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Microsoft supercharges Power BI with new features

  • Posted on May 8, 2017

Microsoft recently made the most significant announcement regarding Power BI enterprise readiness since its initial launch of the new product back in June of 2015. There are a multitude of enhancements that have raised Power BI’s game in the enterprise: a new Power BI Premium product, free license capability, convergence of the Power BI Embedded product and the Power BI Service, and a new app sharing model.

The Launch of Power BI Premium

Microsoft has been incrementally adding important features to the product and getting a lot of positive response from analysts, and in turn, enterprises in general.  With the increase in demand from larger enterprises came some exposure to certain gaps in functionality and scalability from a license and performance standpoint based on the initial SaaS-only model.

Microsoft has made a big leap forward with the introduction of Power BI Premium.  Power BI Premium is a capacity-based licensing model, which allows enterprises to scale out their Power BI ecosystem that maintains a reasonable ‘cost to serve’ when balanced with its wide breadth of capability.  Amir Netz, Microsoft Technical Fellow, describes it as “A new service architecture created to optimize for these enterprise scenarios, including the ability for organizations to serve a large number of “readers” — who simply need to view and explore dashboards and reports — in a cost-effective manner and without needing to license each user individually.”

Not only does Power BI Premium get you dedicated capacity in the Power BI Service with the ability to scale up and scale out, it also includes a corresponding license for the new Power BI Report Server so you can leverage the benefits of Power BI in an on-premise capacity.

Increased Capabilities of the Power BI Free License and Sharing Apps

In addition to this dedicated capacity model, Power BI changes the capability of its Power BI Free license – removing many of the constraints that separated it from their Power BI Pro license.  In general, the free license gets you a full capable product with the exception of sharing and collaboration.  For individual analysts, they have the full ‘analytics’ power and scalability of Power BI Desktop and the Power BI Service for free.

The Power BI Pro license is only needed for those that need to author and publish content to the enterprise in the form of Microsoft’s new Power BI App model.  Apps are a collection of dashboards, reports, and datasets (similar to the former Content Pack model) but they are stored in a workspace that can be enabled for use in the Power BI Premium capacity space to allow ‘individual license-free access’ to the content.

Convergence of Power BI Embedded + Service

The idea of leveraging Power BI to serve the analytics needs for external customers and suppliers using has been well received by many enterprise clients and ISVs.  This was made possible by the Power BI Embedded service in Azure.  Unfortunately, the embedded product has not scaled in maturity at the same pace of the Power BI Service itself and the gap in features as proven to be painful for some clients.  Included in the recent announcements is the convergence of embedded capability with the Power BI Service leveraging the new premium capacity model.  This immediately brings out full feature capabilities to embedded scenarios and open up new scenarios for clients.

A Winning Combo: Power BI & Avanade

I believe the launch of the Power BI Premium service with its dedicated capacity model in the Power BI service, its mirrored on-premise capability, the convergence of Power BI Embedded with the Power BI Service, and the introduction of the Power BI App model Microsoft has checked just about all the boxes needed to continue widening the gap between themselves and their competitors for enterprise customers.

Since Microsoft has accelerated its climb in the Gartner Magic quadrant for BI applications, Avanade has, in turn, stepped up its Power BI capabilities both within our on-shore delivery teams, as well as expanded capabilities in our off-shore locations around the world.  We saw the demand rising for Power BI skills and the up-stream data supply chain knowledge in Azure data services more than 15 months ago.  Avanade is well positioned to help clients take advantage of the expanded enterprise capability by leveraging our global analytics experience implementing Power BI Governance and Centers of Excellence in a variety of industries and functions.

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