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The Other Changes that came with Power BI Premium

Author by Seth Bauer

It has taken me a few days to digest and sift through the announcements surrounding the new Power BI Premium offering. If you are interested in what is contained in that offering and my thoughts on that, you will find it here. I wanted to separate the announcement with all the other changes to the licensing model, shifts in expectations of how other tools would integrate, and some fundamental changes in how to implement features (Embedded and Apps). One of the things I’ve notices is that when we as individuals are faced with changes that run counter to our expectations there will always be discord and concern. I think especially in times like these, we need to separate fact from fiction, real vs. fake, and reality vs. hype. What follows are my ideas currently of what we know based on these announcements, and some things I hope to see in the future based on my understanding of them now.

Power BI Free license no longer allows for sharing of any kind for company data. (Publish to Web still works, but this is not a solution for private company reports as it exposes everything to the internet)

This one change alone is creating the most angst. Having been a member of the Power BI Community for a long time, I know people are implementing full scale solutions in their respective companies using the Free license, and there was no compunction to ever change that to a Pro license. The Free license was never meant for that, and frankly some poor choices were being made in deploying very shaky solutions cobbled together from the free bits. Free licensed products are a means to determine if the product is a viable solution to meet your needs, not treat it like a production tool.
     What I Think: This is a good thing. Call me a purist, or maybe it is because of my role as a consultant implementing reporting solutions within companies, but there isn’t a single client I’ve had where several Pro features weren’t prerequisites right from the start. Group Workspaces and scheduled refresh / refreshing multiple times a day all easily come to mind. I don’t assume that my experiences mirror every company or user, but the Pro features were obviously designed for helping businesses develop a solid solution. And frankly, I think people were taking advantage of the Free offering.

Power BI Free license gets many of the Pro features.
As of June 1st, 2017, the Free license will benefit now from having many of the features that were included in the Pro license. The exceptions appear to be all around ending the use of Free as a means to do company reporting without paying for the product. As a result, some of these missing features hurt. No exporting of any kind. Details can be found here in the MSFT post on the Power BI Community
     What I Think: This is also a very positive change, except for no longer having the exporting abilities. Since the free license is all about kicking the tires, this allows users to interact with many additional data sources and features. It now allows them to use both gateways and schedule refresh for their reports. My hope is that streaming and push dataset are included, but I don’t know for sure.
Power BI Pro is required for sharing and viewing shared content.
This means all users that create or consume reports need to at least have a Pro license. To me, this clears up a lot of confusion around what is a Free vs. Pro feature and what you can or cannot do. There are an incredible amount of posts in the Community surrounding why something was or was not working, and many times it came down to someone using a Pro feature when they were using Free.
     What I Think: Nothing has changed here from a licensing perspective, but not having the Pro license tied to so many different features and only revolve around sharing simplifies this story immensely.

Power BI Embedded:
This feature is for embedding reports in customer facing applications. This feature was setup completely different from the other PBI Developer tools, and now it is getting rolled into the same API.
     What I Think: This is great for developers, but there is a big question mark around what the cost is going to be. The whole Embedded vs. PBI Embedded was disjointed, this brings a lot of clarity.
Power BI Apps and App Workspaces:
Apps are the new method by which the Pro user will share information with all the end users in the Premium license model. I think of these currently as akin to Read-Only Content Packs. Which appeals to me greatly because I can share all content in the workspace and not have to worry about the copy of, copy of, copy of my original Content Pack that I want to update down the road.
App Workspaces are going to replace the current Group Workspace model, and are where you build out different Apps to share. For a more in-depth review, see the Power BI Blog here.
     What I Think: I’m excited about this change, I haven’t fully wrapped my head around how my implementation strategies change with apps, but at first glance it looks good. The App Workspaces biggest feature is removing O365 groups from the equation. The current setup is a real headache for O365 admins trying to manage all these groups being created just for purposes in Power BI.
Power BI On-Premises via the Power BI Report Server:
SQL Server Reporting Services is now (sort of) separating its offerings. There will be a SQL Server Reporting Services that allows for paginated reports with mobile capability. The other new offering is the Power BI Report Server which has the paginated and mobile, but also includes Power BI integration. The Power BI Report Server will be available at the end of Q2.
Let’s break down how you can get the Power BI Report Server.
If you have Enterprise Edition + Service Agreement you get the Power BI Report Server.
  • You don’t need to buy Power BI Premium
  • You DO need to buy Pro licenses for users that want to publish to the Power BI Report Server
If you buy Power BI Premium you get the Power BI Report Server
  • There are no additional costs for SQL Database, SSAS Tabular as long as you are only using it for the Power BI Report Server
  • If you extend the use of those SQL products, then you will need to pay the full SQL licensing costs
  • The amount of capacity in the cloud is the amount of capacity you get in the PBI Report Server. (8 cores in cloud capacity means you can use 8 cores on premises).
     What I Think: The Premium purchase to include Reporting Services integration is outstanding. The SQL on premises move to Power BI Server change gives me a bit of heartburn which I still hope gets resolved. The licensing doesn’t completely make sense to me. In the same way that a customer that pays for Power BI Premium receives a limited license for the supporting SQL products, I believe the reverse should be true as well. For a company that is already heavily invested in SQL I think there should be a Power BI Pro (limited) license that allows users to only publish to the Power BI Report Server.
Closing Thoughts
I’m not in marketing. I don’t know what the purpose of rolling out all these changes at the same time as the debut of the Power BI Premium SKU. As you can read in my other blog, I think the addition of the new sku is an incredible advancement in the strength of Power BI. But given the current user base, and the many ways organizations are using the tool, I think the message was diluted because of the overwhelming number of changes, and some of them not being very popular. The other pain point here is that there are still unknowns, and muddy messaging, and that bothers me. Not having a clear direction for all of this upon the announcement is either a poor choice, or MSFT doing what it’s always done with Power BI. Put the idea or feature out there, listen to the feedback, and make the offering even better. I’m hoping for the latter for some of the announcements.
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