Which Premium SKU is Needed to embed Power BI Reports in SharePoint and Microsoft Teams

A short time ago, I posted an article explaining the difference between a Power BI Pro license, and Power BI Premium capacity, and the fact that you’ll at least need one or the other in order to share a Power BI report on a SharePoint page via the Power BI web part. Although that article didn’t mention it, the same requirement is also true for embedding a report in a Microsoft Teams tab.

Power BI Report embedded in a Microsoft Teams tab

Power BI Report embedded in a SharePoint Page

Since there are two major SKU types for Power BI premium, and that there was (and is) a fair amount of confusion around this area, I also published another article attempting to clear up the confusion. While this article was based on all the information publicly available at the time, new information has pointed out that it is incorrect.

The two major SKU types are P and EM, with P standing for Premium and EM for Embedded. This matters significantly because the two SKU types have significantly different entry points and therefore costs.

The P SKU was the only one introduced when Premium was originally announced. It gives organizations the ability to place Power BI assets in a premium capacity container (a Power BI “app”), and once this is done, anyone can consume these assets whether or not they have a license.

Subsequent to this, an additional SK (EM) was introduced to address Power BI Embedded. Power BI embedded allows an ISV to use Power BI to add reports to their own applications. In this scenario, the reports run from the ISV’s tenant. Originally the assets were housed in Azure, but with the availability of Premium capacity, the decision was made to shift Power BI Embedded to use this new model. Given that the requirements of an ISV are not the same as a general organization, this new  SKU was introduced. The EM SKU comes with a significantly lower entry point and cost, but also with significant restrictions. This is where the confusion sets in.

The wording around the restrictions on the EM SKU indicated that it could not be used for the SharePoint web part, and that a P SKU, or a Pro license would be required for that use case. This is where my earlier article is incorrect. I have since had conversations with the product team, and have been informed in no uncertain terms that the EM SKU CAN be used for both SharePoint web part, and Teams tab embedding of Power BI reports.

This is a very significant difference. An organization that is using Power BI casually, but has a few reports that they want to share with a broad audience was looking at a cost of almost $5,000 per month to do this. Given that the cost of a Pro license is $10/user/month, this meant that the organization needed to have at least 500 frequent report consumers before Premium was even worth considering. Also given the fact that the embedding features available in both SharePoint and Teams require that Pro or Premium SKU, this could be a real disincentive to its use. However, given that the EM SKU start at approximately $650/month for the entire organization, this becomes much more approachable, and it lowers the bar to entry significantly. This should result in significantly greater adoption of these Power BI embedding features, and consequently, of Power BI as a whole.

To be clear, there are still restrictions around the EM SKU. You cannot share Power BI apps with this SKU, but you CAN use it to embed reports in both SharePoint and Microsoft Teams.

Power BI Report Server Completes the Vision for On-Premises Reporting

Microsoft today made available the August 2017 preview of Power BI ReportServer 2017. This preview includes the long awaited support of embedded data models, as well as the ability to render Excel reports natively. This is a major step forward, because with this release, Microsoft has completed its vision for its on-premises reporting platform that it first articulated in October of 2015.

Excel content being rendered in Power BI Reporting Server

The big news at the time was that the platform was stated to be SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS). Not SharePoint, not PerformancePoint, but SSRS. SSRS was a mature product that quite competently provided a platform for operational reports. What it needed was some modernization and the addition of some analytical and self-service reporting capabilities. Several of these capabilities were subsequently included with the release of SSRS 2016.

Gone would be the days of configuring complex SharePoint farms just to be able to work with analytical reports (ie Power View, Excel). New Features were being added to SSRS to make it a complete platform for both analytical and operational reports.

The Vision

The roadmap articulated four different report types, 3 of them analytical (by my definition) and one of them operational. These three types line up with reporting tools in the Microsoft BI stack:

Name Type Primary authoring tool ext
Paginated Operational SSRS Report Builder
SQL Server Data Tools
.RDL
Interactive Analytical Power BI Desktop .PBIX
Mobile Analytical Mobile Report Designer .RDLX
Analytical Analytical Excel .XLSX

Therefore, reading between the lines, in order to be a complete reporting platform, SSRS needed to be able to render all of these report types. Paginated reports were of course always native to SSRS, and the roadmap announced that Mobile reports would be included in SSRS 2016 through the integration of Datazen. The roadmap further committed to SSRS being able to render Power BI files in the future.

SSRS 2016

SSRS shipped with some significant modernization improvements, including a much awaited HTML5 rendering engine, and it included Mobile Reports. Mobile reports are delivered through the Power BI mobile application, and SSRS visuals can be pinned to Power BI dashboards.

Significant plumbing was done to move the platform forward in 2016, but it still only rendered 2 of the 4 report types.

In November 2016, it was further announced that the 2016 version of SSRS running in SharePoint Integrated mode would be the last. Moving forward, Reporting Services will only run in Native Mode. In the same announcement. In the same announcement, as I noted in another post, for the first time, the SSRS team committed to providing Excel report rendering capability as well.

Power BI Reporting Server

We first saw the on premises rendering of Power BI reports in the first community preview of SSRS V.Next in the fall of 2016. Those previews required that the reports be directly connected to SSAS tabular models, but they were ground-breaking just the same. A user could be totally disconnected from the web, and still render Power BI reports.

In May of 2017, Power BI Report Server (PBIRS) was announced. A less confusing name could have potentially been SSRS Premium, because that is in essence what it is. PBIRS is everything that SSRS is, plus the ability to render Power BI reports. SSRS will continue forward as a product without Power BI rendering capabilities. It is just a licensing distinction.

The release today of the August 2017 preview of PBIRS allows for embedded data models, and therefore a much wider breadth of capabilities. These models cannot be automatically refreshed yet, but they will upon release. This is, after all, just a preview. If you need automatic refresh of these data models in the meantime, there is an excellent third party solution to do this: PowerPivot Pro’s Power Update.

The inclusion of Excel report rendering capabilities means that PBIRS is a complete report rendering platform, more complete even that the Power BI cloud service.

Moving Forward

Now that the basic on-premises capability has been provided, SSRS/PBIRS needs to pay attention to paying back the debt that it incurred when SharePoint Integrated mode was deprecated. Chief among these features is the SSRS web part. The lack of a decent web part is a blocker for many organizations to move forward with this strategy. Some migration tools to move from Integrated to Native mode (like this one that migrates in the other direction) would be highly useful as well.

Now with on-premises covering all the bases, it’s easy to spot a glaring hole in the cloud Power BI offering. While it supports all three types of analytical reports, there is currently no way to render operational reports in the cloud. Until this capability is provided, it appears that on-premises will have the most complete solution.

Power BI Embedded is not for Embedding Power BI Reports

NOTICE Sept 17 2017 – The central thrust of this post is incorrect. I am leaving it here, because it still contains valid information, but for an update, please go to this article –  Which Premium SKU is Needed to embed Power BI Reports in SharePoint and Microsoft Teams

I have run into this point of confusion several times since the GA of the Power BI Premium SKU. As I mentioned in my post about licensing, the Power BI web part for SharePoint requires the user viewing the report to have a Pro license. Alternatively, if the organization has purchase Power BI premium capacity, and the report has been deployed to that capacity, then all organizational users will be able to view the report in the web part.

The initial announcement about Premium licensing laid out 5 different SKUs for premium, P1, P2 and P3. These SKUs are the “normal” SKUs that are intended to be used by Power BI customers. The “P” stands for Premium. Subsequently, 3 additional SKUs were announced at the Data Insights summit to be used by ISVs. These SKUs are EM1, EM2, and EM3. The “EM” stands for embedded. The embedded in this case means Power BI embedded. That’s where the confusion sets in.

Power BI Embedded is the ISV offering for Power BI. With Power BI embedded, software vendors can use Power BI as the reporting engine in their application. A number of vendors have taken advantage of this capability in the recent past including Nintex with their Hawkeye product, and ourselves with tyGraph for Yammer Reporting. With Power BI embedded, all of the processing for the application is done in the vendor’s Power BI tenant. Customers don’t require a Power BI license of any sort to use the applications. Recently, Power BI embedded has moved to a premium model as well, which is why the EM SKUs exist. They are for purchase by software vendors to power their own applications.

If we have a look at the pricing for each of these SKUs (in $US/month), we can see that the EM SKUs are significantly cheaper, but they also come with the important restriction that they can ONLY be used by ISVs.

Capacity Node Cores Back end cores Front end cores

Cost

P1 8 4 cores, 25 GB RAM 4 cores

$4,995

P2 16 8 cores, 50 GB RAM 8 cores

$9,995

P3 32 16 cores, 100 GB RAM 16 cores

$19,995

EM1 1 0.5 cores, 3 GB RAM 0.5 cores

$625

EM2 2 1 core, 5 GB RAM 1 core

$1,245

EM3 4 2 cores, 10 GB RAM 2 cores

$2,495

It may be natural to think that because your goal is to “embed” a Power BI report in SharePoint, that you will be able to use one of the cheaper, “embedded” SKUs. Microsoft loves to overload terms when they name things, and this is one of those times that this tendency leads to confusion. Make no mistake, in order to embed a Power BI report in a SharePoint page, and to have other users be able to view it, you will need to have a Pro license, and your users will either need Pro licenses as well, OR your organization will need to have purchased a Power BI Premium “P” SKU, not an “EM” SKU.

What License is Needed to Use the Power BI Web Part?

The Power BI web part is now a part of SharePoint online for the majority of Office 365 users. This web part allows Power BI reports to be embedded on SharePoint pages, putting them in greater context. These web parts are rendered on the client, not on the server like old style web parts, which means that they are rendered by the consuming user, not the server. This means that in order for the report to render properly, the user needs to not only have access to the report, but also needs to be licensed for it.

The Power BI web part is a feature that requires a Pro license for both producers and consumers. This actually makes sense given that any sharing features in Power BI require Pro. Also, given that the consuming user must have access to the report, the report will be contained in a Group workspace, and Group workspaces themselves require a Pro license. So, what happens when a non Pro user opens a SharePoint page containing a Power BI web part report?

Quite simply, the content doesn’t show up.

Premium Capacity

However, on June 1, 2017, the premium pricing model for Power BI became available. Premium allows organizations to purchase premium capacity in the service. When reports are deployed to this premium capacity, users can access these reports without a Pro license. The act of publishing the report still requires a Pro license, but viewing it does not. Therefore, the Pro requirement for the web part goes away if the report is deployed to premium capacity.

This is in fact how it works. To date, I have seen no official announcement or post from Microsoft on this topic. The closest thing is a response to a forum post in the Power BI community forums:

“If the if the user that is trying to consume the embedded report does not have a Power BI Pro license but is part of a Power BI Premium instance, same viewer rights apply meaning that the user can view the report but collaboration features such as Analyze from Excel are not available, in line with regular Power BI Premium related features.”

The bottom line is that in most cases, all users, both producers and consumers will need a Power BI Pro license to be able to use the Power BI web part. The only time that this is not the case is when an organization has purchased premium capacity, and the report is deployed to that capacity. In that case, only the producer requires a Pro license. It should also be noted that in this case,  some features (like export data) will still not be available to the free users.

Power BI Time Values in the Browser are Different Than Those in the Desktop

Have you ever had this experience? You build up your Power BI report using Power BI Desktop, and then when you publish and view the same report in the service, the date/time values are off by a set number of hours. I certainly run into this often enough that it warrants a blog post.

That you’ll notice is that this offset corresponds with the difference between your time zone and UTC (Coordinated Universal Time), the universal time standard. Now, you’ll notice that I didn’t say GMT (Greenwich Mean Time) which many people take to be the time standard, but the difference is that UTC is a time standard, and GMT is a time zone. GMT observes daylight savings time, and UTC does not – it remains constant. In my case, my time zone is Eastern, which is 4 hours behind UTC in the summer, and 5 hours behind in the winter. It is always 5 hours behind GMT. This distinction becomes important as you’ll see.

Coming back to our problem, we will see this problem if we have used the Date/Time/Timezone property in a Power BI Query (or a Power Query in Excel). When one of these column types are converted to Date/Time, the value is automatically localized. The reason that we see the different values is that when it is localized in Power BI Desktop, the machine’s time zone is used to perform the conversion. When this conversion happens in the Power BI service, UTC is used, and this results in different times being used in the browser. This difference can easily throw of any measures that depend are based on time values.

Column as Date/Time/Timezone

Same column as Date/Time

Further complicating things is the fact that DAX (Power Pivot) has no concept of Date/Time/Timezone and all columns of that type are brought into the model without the automatic conversion to local. So, how do we deal with this discrepancy?

We can’t rely on the Power BI service to automatically show the viewer the correct time for the location they happen to be in, so we need to be specific about the time zone that we’re working with. In my case, I need to do this for my tyGraph for Twitter reports, like this one for Microsoft Ignite 2017, or most recently in this session browser for Ignite. For these types of reports, I adjust the times to match the time zone of the events themselves. To do this, I use the modelling capabilities in Power BI desktop to create a new calculated column in the same table that contains the UTC based date.

In DAX, time calculations are done in decimal fractions of a day. Therefore, to create a new column named StartLocal by subtracting 4 hours from a date/time column named StartUTC in a table named Sessions, the formula is:

StartLocal = Sessions[StartUTC]) - 4/24

If the source column contains null or blank values, they will be returned as 1899-12-30 4:00 AM using the formula above, so it’s a good idea to test for this case and return nulls when appropriate. The above formula then becomes:

StartLocal = If(IsBlank(Sessions[StartUTC]),BLANK(),Sessions[StartUTC] - 4/24)

This calculation will reliably return the time in Eastern Daylight Time (UTC -4) for a column that has UTC date/time values in both the Desktop and in the service. If all subsequent time calculations are based on this column, then it is a simple matter of substituting in the appropriate UTC time offset to the calculation above to show the time in a desired time zone.

It would be nice if the report would allow us to specify a “home” time zone with which to base all conversions on. Time zone could then be a property of the report. Until such a time as that happens, this should prove a suitable, if complicated workaround.