Power BI Premium: Expect higher capacity, simpler licensing, private cloud (or on-prem), at a premium price

By:  Dann Anthony Maurno

Microsoft announced last week that it will launch Power BI Premium (generally available later in Q2), with the goal of better addressing enterprise-level BI consumption and distribution.

As Microsoft General Manager Kamal Hathi described, Power BI Premium builds on the familiar Power BI portfolio with a capacity-based licensing model aimed at large-scale deployments; also aimed at economizing for a mix of users.

Power BI Premium advances how Power BI content is embedded in apps created by customers, partners and the broad developer community. The application converges Power BI Embedded with the Power BI service for “one API surface, a consistent set of capabilities and access to the latest features.” Microsoft encourages those interested in embedding Power BI in their apps to start their journeys with Power BI Desktop, then move to deployment with Power BI Premium. (Existing apps built on Power BI Embedded will continue to be supported.)

Dynamics 365 CRM and ERP apps, as well as GP and NAV, use Power BI capabilities much like other apps would. To understand if Power BI Premium would have any impact on how the solutions would work together, we reached out to Microsoft. They told us:

“The introduction of Power BI Premium doesn’t impact the integration between Power BI and D365 in terms of the way Power BI capabilities are embedded in the Dynamics apps.”

According to a Power BI calculator (which provides non-binding estimates, not actual quotes), a 5,000-user organization might expect to pay about $14,985 per month for Power BI Premium with the following assumptions:

  • 1,000 Power BI Pro users, who require collaboration, data modelling, content authoring, dashboard, sharing, ad hoc analysis, and report publishing;
  • 1,750 frequent users, who consume dashboards and reports, frequently;
  • 2,250 occasional users, who consume the same less regularly.

For that price, the Power BI team advises that you gain:

  • Dedicated capacity that you allocate, scale, and control
  • Ability to distribute and embed content without purchasing per-user licenses
  • Ability to publish reports on-premise with Power BI Report Server
  • More capacity and higher limits for Power BI Pro users

Licensing by capacity helps organizations “equip users with the appropriate level of access to the Power BI service based on their unique needs.” Some users are consumers rather than creators of BI content. For those Power BI Pro users who do generate content, Power BI Premium enables them to publish reports across and outside the enterprise, without requiring recipients to be licensed per user.

Dedicated hardware for increased scale and performance. Power BI Premium is a private cloud offering. That theoretical, 5,000-user organization can expect to pay $4,9995 per month for three dedicated P1 nodes, managed by Microsoft. This enables organizations using Power BI Premium to customize performance, applying their dedicated capacity broadly, or allocating it to assigned workspaces (e.g., based on the number of users or workload), scaling up or down as required.

On-premises capabilities. Power BI Report Server is an on-premise server that enables deployment and distribution of interactive Power BI reports within an organization’s firewall. As Microsoft describes it, with Power BI Premium, “the same number of virtual cores an organization provisions in the cloud can also be deployed on-premises through Power BI Report Server, without the need to split the capacity.” So an organization can elect to keep reports on-premise and move to the cloud at its own pace.

DynamicsFocus, LLC. and D365

Apps versus content packs

To accommodate enterprise-scale deployment, Microsoft is morphing its familiar content packs into Power BI apps. These are available immediately from Microsoft AppSource; end users need a Power BI Pro license to consume the apps, unless the app resides in Power BI Premium capacity.

Power BI Senior Program Manager Ajay Anandan described in a separate blog that these apps offer a simplified way of deploying dashboards and reports to specific people, groups or an entire organization. For a widely-distributed dashboard, “Managing permissions on each individual dashboard is time-consuming and error prone,” which the apps simplify. Business users can install the apps from Microsoft AppSource, then access the apps via the web portal or their iOS, Android, or Windows devices. With that content all in one place (see below), those business users “can easily find and return to your content…They get all your updates automatically and you can control how frequently the data refreshes.”


Simplifying the Power BI free service (versus Power BI Pro)


Microsoft acknowledges confusion regarding the functional differences between Power BI Pro and its free service.

As Hathi describes, the important distinction is that the free service is intended for personal use, while Power BI Pro enables collaboration. Still, the free service had more limited functionality.

Effective June 1, users of the free service will enjoy access to all data sources, increased workspace storage limits, and higher refresh and streaming rates; but they will not have access to the sharing and collaboration features of Power BI Pro.

About Dann Anthony Maurno

Dann Anthony Maurno is a seasoned business journalist who began his career as International Marketing Manager with Lilly Software, then moved on as a freelancer to write for such prestigious clients as CFO Magazine; Compliance Week;Manufacturing Business Technology; Decision Resources, Inc.; The Economist Intelligence Unit; and corporate clients such as Iron Mountain, Microsoft and SAP. He is the co-author of Thin Air: How Wireless Technology Supports Lean Initiatives(CRC/Productivity Press, 2010).