Power BI – License changes fallout

On the 3rd of May, Microsoft announced a few changes to the Power BI Service, and some new features, (see here). Since then we’ve fielded a large number of queries about it, and after talking to some of the Microsoft guys so have they. One mentioned that some of their customers had been quite angry.

Power BI Desktop –  No changes here, still free to use

Power BI Service Free – This has been the most annoying of changes for a lot of people, as you can no longer share dashboards. For any sharing you will need the Pro service. Before you could buy a small number of Pro licensees for your report developers, then have your report consumers use the free version. No longer, sorry, you have to have Pro. If you have Pro on the plus side at least your consumers will now be able to use items that use the Data Gateway, and Row Level Security, but for a number of small companies, the £72 per year, per user may be a bit to much.

Power BI Pro – No big changes here, a few tweaks, content packs will become Power BI Apps (Not to be confused with Power Apps) and Application work spaces. To do anything useful with Power BI you’ll need a Pro license.

Power BI Premium – The big change! From our own experience a blocker to large organisations was how to scale Power BI up and how to best use it. Another issue was the demand for some organisations to have Power BI on premise, this in a few ways address these. Rather it being based on licenses, the expected use is based on the metric of frequent and infrequent users, to ensure that they have a consistent level of service. The more users the more processing nodes/ram you’ll get. These nodes are also dedicated hardware, not the shared service that you would get with the Free and Pro service, eliminating the noisy neighbour, if one user of the service is giving a good hammering, you’ll not be affected. base prices are £3,100 per node. You’ll also get Power BI Report Server to deploy on premise, which would give you the ability to move workloads between the cloud and on premise parts. Maybe you have a busy report end month, move the relevant reports to the best suited service.

Power BI On Premise – This is now Power BI Report Server (PBRS), an extension to SSRS. Currently in SSRS 2016 Power BI on premise is in technical preview (TP), the full release will be coming in SQL Server 2017 due around the end Q2 early Q3 2017. The TP is limited to SSAS data sources for now, others will be added over time. One of the interesting features is that it will be updated at a quicker rate that say SSRS, even though it is a superset of SSRS, it is not that dependant on SSRS, so updates to PBRS will not affect your SSRS installation. Over the years some SSRS updates have changed the Report Server databases that are used in the background, but it looks like (for now) that it will not impact that.

You will either have to have Power BI Premium to run it, or SQL Server, Enterprise Edition, licensed on a per core basis, with Software Assurance. If you do deploy it via the SA method, you will still need a Power BI Pro licence to deploy reports. Consuming the deployed reports will not require a Power BI Pro licence

Power BI Embedded – This is also changing significantly, the Power BI Embedded API is being brought into the normal Power BI API, and will stop in June 2018. You’ll also need Power BI Premium to be able to use it, there is a lower pricing tier for just the new Embedded, around £2,500 per month, but of a number of customer who have been using the 3p per session method to create a reporting portal and applications, this will be coming to an end.

So to recap, to do anything you’ll need in some form of a Power BI Pro licence. Depending on the number of users, standard of service and budget, you’ll need Pro or Premium. However it is still priced competitively compared to Qlikview and Tableau, based on a per user. I think some organisations will be disappointed with the cost of hosting On Premise reporting and the current limitations, but hopefully the service will get better quickly as long as there is a demand.

One thing that will hit some people hard is the move of Power BI Embedded to Premium, number of projects we’ve done have used the service to create a application or portal that uses the Embedded API. Now you have to have Premium. What gets me is that MS have been showcasing Embedded on the Power BI Blog and other places, only to change it with no commercial alternative. £3,100 a month is a bit too much for those users. MS have had feed back from ISV’s and Partners and have said that they are looking into a more reasonable pricing tier, hopefully they can get that out soon as it requires a choice to be made if people need to rewrite their application to a different technology.