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Comparing Power BI Dataflows and Azure Data Factory

In the realm of data integration, data prep, and data transformation, Microsoft offers multiple paths for enterprises. Among these options, Power BI Dataflows and Azure Data Factory stand out as popular cloud-based solutions.

This post delves into the seamless integration between Power BI Services and Azure Data Factory, showcasing how the two services can work together to simplify and automate data ingestion, transformation, and loading processes. It can explore the capabilities of Azure Data Factory for data integration, along with the advantages of connecting it to Power BI Services.

Overview of Power BI Dataflows

Power BI Dataflows is a cloud-based self-service data preparation and transformation tool specifically designed for Power BI users. It empowers users to create, manage, and share reusable data entities within the Power BI ecosystem. Dataflows leverage the Common Data Model (CDM) and allow users to extract data from various sources, perform data transformations, and establish relationships between tables. These transformed data entities can then be utilized across different Power BI reports and dashboards.

Power BI dataflows empower business users and citizen data integrators to effortlessly import a wide range of data into the Power Platform. This Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solution provides a self-service data preparation tool for seamless data integration.

The dataflow editor is a visual and web-based Power Query editor seamlessly embedded within the Power BI Service ( It offers step-by-step instructions to create dataflows, enabling users to prepare and transform their data. The underlying transformations generated by the web UI are written in the M language.

In terms of technology, data imported through dataflows is stored in Azure Data Lake (Gen2), providing exceptional scalability. Users have the flexibility to map their data to Microsoft’s Common Data Model, which consists of predefined data schemas, or define custom schemas that align with their source data. Dataflows can generate datasets that can be scheduled for refresh and used for data visualization. Exciting upcoming improvements include the ability to directly query a dataflow without the need to import the data into a dataset.

However, there are a few limitations to consider. Refreshes for non-premium workspaces utilize shared resources, which may impact performance. For premium workspaces, dataflows are tied to the underlying Power BI Premium capacity, subject to certain concurrency limits based on the size of the capacity.

Overview of Azure Data Factory

Azure Data Factory (ADF) is a cloud-based data integration service that facilitates the creation, orchestration, and monitoring of data workflows. It enables the extraction, transformation, and loading (ETL) of data from various sources into target data stores for analysis, reporting, and other data-driven processes.

ADF is a versatile tool that supports complex data integration scenarios and workflows involving big data, hybrid environments, and multiple data platforms.

azure data factory

Azure Data Factory is a cloud-based Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) utility designed for data engineers and corporate IT staff focused on data integrations.

It offers a scalable solution for orchestrating data movement and transformations across various data storage destinations. During cloud migrations, Azure Data Factory facilitates a seamless lift-and-shift of SSIS packages, and it supports source control for better management.

The visual web-based editor (, linked from the Azure resource, provides a comprehensive interface for working with Azure Data Factory. This editor encompasses a wide range of options and functionalities, reflecting the extensive capabilities of Azure Data Factory.

Data preparation and transformation are facilitated through a diverse set of activities that can be utilized within Data Factory pipelines. These activities leverage different compute resources such as big data queries, machine learning processes, databrick activities (Python, notebooks), custom .NET code, and even data wrangling and mapping using dataflows.

Azure Data Factory operates as a series of interconnected systems on top of the Azure platform, following a serverless approach. The output data from a pipeline is typically directed to Azure SQL Data Warehouse, another Big Data target, or any other desired data storage resource. Visualization tools like Power BI can then query data from these resources to effectively visualize the data.

Comparison and Use Cases

User Focus:

Power BI Dataflows primarily targets business users and Power BI developers who need to create reusable data entities within the Power BI ecosystem. It offers a user-friendly interface and focuses on self-service data preparation and data sharing for building interactive reports and dashboards.

Azure Data Factory, on the other hand, caters to data engineers and developers who require advanced data integration and orchestration capabilities. It is suitable for building complex data workflows involving multiple data platforms and hybrid environments.

Data Integration Scenarios:

Power BI Dataflows excel in scenarios where the primary focus is preparing and transforming data for consumption within Power BI reports and dashboards. It is well-suited for consolidating data from multiple sources, performing data cleansing and enrichment, and establishing relationships between tables.

Azure Data Factory is more comprehensive in terms of data integration capabilities. It supports a wide range of data sources and targets, making it suitable for hybrid data integration scenarios, big data processing, and ETL workflows involving diverse data platforms.

Data Transformation and Complexity:

Power BI Dataflows offer an intuitive visual interface for performing data transformations, making it accessible to non-technical users. It is ideal for relatively simple data transformations and preparing data for reporting and analysis.

Azure Data Factory provides more extensive data transformation capabilities through its data flow feature. It allows users to create complex data transformation logic using a code-free interface, making it suitable for advanced data transformation requirements and complex data processing scenarios.


Both Power BI Dataflows and Azure Data Factory are powerful data integration and transformation tools offered by Microsoft. Choosing the right tool depends on the specific requirements of the project, the target audience, and the complexity of the data integration and transformation scenarios.

Seek expert advice in selecting the optimal data preparation and data modeling strategies for your organization. PSSPL is dedicated to providing comprehensive solutions. Our team of experts ensures that you receive a customized and robust framework tailored to your business requirements. By partnering with us, you will establish a solid foundation for data-driven success, both presently and in the future as your business expands. Reach out to us for further assistance.