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Post By Admin Last Updated At 2021-06-18
An overview of Power BI incremental refresh

In Power BI there are a number of data sets exist that need to refresh every time with the new data updates. While dealing with large datasets it may take quite a long time to get the data refresh. We know that Power BI is popular BI, data visualization, and data analytics tool useful for different purposes. You can pull relevant data using PBI through different areas on-premise and on-cloud. It helps to track the different metrics that a user asks or wants to know about his data. Let us learn more about Power BI incremental refresh. 

PBI helps us refreshing the complete dataset without any issues. Similarly, to enhance the speed of refreshing, we use Power BI incremental refresh method regularly as it extends the planned data refresh operations. For this, it offers to build automated separation and management of tables. This process helps to regularly update data with new loads. 

Moreover, there can be more than one table for most datasets that includes transaction data that can change regularly. It may also grow rapidly as a fact table such as a relational/star DB schema. Hence, separating the table and refreshing the most recent separations may reduce the amount of refreshed data.

Thus, through Power BI incremental refresh the data is separated dynamically that needs to be refreshed regularly. It ignores the data that requires refreshing with less frequency. While a user publishes a PBI Desktop model to the service, each table within the new dataset includes a single separation. Moreover, that single portion of the table includes all the rows within. As the table size increases with the rows and columns, the refresh time may also long. 

Power BI Incremental Refresh

Let us move further in this blog to know more about incremental refresh. 

Power BI Incremental Refresh

The Power BI incremental refresh mostly supports the Power BI Premium plans. Besides, by using the power bi incremental refresh, you can do the following:-

Faster refreshes

The refresh rate of a dataset becomes much faster as it needs to refresh only the recent data that changed. So, it takes very little time to refresh that data frequently.

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Reliable refreshes

The data refreshes will become more reliable as the long-running links don’t need variable data resources. Besides, the multiple queries run faster towards the source data. It also minimizes the risk of network failure or other network issues.

Minimized resource consumption

Lesser data to refresh automatically minimizes the overall use of memory and other resources within power bi. It includes both PBI and other data source systems. 

Enables large sets of data

With the use of the power bi incremental refresh method, the datasets with large amounts of data can improve without a full refresh. There is no need to refresh them fully as they get a refresh with each refresh operation. 

Easy to set up

There are certain refresh policies of Power BI incremental refresh defined within the Power BI Desktop. When we publish data, the service applies those refresh policies automatically with each data refresh. 

Hence, with every incremental refresh, the service separates data dynamically that needs to refresh regularly. Here, the table data needs filtration using the Power Query date and time parameters. This uses some reserved or case-sensitive names like RangeStart, Range End, etc.

Now we need to configure incremental refresh with the PBI Desktop. Here, the parameters useful in filtering a small amount of data to be loaded into that model. 

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Moreover, when we publish the same to the service, it builds the incremental refresh along with historical divisions. This is purely based on the Power BI incremental refresh policies and settings. Then it conducts data filtering and queries data for each separation done. This activity is based on the date and time values for each table row. 

With each of the completed refresh, the query filters everything and returns only those rows dynamically defined by the variable. Here, the rows with date/time parameters get refresh within the refresh period. Some of these rows no longer exist within the refresh period become part of a historical period. These are not getting refreshed. Hence, with the creation of new separations under the incremental refresh, the refresh divisions become historical with no longer refresh. 

In the passing of time, these historical partitions become less granular or less valuable. They are further merged together. Besides, when the historical separation within the policy becomes no longer historical, it will be completely erased from the dataset. 

Thus, we have seen the different aspects of power bi incremental refresh and its usage. Let us look at the major needs of this incremental refresh. 

Requirements for incremental refresh

There are different needs for power bi incremental refresh. Moreover, the Power bi incremental refresh only supports the Power BI Premium, PBI Pro, etc.  

Further, there are some supported data sources that support power bi incremental refresh. Such as structured and relational data sources-SQL DB, Azure Synapse, etc along with some other data sources. But it is a must that the data source should support the below-

Date Column

A data table must include a date column of date/time type. The above-mentioned parameters like RangeEnd, etc filter the table data based on the date column easily. Moreover, for the date columns of integer keys like “year month date” a user can build a function. This function changes the date or time value within the variables to match with the integer proxy key of the source data table. 

Query Folding

This is another parameter that data sources must support within the incremental refresh policy. The incremental refresh policy is designed for different data sources in such a way that support the query folding feature. Further, this feature is a Power Query’s ability to produce a single query expression to recover and change the source data. Besides, most data sources that support SQL queries also support query folding. But some of the data sources such as files, blobs, etc do not support this feature. 

Hence, there is a lot of stories that happen by using the PQ expression while configuring this process. The variables that need to look at here are similar to the Date Column. 

Here, it is a need to verify to ensure the filter logic includes within the queries that are performed against the data source. This is because the query folding feature is different for various data source types. In most cases, PBI Desktop executes this verification process for the users while defining the PBI refresh policies. Also, this attestation is reliable for SQL-based data sources like SQL DB, Oracle, etc. 

Moreover, in case if a user gets a warning regarding that PBI Desktop is unable to confirm the verification. Then he has to use the PQD feature supported by the data sources. This is useful for verifying the important query folding is occurring.

Other data sources

There are some other types of data sources available through which also Power bi incremental refresh is used. This is possible through the additional custom query functions and query logic. Here also the given data filters Range Start and Range End can be drive through a single query. Moreover, there are some advanced scenarios like Sharepoint Files, RSS Feed, etc that need extra customization and testing beyond the things mentioned above. 

Time Limits 

In the time limit feature, there is a refresh time limit of Two Hours for the PBI Pro data sets under the Power Bi incremental refresh policy. This is regardless of the incremental refresh policy. Further, PBI Premium datasets have a refresh time limit of five Hours under this policy. Being memory intensive, complete refresh ops may use double the amount of memory for the dataset. In this process, the service manages the snapshot of the dataset within the memory throughout the refresh.

These refresh ops are also process-intensive where it only consumes a limited amount of memory of CPU resources. The optimization of refresh ops at the partition level automatically minimizes the refresh time.

Hence, an effective PBI incremental policy not only minimizes the amount of data processed within the refresh ops. But it also minimizes the amount of historical data that stores with the datasets. 

Therefore, the time limit feature is like a protection shield for available resources. Also, it protects the resources from over-usage. 

Hence, this is all about the various needs of the PBI incremental refresh application. Let us know further about its configuration in detail. 

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Configuration of incremental refresh

Here we will go with the different stages of the power bi incremental refresh configuration process. This configuring is done within the PBI Desktop version. Hence, there are some important points to remember while this process. 

When the data is published to the service, the user cannot publish the same model from the PBI Desktop. If so then it will erase the existing data partitions within the dataset. 

Also, after publishing to the service, users cannot download the dataset again from the PBI Desktop. Due to the increment in the size of the dataset, it is impossible to download the same. 

Thus, you came to know the settings of the refresh process. Now, you have to perform the following to configure the incremental refresh. 

Create Parameters

While configuring the incremental refresh, a user needs to build two types of variables within the PBI Desktop. They are the Power Query D/T variables with the names Range Start and Range End. These variables are useful for filtering the data within the PBI Desktop table data. Also, it includes those rows only with date/time variables within that period. 

Data Filters

By using the above-given two variables, a user can apply custom data filters on his data table’s date column. While applying filters user needs to select a subset of the data that will be laden into the model. This is when he clicks the “Apply” button. 

Defining a policy

Next on the list, is the policy definition in the power bi incremental refresh. After applying data filters and after loading subset data into the model, a user needs to define the Power BI incremental refresh policy for the data table. To define the policy settings for the refresh, there are three necessary and two optional settings. 

These include - table, store rows in the last, refresh rows in the last, locate data alterations, and only refresh completed days, etc. 

After all these things, you can publish the model to the service. Further, when the publishing completes, the user can execute the refresh operation on the dataset. Also, this refresh should be a manual process so that a user can observe the progress. This may take a little time to complete the initial refresh of the dataset. 

Also, there is an advanced Power BI incremental refresh process. 


Thus, this is all about the power bi incremental refresh process and its various aspects. This process reduces the load over the PBI desktop and minimizes resource usage and memory. It helps to work faster with the available resources and reduces the time limit for the process to complete. Also, it creates partitions of large datasets to initiate the refresh process on time. PBI is useful in different areas of the business and in the IT sector for data display and reporting.

Moreover, there is a vast community available to support different queries from the users. There are more things to come in this section so stay tuned in this space.

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