As the world rapidly shifts towards digitization and cloud-based solutions, Microsoft’s Power BI emerges as a frontrunner in data visualization and analytics. A recent addition to its suite of tools is the Virtual Network (VNet) Data Gateway, which promises to revolutionize the way organizations interact with their data sources. In this blog, we will delve into the intricacies of this feature, its high availability, and its load-balancing capabilities.
Table of Contents
Virtual Network Data Gateway: What Is It?
The virtual network (VNet) data gateway serves as a bridge that allows datasets to connect to various data services within an Azure Virtual Network. This means that users can seamlessly connect to Azure-based data sources without requiring an on-premises data gateway.
One notable aspect of this feature is its exclusivity. As of now, it’s a premium offering available only in Power BI Premium workspaces, Premium Per User (PPU), and Power BI Embedded. This makes it imperative for businesses to understand their licensing model and evaluate if the VNet data gateway aligns with their requirements.
One of the most prominent use cases of VNet data Gwateway is to expose the data kept in Azure Synapse (hosted with Private Endpoint) to the Power BI. With this feature, you can create a subnet dedicated to Power BI in the same VNet that is hosting the Private Endpoint of Synapse and delegate the subnet to Power BI service. It takes only a couple of minutes to achieve the configuration. This subnet enables the Power BI service to connect to Synapse hosted inside the VNet.
How to create a VNet Data Gateway?
To create a VNet Data Gateway you need to follow some prerequisites:
- Ensure your region supports the feature.
- Avoid creating VNET data gateways across tenant boundaries.
- Metadata for VNet data gateways is stored in your Power BI home’s default region, but the gateway runs in the same region as your Azure VNet.
1. Register Microsoft.PowerPlatform as a Resource Provider:
- Sign in to the Azure portal.
- Navigate to the desired subscription.
- Select “Resource providers”.
- Search for Microsoft.PowerPlatform and select “Register”.
2. Associate the Subnet to Microsoft Power Platform:
- Sign in to the Azure portal.
- Add a new exclusive subnet for Power Platform VNet service. Reserve IPs as per your requirement.
- Avoid naming the subnet “gatewaysubnet“, refrain from using IPV6 address space, and ensure the IP range doesn’t overlap with 10.0.1.x.
- Delegate the subnet to Microsoft.PowerPlatform/vnetaccesslinks.
3. Create a VNet Data Gateway:
- Sign in to the Power Platform admin center.
- Navigate to “Data (preview)”.
- Go to “Virtual network (VNet) data gateway” and select “New”.
- Choose the subscription, resource group, VNet, Subnet, and gateway name.
- Save your changes.
Creating a Data Connection
In order to use the VNet Data Gateway you need to create a connection to the data source. You need to select the connection type to Azure Synapse Analytics Workspace.
Managing the Virtual Network Data Gateways
Like the standard data gateways, the VNet Data Gateway’s administration can be managed through the Power Platform admin center or the Manage Gateways page in Power BI. This ensures continuity in the management experience for admins familiar with Power BI.
Diverse Data Sources Compatibility
An impressive aspect of the VNet data gateways is the wide range of Azure data services they support. The current list includes but is not limited to:
- Azure SQL and Azure SQL Managed Instance (MI)
- Azure Synapse Analytics
- Azure Data Explorer (Kusto)
- Azure Blob Storage and Azure Data Lake (Gen2)
- Azure Databricks and Azure HDInsight (Spark)
- Cosmos DB
- Snowflake on Azure
This broad compatibility ensures that businesses using Azure services can integrate their data seamlessly into Power BI.
Azure AD Single Sign-On for Direct Query
With this integration, each user interaction with a DirectQuery report in the Power BI Service results in real-time queries against the underlying Azure VNet data source. This feature enhances user experience, ensuring real-time data accessibility.
Furthermore, configuring single sign-on (SSO) for a relevant data source allows these queries to be executed under the user’s Azure Active Directory identity, adding an extra layer of security and personalized experience.
Using VNet Data Gateways in Power BI Datasets
For report creators, this integration means they can publish a report and link the dataset to the VNet data gateway data source directly. This streamlines the process and makes it more efficient for report generation and sharing.
First and foremost when you create the Power BI report you need to connect to Synapse hosted in the Private endpoint and when you publish the report it will show you the gateway connection setting you can select the gateway connection and data source from the mapped data sources.
High-Availability: Ensuring Continuous Data Access
The primary goal of high-availability configurations is to ensure that your data remains accessible even if part of your infrastructure fails. With the virtual network data gateway cluster, high availability is achieved through the use of multiple gateways. This ensures that a single point of failure does not jeopardize your organization’s ability to access critical data behind the virtual network.
It’s pertinent to mention that these clusters offer dual benefits. Not only do they promise uninterrupted access, but they also facilitate load balancing. When distributing the load, the system randomly selects one of the available gateways.
Maintaining Gateway Availability
It’s essential to ensure that your gateway cluster remains active and ready to execute queries. After a stipulated time of inactivity, the cluster enters an auto-pause mode. Reactivating from this mode takes roughly 2-3 minutes. By default, the inactivity period is set at 30 minutes, but users can extend this to a maximum of 24 hours. However, it’s crucial to remember that there’s no provision for keeping the cluster perpetually active.
Adjusting High Availability Settings
Your organization’s requirements may change over time, and the virtual network data gateway cluster is designed to be flexible. You can modify the number of gateways in your cluster or adjust the auto-pause duration based on inactivity.
To make these changes:
- Choose the specific virtual network data gateway you’d like to modify.
- Click on ‘Settings’ at the top of the screen.
- From the Settings panel, you can access and amend the advanced options as per your needs.
Please refer to my Azure blog for more such Articles.
In the ever-evolving landscape of cloud technology, the integration of the Virtual Network (VNet) Data Gateway with Microsoft’s Power BI stands out as a testament to forward-thinking solutions. This addition not only bridges the divide between data sources and datasets, but also brings to the fore unparalleled availability, load-balancing capabilities, and a seamless experience for users. As businesses move towards a more connected, digitized world, it’s crucial to harness tools like the VNet Data Gateway, ensuring that data remains both accessible and secure.