Whether you’re a CTO, VP or Data Engineer, you should be paying close attention to announcements about Microsoft Fabric to weigh how it can benefit your organization.
At their Microsoft Build conference in May 2023, Microsoft announced the company’s new unified analytics solution, Microsoft Fabric. As with any major product launch from a major cloud provider, a tremendous amount of noise and smoke accompanied the debut.
After all, when a company the size of Microsoft invests significantly in a product, you can be assured that the marketing blitz will be significant, too – and that was certainly the case with Fabric. The blitz will ramp up even further now that Microsoft announced at Microsoft Ignite that Fabric is already generally available (GA).
Behind that noise and smoke, though, all many of our customers and partners want to know is: Should I care? And if so, why? Let’s dive into this topic together from the perspective of a few key personas found at many companies.
Microsoft Fabric and the CTO
If you’re a CTO, should you care about Microsoft Fabric? After all, your data people are telling you this has just now become GA, only six months after its launch, and they’re skeptical about its stability. If your data people are skittish about it, is it worthy of being on your radar?
As a CTO, you are a key part of setting the technology strategy for your company. While your data people are largely tasked with executing in the here and now, you need to position the company for success on the road from “here and now” to “there and later.”
That said, they are correct – Fabric is newly GA, so a little skepticism is healthy. However, Fabric has been under development and internal and external testing for much longer than its short trip from launch to general availability would suggest.
Moreover, Microsoft is bringing products with very strong brand equity under the Fabric umbrella. The company would not make such a bold move with brands like Synapse and Power BI if they were not confident of Fabric’s capabilities or longevity.
In short, Microsoft clearly views Fabric as its path to “there and later.” And as its name suggests, Fabric will likely be woven into every aspect of the Microsoft ecosystem in the future. Any organization that stores, analyzes, or visualizes data in the Microsoft ecosystem should pay attention to it, try to understand it, and possibly invest some resources in kicking its tires, as well.
Action Plan: Make sure that your data team or teams keep an eye on the Fabric announcements, currently happening monthly but possibly becoming more frequent now that Fabric is GA. If current resource levels allow, have your team do some research and development (R&D) work to see if Fabric’s new features may improve your team’s ability to work as its features mature.
VP/Team Lead and Fabric
At first glance, you may look at the combination of titles in the heading to this section and wonder why VP and Team Lead appear together. While roles can vary by organization, they often need to blend tactical and strategic duties. If your role straddles the strategic and tactical, your interest in Fabric (and the reasons for it) may differ from your colleagues who are one rung (or a few) above you on the org chart.
In these types of roles, oftentimes you are measured on tactical metrics while being asked to supplement those critical day-to-day decisions and duties with a strategic view of what tools best fit where your organization needs to go – and if you have the right people to make the most out of those tools and achieve your vision. While the strategic value of Fabric seems clear, based on Microsoft’s investment and confidence in it discussed above, your reasons to apply it tactically may be less clear.
For example, you know that you likely can’t dedicate your entire department or team to Fabric-related work. After all, the product has just become GA, and you know the CTO wouldn’t approve that level of commitment even if you were 100 percent sure Microsoft Fabric is the very best analytics solution for your company – and you’re not.
One way to measure Fabric’s tactical value for your organization is to take a look around your department/team and see what tools they are using currently for data engineering, analysis, and visualization (EAV). Are they using Power BI, Azure Data Factory, or even Databricks for any part of that EAV work? If they are, now might be an ideal time for a small skunkworks-type project to see what parts of Fabric may enhance their experience – and the data consumer/user experience as well.
Remember that Databricks and OneLake (Fabric’s data lake) can now share a common file storage format. Demonstrating your team’s ability to use both Databricks and Fabric may demonstrate not only help your team’s talent, but your keen technical leadership, as well. Applying some resources to a research and demo effort may pay off smartly in the medium to long term.
Action Plan: While Fabric may not meet your team’s immediate, tactical needs, remember that it is likely to touch nearly every part of the Microsoft data ecosystem when all is said and done. Take the time to know what’s coming in the world of Fabric and ensure that your team has the time and resources to seek out and consume the community training content around it. They will then be ready to execute projects as the features that will benefit you and your company mature.
Microsoft Fabric for the Data Developer, Data Engineer, and Report Developer
You are a member of that critical component of any successful data organization – the people doing the day-to-day data work that makes everybody in the organization look good! So, what angle should you take on Microsoft Fabric?
Put simply, Fabric is quite likely to change not only the tools you use to do your job, but also even the approach you and your company take to storing data, querying data, and so on. As products like Power BI and Synapse begin to operate within Fabric’s gravitational pull, it’s easy to see Fabric expanding its influence across Microsoft’s cloud data ecosystem.
If your job depends on navigating and executing within that ecosystem, there’s no time like now to start that learning journey. Thankfully, the Microsoft data community has a robust in-person and online presence. Find an Azure Data Tech group, SQL Saturday, or Data Saturday near you and start exploring the plethora of community resources at your disposal to stay up to date on this technology. Even if your managers don’t see the wisdom in it, you will realize the benefits – whether at your current company or somewhere else.
Finally, Microsoft Fabric is likely to influence however and wherever you work with data in Microsoft’s cloud data ecosystem. While your ability (and need) to engage with Fabric may vary by role, it’s wise to stay aware of its evolution, lest you risk falling behind a competitor who has leveraged more modern technology than your company possesses to create insights that your current data platform is not capable of – or takes too long to create. Ignore the marketing and dig into the learning material to ensure your company’s data estate is positioned for success.
Action Plan: The Microsoft data platform community does a great job of generating high-quality community training content (i.e,. not marketing-speak). Microsoft MVPs, data engineering enthusiasts, and others have already created hours of audio, video, and in-person presentation content. Use the Azure Data Community site here to find your local user group and virtual user groups. They are great ways to learn about Fabric and anything else in the Microsoft data ecosystem.