Ultimate Power BI Licensing Guide – Part 4: Power BI Premium

6 Apr 2020

by Robert French,
Data Consultant, Eyecademy

Before we start discussing Power BI Premium let’s talk about the elephant in the room.  Without a doubt, Power BI Premium does cost a reasonable amount of money, the cheapest version of Power BI Premium based on current pricing (as of March 2020) is £3.7k per month.  On the other hand, why do people buy a BMW or a Mercedes?  They no doubt consider the features and benefits to be worth the cost.  In this article we will consider the reasons for considering buying Power BI Premium.

Advantages of Power BI Premium

So, what is provided by the Power BI Premium Service?  With the Power BI Premium resource, a dedicated Azure service is provided.  One of the most important features is that any reports uploaded to a Power BI Premium service can be shared with any user, and do not require the reader to have a Power BI Pro license. However, it is worth noting that any user publishing reports to the Power BI Premium service will require a Power BI Pro license.

With leasing of the service, it is administered entirely by that leasing organization, meaning it becomes possible to direct dedicated resources, such as computer power, to specific workspaces as required.  So, a key advantage of Power BI Premium is that it gives the organization which has leased the service far more control over its operations.

There are several other features and benefits offered by Power BI Premium, including

  • Incremental data refresh
  • Deploy Power BI content to multiple regions
  • 10gb maximum individual dataset size
  • 100TB maximum storage capacity
  • Up to 48 automatic data refreshes per day
  • Store Power BI data in Azure Data Lake Storage Gen2

Hybrid reporting the best of both worlds, cloud, and on-premises

With Power BI Premium, the leasing organization is also given a license to download and install a copy of Power BI Report Server (N.B. you must buy a to qualify).  Once Power BI Report Server is installed on a suitable server, it can then host Power BI reports on your organization’s infrastructure.  So, it is possible to either host Power BI reports on the cloud with Power BI Premium Service, or on-premise using Power BI Report Server.

Now that a new product has been mentioned, namely Power BI Report Server, it is an appropriate time to look at the product in a little more detail.

What is Power BI Report Server?

Power BI Report Server is an extension to the SSRS report server, so what does that mean?  Well among other advantages it can host Power BI reports and SSRS reports.  The portal looks like and is administered the same way as an SSRS portal, with the significant difference being that the server can host and run Power BI reports.

There are several businesses that believe sensitive data is best hosted securely on their infrastructure and are not willing to take the risk of placing the data on cloud infrastructure.  The SSRS instance (if upgraded), which has probably been configured to host many existing business reports, can now host Power BI reports on the same instance, using the same security model and existing infrastructure.  Therefore, there is no risk of the data being transfer to the cloud which for some organizations is of concern.  Yet the features offered by Power BI reports such as interactivity and access via mobile devices can still be utilised.

An Alternative to Power BI Premium

It is possible to buy a license for Power BI Report Server without purchasing Power BI Premium.  If you have both SQL Server Enterprise Edition with Software Assurance.  You can also get access to Power BI Report Server with SQL Server Enterprise, however it is important to note that both Enterprise Edition and Software Assurance are needed to qualify.  This combination will allow the organization to run Power BI Report Server in production on premise.

If you can install and run Power BI report server, then the same server will be able to host both Power BI and SSRS reports on the same portal.  There are some advantages and disadvantages to Power BI report server:

 

Disadvantages

  • Require installing software on production server.
  • Report authors for Power BI will have to use a dedicated version of Power BI desktop.
  • Server software is only updated 3 times per year, as opposed to the Power BI service which is updated on a monthly basis.

Advantages

  • The server can host both Power BI reports and SSRS reports on the same portal on-premise.
  • Uses the same security model as SSRS (SQL Server Reporting Services).
  • Using a free report designer from Microsoft, end users can then create SSRS reports for mobile devices.
  • The data always stays on-premise, so no security concerns about the data being on the cloud.
  • Power BI report server is an enhanced version of SSRS report server, so it is based on tried and tested software.
  • Users do not require a Power BI Pro license to either deploy reports, or view reports.

Summary

Positives to Premium

  • With Power BI Premium resources this means the organisation has a dedicated capacity which can be administered by the administrator.  They can allocate a certain amount of resources to certain workspaces and change according to business needs.
  • Permit users to view reports without the requirement to have a Power BI Pro license.
  • Integrated into Microsoft Technology stack and Azure.

Negatives to Premium

  • More expensive cost compared to some other solutions.
  • Integrated into Microsoft Technology stack and Azure.
    • There are a variety of SKU’s (stock keeping units) offered by Microsoft for the Power BI service. The Premium SKU is the only one which allows the organisation which leases the P-SKU the ability to share reports with other users, which do not require them to have a Power BI Pro license.  This offering is a complete business application as opposed to a set of APIs, offered by the Embedded SKU’s.  In addition, the P-SKU offers considerably more computing power. Below is a breakdown of the computing power by P-SKU and approximate monthly costs.
Resource Type (SKU) Cores Backend Cores Frontend Cores Approx. Cost
Per month (March 2020)
P1 8 v-cores 4 cores, 25 GB RAM 4 cores £ 3.7 k
P2 16 v-cores 8 cores, 50 GB RAM 8 cores £ 7.5 k
P3 32 v-cores 16 cores, 100 GB RAM 16 cores £ 15.1 k
P4 64 v-cores 16 cores, 100 GB RAM 16 cores £ 30.1 k
P5 128 v-cores 16 cores, 100 GB RAM 16 cores £ 60.3 k

TLDR – Summary 

In this short series we have covered most of what Microsoft has to offer in terms of Power BI.  Ranging from the free options to allow you to try out the concept and see how it works.  All the way through to the enterprise ready Power BI premium offering, which is aimed at large enterprises.

Deciding on which option suits your company is not an easy or indeed a simple decision.  Hopefully, these blog posts have given you some more information that will make it a little easier to make a final decision.

Any questions on Power BI? Let us know down in the comments! 

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