Understand Power BI Licences

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There is a lot of licences and architecture possibilities when a customer wants Power BI for a company deploying BI solution. It’s not as simple as « Get me x Power BI licences ». You have to ask few questions before and then choose the appropriate solution. This post is mainly focus on compliance with MSDyn365FO.

The questions are :

  • How many users need to design Power BI Reports ?
  • How many users need to view shared Power BI Reports ?
  • Are your end users capable to design their ower Power BI Report within Power BI Desktop ?
  • Do you want to retrieve Power BI Reports within MS Dynamics F&O workspace ?
  • What is the maximum size of your Dataset (e.g. the cube you want to request for designing a Power BI Report) ? That question is hard to estimate.
  • What level of flexibility do you want for designing reports ? Is it something important ?
  • What is your global budget (yearly) for Power BI including licences ?

Each question could be a variable and it’s obviously not a simple topic. Let’s have a look.

As a remainder, the basic process to design and integrate Power BI Report into workspace is the following .

Free licence

Under your Azure Portal, you can attach to each user a Power BI (free) licence. With that, you will be able to create Power BI Reports under Power BI Desktop which is free. You just need to connect to the approriate source and go for it.

The limitation is that you cannot shared with anyone under Power BI Web. Consequently, it’s also not possible to retrieve any Report under a MSDyn365FO workspace.

The only thing you can plan is to have yout PBIX Report shared under a shared disk. Be careful of security, because everyone is able to update your Report.

So it’s free, not shared properly and not available within MSDyn365FO.

Power BI Pro

That’s the first option when you think of Power BI with integrated MSDyn365FO workspace and mostly sharing dashboards with other within the same company.

So, it’s basically ~8€ /month and per user. You can design Power BI Reports and share them from PowerBI.com to groups or users. From there you can deploy to MSDyn365FO and integrate them on workspaces. Don’t forget to licence the read only user if you want them to be able to consult the shared reports (either from PowerBI.com or from MSDyn365FO or mobile device).

Note : already included in the Office 365 E5 licence (for a cost ~34€/month).

An example : if your company has 5 Power BI designer and 200 users that will need to consult them from MSDyn365FO or mobile device, you will have to purchase 205 Pro licences.

Some limations : the dataset have to be lesser than 1Go ; refresh is done maximum 8 times/day. If that’s not enough, you may consider purchasing a Premium licence.

Power BI Premium

From the licencing side, it’s the Roll Royce….and so is the price. You can purchase a Power BI Premium P1 to P5 depending on the number of virtual cores (from 8 to 128). The price start from ~4212 € per month to ~67459 € per month for P5.

The following service are included in the premium licence :

  • Enterprise BI, big data analytics, cloud and on-premises reporting
  • Advanced administration and deployment controls
  • Dedicated cloud compute and storage resources
  • Allows any user to consume Power BI content

Basically, you will be able to manage your Power BI Environnement more precisely, to open access and connections to multiple areas/sites and so much more described here.

The main advantages I can see is the improvement of performances (by using incremental data refresh for instance), the possibility to have a dataset up to 10Go, and the near real time upadte (up to 48 times per day). Moreover, you don’t need to licence the read only user anymore. Keep in mind that you still have to keep some Power BI Pro licence for users who designed and shared Power BI Reports.

Globally, we can suggest this configuration for big customers or when the database of your customer is huge.

Différences between Power BI Premium and  Pro are available here.

Power BI Embedded

That solution make sense only for ISV company that develop applications with some Power BI. For MSDyn365FO ISV, if your solution have some Power BI integrated it could be relevant. With a Power BI Embedded licence, your customers will not have to worry about Power BI Licencing and will be able to use your Power BI reports.

It’s highly not recommanded to propose Power BI Embedded to customers. Think more of Power BI Premium or Pro for them.

Moreover, princing is quite complexe and apply per hour as you can see here.

One tip and trick : if you wish to deploy Power BI and need to consult reports only few time during the year (like at the end of each month), you can activate Power BI Embedded just when needed. By activating/desactivating the Azure service you can use it ponctually with low costs. It’s not recommanded by Microsoft but works.

Power BI Embedded 365 FO

This could be the MSDyn365FO best solution for Power BI needs… as it’s free.  You can see a quick introduction here. In fact, when you have subscribed to MSDyn365FO, there is some predefined cube that you can use to setup Power BI reports. Some things to know though :

  • The process is not based using PowerBI.com to share dashboard but through predefined cubes called Entity store (like the SSAS cube you may have known in Ax 2012).
  • The list of standard Entity Store is available under System administration > Setup > Entity Store
  • Those Entity store are connected to the native Data Warehouse of MSDyn365FO (AxDW table). Consequently, it possible to design reports only from MSDyn365FO source.
  • It’s only possible to plug those Entity Store under some specific workspaces, called analytical workspaces. The whole standard analytical workspace liste is available here.
  • You can adjust the reports directly from the workspace. It’s not like personalizations, it will here apply for everyone who can access to the report. (don’t forget to allocate the System report editor role)
  • You can add some Custom Entity Store with the help of a technical consultant
  • Still with the help of a technical consultant, you can create a custom workspace that will display your new Power BI report designed from Power BI Desktop from the new custom Entity Store.
  • Already available in MultiBox environnements, but require some setup for OneBox environnement (like Contoso environnement or developer sandbox). See the tuto.
  • Pay attention for OneBox environnement, and additional Azure SQL Database will applied because in the configuration you will need to setup an Azure connection at some point. (cost between 130 € to 350 € /month depending of how you turn off/on the VM). It’s mandatory having OneBox connected with Power BI Embedded to consult reports within MSDyn365FO. But it’s not mandatory in your environnement management process. It just means for your developper to be able to see the workspace with Power BI in its own OneBox he will need the Azure SQL Database. It’s more safe but it’s possible for the technical consultant to run unit test outside of MSDyn365FO and doesn’t need any Azur SQL Database connection. You can test directly on the UAT environnement without unit tests in the devlopper environnement (not the best way but you can earn money).

To conclude on this, Power BI Embedded 365 is free. You can manage every report you want but it will require the help of a technical consultant. You also will have to restrict your data to MSDyn365FO only. This is quite rigid, not flexible, but it does the job. If your customer has some technical skills within his IT team, it could be the solution.

Data Lake

Finally, another possibility to design Power BI report is to use the Azure Data Lake Storage Gen2, which is a set of capabilities dedicated to big data analytics. Actually it’s more an architecture choice than a licence optimizer solution.

In a Power BI context, you will be able to duplicate the available entity store on flat file within the Data Lake. You can setup your own Data Lake, monitor the performance and the control the setup. The cost of the Data Lake itself is very low as you only need Azure suscription (cost of csv / flat file storage).

The other advantage is that you will be able to retrieve data not only from Entity Store, but also from Data Entities and Table of your MSDyn365FO environnement. You can also add external data sources, which is a plus.

After setting up your Data Lake, (tuto here) you will be able to setup your Power BI report under Power BI Desktop, but you will earn a lot of time by using the Dataflow, in order to work on data (add measures, aggregations, sort, etc) from the Data Lake.

With Dataflow  you can also make incremential refresh instead of full refresh which will improve the performances.

From a licence perspective, it doesn’t change a lot according to previous solutions. If you want to share Power BI Reports with other it requires a Power BI Pro licence. If you want to retrieve the Power BI Reports within MSDyn365FO workspaces it will require Power BI Pro licences (or Premium).



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