Power BI Online – get data from Office 365 Sharepoint file

I want to create a Power BI Online report with a data source from a file on a remote web server that updates automatically so my Power BI report is always up to date.

Power BI Desktop and Online have lots of data connectors to third party ‘Online Services’ eg Salesforce, Mailchimp, Github, etc, as well as file and database connectors. But none of these help to get the file from my remote server directly.

There is no feature to connect to a file on a remote server. I could put my remote file data into MySQL or Postgres database and Power BI could connect to those but my remote server doesn’t allow external connections to hosted databases. So that is not an option for me.

A Power BI Online report can get data from a Sharepoint site file that will update automatically on schedule.

Since I have an Office 365 E3 account which has Sharepoint site I upload my remote file to the Sharepoint site and create a Power BI Online report linked to that Sharepoint file.

I would still have to figure out how to automate uploading my remote server file to my Office 365 E3 account Sharepoint site. But I am pretty sure I can do that with the OneDrive API but more on that in Part 2.

Here is a diagram outlining what I think my solution could be.

powerbidatapath

In the meantime to test using Office 365 Sharepoint file as data source for a Power BI Online report, I created a Power BI report in Desktop with file data source from my Office 365 Sharepoint site and Published it to my Power BI Online account.

After publishing the report to my Power BI Online account, I logged into Power BI Online, opened the newly published report and went to data source options and selected ‘Schedule Refresh’ which produced screen below.

onedriverefresh

I set ‘Keep your data up to date’ to ‘Yes’ and selected ‘Connect Directly’ which gave me error message telling me I had to update credentials.

Not surprisingly the report I published to Power BI Online didn’t ‘remember’ that I had already authorized the Power BI Desktop report to get file from my Office 365 Sharepoint site so I have to do it again in Power BI Online.

So I selected ‘Edit Credentials’ and then selected ‘oAuth’ as type of credentials which popped up Office 365 login screen where I entered my user and password clicked login and was returned back to Power BI online page.

The error message was gone so this must have created oAuth authentication to link the file data source from my Office 365 Sharepoint site into the data source in Power BI Online.

Then I set the automatic refresh to one of the daily 6-hour windows (below i have selected 12 pm to 6 pm) for refresh to run (hourly refresh is a Power BI Pro feature).

The report data source now refreshes from my Sharepoint file on daily automatic schedule so it looks like I am half way to my solution.

I will write another blog post detailing how I will automate moving my data file from my remote server to my Office 365 Sharepoint site. Pretty sure I will be using the OneDrive API https://dev.onedrive.com but there are other options too.

In the meantime talk a look at the previous blog post summarizing the OneDrive and Sharepoint API options.

One challenge I have encountered so far is that the OneDrive Python SDK is made for web apps and I want to setup server app (native client app).  More to come.

OneDrive API features

Microsoft has three file storage options:

  1. OneDrive Personal
  2. OneDrive Business
  3. Sharepoint

These have recently been unified into one new OneDrive API https://dev.onedrive.com and oAuth is preferred method of authentication.

However there are some key differences how the API:

  • OneDrive Personal authenticates against oAuth account created at Microsoft Application Registration Portal using a Microsoft account (Live, Microsoft.com). Authentication url is: https://login.live.com/oauth20_authorize.srf
  • OneDrive Business and Sharepoint authenticate against oAuth account created in Azure Active Directory and must be done with Office 365 account.  Authentication url is: https://login.microsoftonline.com/common/oauth2/

You can create two types of applications that will have different methods and parameters:

  • Web application – web site based application that user can sign into. Require definition of an active redirect url and definition of client secret. Scopes or permissions are identified on the fly when authentication is made.
  • Native client application – Android, ‘head-less’ server app, etc. Requires only definition of an unique redirect uri and scopes or permissions that Office 365 account / user have available eg read & write files, etc.

The process for authentication is similar:

  • Sign-in with user account/password or send authentication url to authentication server to get authentication code.
  • Server sends back url with authentication code.
  • Retrieve authentication code from url.
  • Send another url comprised of code and other parameters back to server to get tokens.
  • Use tokens to list, view, upload, download files etc.

There are development SDKs available for popular languages.

I was only interested in thePython SDK . Some key notes about it include:

  • It is created specifically for web applications, not native client applications. The SDK authentication method relies on using a web browser to pass urls with parameters, codes and tokens back and forth. A native client application will not use web browser. A work around was to use head-less browser but that is a bit hacky.
  • It only has OneDrive Personal authentication urls. To use this with OneDrive Business or Sharepoint these urls are easily replaced with the OneDrive Business authentication urls in two files: auth_provider.py and the onedrivesdk_helper.py.

The change to the unified OneDrive API and oAuth authentication only happened in late 2015 so this is pretty new.

There weren’t many well developed or well documented OneDrive Python example code available.

Note it is still also possible to work with OneDrive Business, Sharepoint and OneDrive Personal without using oAuth authentication and this new OneDrive API by simply using urllib, request and templating along with hard coded Office 365 username and password in your code to authenticate.

Finally Microsoft Graph API can be used to interact with OneDrive Business, Sharepoint and OneDrive Personal  once oAuth is setup.

 

How to create OData data source Gateway for Power BI Report

Microsoft has a free Microsoft Data Management Gateway that you can install on your desktop or server to act as a broker to create an OData data source from a local data source. The OData source can be consumed by any application that can connect to OData url endpoint such as Power BI in Office 365 or in Microsoft’s new standalone online version of Power BI, or Excel etc.

For example setup Microsoft Data Management Gateway on your desktop which creates a local Service that is connects a local SQL Server database to a Data Management Gateway Cloud Service in Power BI.

Remote users can then connect to Office 365  or Power BI via internet and connect to the endpoint to use data using Excel Power Query add-on.