by Robert French,
Data Consultant, Eyecademy

So far in our series, we’ve covered the features of both Power BI Free and Power BI Pro, looking at how to create reports with Power BI Desktop, upload them to the Power BI Online service, and share them with other Pro users, including Mobile Reporting and Workspaces. 

However, it’s likely what you really want to know is how to share your reports with other stakeholders in your organisation, without the necessity for each viewer to have a Pro licence.

Being able to share insights with a carefully crafted report can yield many business benefits, with excellent ROI being gained from the reporting tool chosen. Additionally as no two businesses are the same, either in size or organisational structure, what each business requires from shared reporting will also be different.

To address this, Microsoft does offer more than one method for sharing reports with internal or external business customers, however this structure can become overwhelming to understand and decide upon. In this post, we will consider the options offered by the different Embedding Resource types that allow embedding, both inside and outside the organisation.

There are two different types of product we are going to discuss, however it’s important that we get our terminology right before we start.

The words used by Microsoft vary depending on what documentation and the context of the article you are reading – some refer to SKUs (Stock Keeping Units*), other places will talk about a resource, then sometimes it’s a capacity.  For our purposes, we’re going to use the word “resource” so we can break down their functionalities as simply as possible.

To start, let’s discuss the A-Resource and EM-Resource, and review how they differ from each other.

(*  A SKU in this context is the version of the resource you purchase, for A-Resource type there are at the time of writing 6 different SKU’s.  For the EM-Resource type, there are currently only 3 different SKU’s.)

Power BI Embedding – using an A-Resource

Using an A-Resource, it is possible to place Power BI objects such as visualisations, dashboards, tiles, Question & Answer visuals, and custom menus, into a custom application.  Before considering the cost of this solution, we are going to spend some time considering the possible scenarios where this solution might be of benefit.

For example, you may benefit from A-Resource if you are:

  • A company that has a custom application which is distributed to several customers, where there are requirements to provide reporting to the customer (external to your organisation). With Power BI Embedded, the customers remain a consumer of the reporting, which is curated and managed centrally by the company distributing the custom application.
  • Or, a company that uses an application to conduct business and communicate to staff in a variety of different geographical locations, for example a retail company with a variety of outlets in a wide variety of locations. An application could be used to permit communication between head office and the various branches, with part of its functionality being to offer customised reporting embedded into the application.

For Power BI Embedded using the A-resource to share reports with users outside of the organisation, there are some recommended and necessary requirements.  In the scenarios outlined above, an existing application is used.  Therefore to implement this solution, you’ll need to have a developer with the necessary skills to add the objects to the application is required.

Please note that whilst the above scenarios describe using Embedded with a custom application, it can be incorporated anywhere that supports JavaScript to embed, as well as Iframes.  The scenarios described are typical ways that Power BI Embedded could be used, but these examples are not exhaustive.

To use Power BI Embedded there are four minimum requirements to embed into an application:

  • One (master account) – this account will be used to upload reports to the Power BI service
  • Workspace application – Reports will be hosted in this workspace and used to administer access to the reports
  • Azure account
  • Purchase dedicated capacity from Azure

Below is the pricing for Power BI embedded A-resources (correct at time of publishing at March 2020):

Power-BI Pricing List

The capacity of the A-Resource can be purchased via the Azure portal, and can be scaled up and down according to demand. 

One other feature of the A-Resource type is that the service can be paused, for example, the service could be paused outside of core business hours.  During this time there is no charge for the service, although the service would not be available during that time. 

In the table above which lists the details of each resource type (SKU), it is worth noting that the A1 and A2 SKU’s do not have a dedicated infrastructure. That means the resources running the reports are shared with other clients in the same way as the service provided by the standard Power BI service. As all the clients in the same services are using the same resources, which could result in a slower, poorer service.

The following links provide more detailed information on the A-Resource:

Power BI Embedding – using an EM-resource

Let’s consider a different scenario from the ones considered with the A-resource, for example what if you were a:

  • Small to medium-sized enterprises which have already invested in Office 365 which has widespread adoption throughout the organisation. Both Teams and SharePoint online has been enabled and is also adopted by many of the business units and users.

The EM-Resource type is different from the A-Resource type with one important additional feature, the EM-Resource type will allow embedding of Power BI reports into Microsoft Teams and SharePoint.

With the EM-resource, users from within the organisation do not require a Power BI Pro license to view the report embedded into these applications.  This would be ideal for organisations which are already using the collaborative capabilities with Office 365 such as Teams and SharePoint online.

So, what can an account do if they are part of an organisation which has purchased an EM- resource type?

(1)  the Free account can only view reports they have created and uploaded to the Power BI service not reports in the organisational Power BI Service

In order to publish reports for other users to consume, each report author will require to have a Power BI Pro license (the report author is the person who publishes the report to the Power BI service).

Sharing reports via Teams and SharePoint is a simple and easy process that any user with correct permissions can do. Check out how to add Power BI Reports to Teams with this link, or have a look at this video by one of the Guy in Cube team.

(2) “EM SKUs (EM1-EM3) for organisational embedding, requiring a yearly commitment, billed monthly. EM1 and EM2 SKUs are available only through volume licensing plans. You can’t purchase them directly.” – Microsoft

Comparing the A & EM Resources

In summary, the Power BI embedded A-Resource type is ideal for an organization with the relevant expertise and skills to embed the report into an application. The flexible licensing model offered by the A-Resource means it is possible to scale the capacity up and down according to business requirements. This feature allows the organization to share reports with many users cost-effectively, providing an excellent ROI.  There is also the added benefit that the organization remains in complete control of how the reports are accessed.

On the other hand, the EM-Resource type does allow organizational sharing via collaboration applications namely MS Teams and SharePoint.  This requires a greater financial commitment, agreeing to a yearly contract paid on a monthly basis. Given that it is possible to share via Teams and SharePoint online, any user within the organization can access the report without the requirement for a Power BI Pro license, which can be a cost-effective solution for some companies.

Positives to Embedding

  • The A-Resource type can be scaled up or down according to requirements easily via the Azure portal.
  • Also, the A-Resource type is a good choice if only want to share reports or visualizations with customers who are only consuming the reports. Access to the reports is entirely controlled by the company which has purchased the A-SKU.
  • Reports hosted by EM-Resource type can easily be embedded into Microsoft Teams or SharePoint Online.

Negatives to Embedding

  • Dedicated technological resource to develop and maintain the embedding of visualisations within the application.
  • No ability for the end-user to create reports, although some limited ad hoc reporting can be done using the Q&A feature. However, this will require more planning and implementation.
  • Note that the time of writing this article (March 2020), Power BI embedded is only available in UK, in the UK South data centre.
  • Reports hosted by Azure A-Resource type’s cannot be embedded into Microsoft Teams or SharePoint Online.
  • With EM-resource type’s, it is not possible to change the capacity easily.

We hope that our support has helped you navigate the world of Power BI Embedding, and given you some clear guidance to whether the A-Resource or the EM-Resource is right for you! In our next instalment of our Ultimate Power BI Licensing Guide, we are going to look at the Power BI ‘Premium’ option offered by Microsoft namely to see what that offers.

Any questions on Embedding using the A or EM-Resources so far? Let us know down in the comments!