendors can be difficult, fragile, and expensive.

Microsoft Fabric solves this problem. It provides teams with a single solution that offers a consistent user interface, architecture, and tools necessary for extracting and presenting insights from data.

Artificial intelligence

Azure’s OpenAI service is built into Microsoft Fabric to help users fully utilise their data. This integration lets developers apply AI to customer data and aids business users in finding data insights.

With Copilot in every Microsoft Fabric data experience, users can:

  • Build machine learning models
  • Develop dataflows and pipelines
  • Generate code and functions
  • Visualise results

Users can also create custom language experiences that combine their data with Azure OpenAI Service models and publish them as plug-ins.

Empowerment for all business users

Teams aim to create a data-driven culture where everyone can make better decisions using data. Microsoft Fabric supports this by making analytics accessible to all. Fabric is integrated with common Microsoft 365 applications, making these tools central for finding and using insights.

Cost reduction through unified capacities

Combining products from multiple vendors in a single project often leads to wastage. This happens because computing capacity is allocated across different systems, such as data engineering, data warehousing, and business intelligence. When one system is idle, its capacity cannot be used by another, resulting in wasted resources.

Fabric solves this issue by simplifying the purchase and management of resources. With Fabric, you can buy a single pool of computing power for all workloads, like data integration and data science. This model cuts costs significantly because any unused computing resources can be utilised across different workloads.

Microsoft Fabric platform

What are the Components of Microsoft Fabric?

Fabric provides a complete set of analytics tools that work together smoothly. Each tool is designed for a particular user and task.

Power BI

Power BI allows you to connect to your data sources easily. You can visualise what’s important and share it with others. This integrated experience lets business owners access all data in Fabric quickly and intuitively, helping them make better decisions.

Data Activator

Data Activator in Fabric is a no-code tool that triggers actions like email notifications and Power Automate workflows. It monitors Power BI reports and event streams. When data meets specific thresholds or patterns, it takes the necessary action automatically.

Data Factory

Data Factory offers a modern way to integrate data. It helps ingest, prepare, and transform data from many sources. Using Power Query, you can connect to over 200 data sources both on-premises and in the cloud.

Synapse Data Engineering

Synapse Data Engineering offers a user-friendly Spark platform. You can create, manage, and optimize infrastructures for large-scale data tasks. Fabric Spark integrates with Data Factory to schedule and orchestrate notebooks and Spark jobs.

Industry Solutions

Fabric offers data solutions tailored to specific industry needs and challenges. These solutions cover data management, analytics, and decision-making.

Synapse Data Science

Synapse Data Science lets you build, deploy, and operationalise machine learning models using Fabric. It works with Azure Machine Learning for experiment tracking and model registry. Data scientists can use predictions to enrich organisational data. Business analysts can integrate these predictions into BI reports, moving from descriptive to predictive insights.

Synapse Data Warehouse

Synapse Data Warehouse offers top SQL performance and scalability. It separates computing from storage, allowing each to scale independently. It also stores data in the open Delta Lake format.

What Is OneLake in Microsoft Fabric?

The Microsoft Fabric platform combines OneLake and Lakehouse architecture for an enterprise.

OneLake

A data lake forms the base for all Fabric workloads. Microsoft Fabric Lake, also called OneLake, is built into the Fabric platform. OneLake offers a unified location to store all organisational data where workloads operate.

Built on ADLS (Azure Data Lake Storage) Gen2, OneLake provides a single SaaS experience and a tenant-wide data store. It serves both professional and citizen developers. OneLake simplifies Fabric experiences by removing the need to understand infrastructure concepts like resource groups, RBAC, Azure Resource Manager, redundancy, or regions. An Azure account is not required to use Fabric.

OneLake prevents data silos that individual developers often create with isolated storage accounts. Instead, it offers a single, unified storage system for all developers. This ensures easy data discovery, sharing, and uniform enforcement of policy and security settings.

OneLake and Lakehouse data hierarchy

OneLake simplifies management with a hierarchical structure. Microsoft Fabric includes OneLake, but no up-front provisioning is needed. Each tenant has one OneLake, providing a unified file-system namespace across users, regions, and clouds. Data is organised into manageable containers.

The tenant maps to the root of OneLake and is at the top of the hierarchy. A tenant can create multiple workspaces, each with multiple lakehouses. A lakehouse is a collection of files, folders, and tables representing a database over a data lake.

Developers and business units can create their own workspaces and ingest data into their lakehouses. They can process, analyse, and collaborate on this data, similar to OneDrive in Microsoft Office.

Microsoft Fabric compute experiences are integrated with OneLake, like Office apps with OneDrive. Data Warehouse, Data Engineering, Data Factory, Real-Time Intelligence, and Power BI use OneLake as their native store without extra configuration.

OneLake allows instant mounting of existing PaaS storage accounts with the Shortcut feature, eliminating the need to move data. Shortcuts enable easy data sharing between users and apps without duplication. You can create shortcuts to other storage systems, allowing data access across clouds with intelligent caching, reducing costs and bringing data closer to computing.

Fabric Solutions for ISVs

If you are an Independent Software Vendor (ISV) looking to integrate with Microsoft Fabric, choose one of the following options:

  • Interop – Connect your solution with the OneLake Foundation for basic interactions with Fabric.
  • Develop on Fabric – Build your solution on the Fabric platform or embed Fabric’s features into your existing applications.
  • Build a Fabric workload – Create customised workloads and experiences within Fabric to maximise impact.

Frequently Asked Questions

Will Microsoft Fabric replace Azure?

Microsoft Fabric will not replace Azure products like Synapse and SQL. It offers a unified user interface and a single licensing approach instead of being a new standalone environment.

Is Microsoft Fabric a PaaS or a SaaS?

Microsoft Fabric is Software as a Service (SaaS) that merges existing PaaS services from Microsoft, such as Synapse, Data Factory, and Power BI. The result is a unified, end-to-end environment for all data users.

How much does Microsoft Fabric cost?

Microsoft Fabric has a simple pricing structure. Costs depend on the services and resources used. Pricing includes charges for data storage, compute time, and Power BI. Users can manage expenses by choosing the necessary resources. Detailed pricing is available on the Microsoft Fabric pricing page.

How is Microsoft Fabric different from Databricks and Snowflake?

Microsoft Fabric combines Synapse, Data Factory, and Power BI into a single experience. Databricks handles big data processing, machine learning, and data engineering. Snowflake is strong in data warehousing with a cloud-based platform. Fabric stands out with its unified interface and all-in-one data management solution.

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