Dan English's BI Blog

Welcome to my random thoughts in regards to Business Intelligence, databases, and other technologies

On-Premises Power BI VOL. 2

Posted by denglishbi on May 5, 2017

Here we go again, round 2 (or should I say Vol. 2). I am back to discuss how I feel (and I am sure quite a few others do as well) about the new information we received this week on Microsoft Power BI on-premises. You can check out my first blog post regarding this here – On-Premises Power BI–A Microsoft Story.

All of the opinions and information that I state in this post here is simply my personal experiences as well as a few thoughts that I just wanted to post. Oh and by the way, I am not a graphic artist by any means, so please don’t slam me for my mocked up image below. I love movies, so just wanted to put this quick little graphic together, I hope you like it.


What we have learned this week is that Microsoft will provide customers two options to get the on-premises Power BI functionality that will be part of what has now been called Power BI Report Server (this is actually a superset of Report Server – so includes all Report Server functionality plus Power BI). Option 1 is for organizations to go with the new Power BI Premium option. So basically along with the Power BI Service cloud functionality, Microsoft is providing customers the on-premises Power BI Report Server which will include a SQL Server Technology License that you can use to install Power BI Report Server, database engine, and Analysis Services (SSAS) on a single server. The SSAS will provide users the ability to create the data models for the live SSAS connections that Power BI on-premises will initially support. Basically this option will cost an organization roughly $5k/month at minimum based on the calculator (so we are talking at least $60k/year).

Option 2 then is for customers that purchase SQL Server Enterprise Edition (EE) along with Software Assurance (SA). If you have this then you will be entitled to Power BI Report Server, but there is a catch, read all of the fine print in the post (particularly the bold text).

Power BI Report Server is an on-premises server that enables Power BI Pro users to publish Power BI reports and distribute them broadly across the enterprise, without requiring report consumers to be licensed individually per user.

So what this means is that even though you just invested $XXX,XXX six figures or possibly more for your SQL Server EE + SA you will also need to pay a $10/month subscription fee for each Power BI Desktop report author that wants to publish reports to the Power BI Report Server. But wait, there is more! If consumers of the report want to export reports to say PowerPoint or Excel (and come on, how many users don’t want to export reports…), they will also need Power BI Pro licenses.  Granted the text might not call that out specifically, but that is what is also meant by “distribute”.  What most users will see is just the following in the post:

without requiring report consumers to be licensed individually per user

So that statement is not necessarily true from what I have been told, if a user wants to export a report, that will cost each user $10/month subscription because they will require a Power BI Pro license.

Now I don’t believe technically Microsoft will be able to enforce and track the Power BI Pro license for on-premises to enable / disable features such as publishing and export, but if you were ever audited then that could come back to bite you if you didn’t purchase them and are using this functionality.

How do I feel about this…. I am not happy by any means. I don’t understand this at all to try and nickel and dime customers of SQL EE + SA that want to leverage the Power BI on-premises. First Power BI wasn’t made available to SQL 2016 customers and has been pushed (or at least we thought) into SQL 2017 (formerly known as vNext). Now we are finding out that the Technical Previews of Reporting Services we have been using with Power BI functionality is not going to be made available to SQL 2017 customers unless you purchase EE + SA. But even if you do purchase that you also have to buy Power BI Pro subscriptions!!!

Hmmm…. I am trying to draw a comparison here of how I see this being played out.


Do you see where I am going with this? Can you draw any similarities here? T-Mobile vs Sprint?

So for my company we already have on-premises Power BI and we have been using this now for almost a year. This is because we own BI Office (Pyramid Analytics). For BI Office on-premises Power BI is provided and supported and there are no hidden fees, taxes, charges, costs, etc. associated with the product to get this functionality. All we need to do is pay our yearly maintenance agreement (and that is like 60% less than what we would need to pay for Power BI Premium). And in addition to Power BI on-premises we also get all of the BI Office features like dashboards, R integration, and much more! I can actually incorporate BI Office reports, SSRS reports, Power BI reports, and more all on a single dashboard page and they can all interact with each other!!! How cool is that? Kind of reminds me of PerformancePoint, but this actually works and is much easier to configure!

I am truly disappointed in the decision that has been made here for Microsoft customers. We have been working on our new BI roadmap for the Power BI the past two years, had a delay in the Power BI on-premises release, and now we need to possibly payout even more money. That is confusing and frustrating for customers (and champions / advocates of Microsoft BI like myself) and is definitely going to bite Microsoft. Enough with the games Microsoft, have we not been patient enough? I am sorry to say that now we are most likely not going down this path and I am extremely upset about this because I have been wanting and pushing for this capability. So for us we are going back to the BI roadmap and looking at Plan B and focusing our attention on the un-carrier.

21 Responses to “On-Premises Power BI VOL. 2”

  1. juanbizzz said

    100% agree !

  2. barneylawrence said

    Thanks for making this clear. I asked for clarification on the need for Power BI Pro licences in the comments of the on premises announcement and the post was deleted.
    I’ve been working hard to get Power BI embedded in our organisation and the promise of support in 2016 was what drove that and then it got dropped. The push to establish the need for 2017 with a server team who is just about ready to move on from SQL 2008,R2 has been tough and this has probably killed our last hope for Power BI.

    • Barney,

      if you have SQL Server 2016 EE + SA (or even earlier versions), then you can install the Power BI Report Server.
      Normally there will be different SKUs for Power BI Embedded in Power BI Premium, so you won’t have to pay the full $60K/year. (nothing has been announced yet about these SKUs though).
      All hope is not lost yet.


      • Steven J Neumersky said

        While I think people are naive for thinking an investment in a product with monthly updates was going to be free all around on premises, I do not like being jerked around about it’s POTENTIAL inclusion at no cost into SSRS. Hello Pyramid Analytics…I would like a trial version please!

  3. Reblogged this on MS Excel | Power Pivot | DAX | SSIS |SQL.

  4. Wes said

    WOW! This is HORRIBLE! I was so excited about PowerBI baked in to SSRS in 2017! I was finally pushing true BI to my company, rather than just reporting. A sad day, to say the least.

  5. mim said

    Excellent thoughts, don’t you think for Microsoft BI stack, still SSAS/Excel is a very sensible solution, assuming you don’t require mobile access.

    • denglishbi said

      That is an alternative solution to explore, but currently you can’t share that in the browser with SSRS. That is supposedly coming down the road, but that appears most likely it will follow suit with how Microsoft is handling Power BI licensing. Meaning it will be an additional charge in addition to your SQL EE + SA. So the one stop shop for all reports is going to cost more $$$ now.

  6. […] On-Premise Power BI VOL. 2 […]

  7. […] is confusing, and I liked in a few other thoughts on the announcement from others, such as Dan English and James Serra. Both note that the free tier gets to connect to the same data sources as the Pro […]

  8. Evandro Muchinski said

    “SQL Server Enterprise Edition per-core customers with active Software Assurance (SA) will also have the rights to deploy Power BI Report Server through SA entitlement.”

    • denglishbi said

      Correct, that was option 2 in my post, the caveat with that is though that you will be required to purchase Power BI Pro licenses for all report authors that want to publish to share and distribute, this also includes any users that will want to export any report content. So just because you paid $XXX,XXX for your SQL EE + SA doesn’t fully cover the total costs to leverage Power BI Report Server.

  9. Shaun Ryan said

    They seem a bit indecisive in their strategy of drawing a line between cloud and on-premise. Once you have PowerBI pro you can have cloud stuff – and why should it be free. It seems they just can’t help themselves to force you into the cloud because essentially that’s what they perhaps really want. They could unhook power BI desktop for on premise features from cloud pricing completely… and just charge the license fee for the actual cloud service. For me the on-premise option or a hybrid option still outshines PowerBI alone… Some reporting requirements still require the detailed precision of SSRS and I’d want my dashboard BI to integrate with it in a single place. I still have a lot report requirements that means I can’t use power BI because of limited report customization options out of the box. The remaining options are dev it R or type script or just use SSRS which I know will do the job.

  10. Great comments, Dan. Thanks for calling out all of the licensing gotchas.

  11. […] another perspective on Microsoft’s announcement, read this post from Dan English, a Microsoft MVP. Dan’s organization uses Pyramid Analytics’ BI Office (which […]

  12. Sachin said

    It wasn’t clear from the announcement and I have not yet found any features list for the on-Prem solution. This helps to plan out the on-Prem implementation. Thnx Dan !

  13. On a side note, it’s “on premises”, not “on premise”.. 🙂
    Brian Madden explains it very well here: http://www.brianmadden.com/opinion/So-apparently-we-lost-the-grammar-war-and-on-premises-is-just-called-on-premise-now

    • denglishbi said

      Thanks and yes, I saw that discussion as well. Technical blog and thoughts, not a formal published book that I am selling, so grammar is not going to always be 100% accurate:) Thanks for sharing though.

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