If you’re considering Power BI as your organization’s analytics suite then you’ve no doubt heard of Power BI Premium. Put simply, Power BI is the organization-level subscription for all Power BI services. Besides licensing all users with the ability to strictly interact with content, Power BI Premium licenses the capacity of every dashboard, dataset, and report.
The capacity model you select will designate the processing power behind your entire analytics workspace, and selecting the right one is crucial to the success and adoption of your analytics program regardless of the stage of your organization’s analytics maturity.
In this blog, we’ll dive into the benefits and true cost of Power BI Premium, and help you understand which SKU makes the most sense for your business (both today and in the future).
What is Power BI Premium and Premium Per User?
In order to understand the different license tiers in Power BI, it’s important to understand what Power BI Premium means in the context of your organization’s subscription. Power BI Premium is a capacity-based offering that includes:
- Flexibility to publish reports broadly across an enterprise, without requiring recipients to be licensed individually per user.
- Greater scale and performance than shared capacity in the Power BI service.
- The ability to maintain BI assets on-premises with Power BI Report Server.
- One API surface, a consistent set of capabilities, and access to the latest features for embedded analytics.
It consists of all capacity allocated within your organization and is supported by dedicated hardware fully managed by Microsoft. Your organization can choose how to apply the capacity and allocate it to different workspaces and users based on workload needs, as well as scale up and down as requirements change.
Premium Per User (PPU) is a new way to license premium features on a per-user basis and includes all Power BI Pro license capabilities, along with features like paginated reports, AI, and other capabilities that previously were only available with a Premium capacity.
With a PPU license, you do not need a separate Power BI Pro license, as all Pro license capabilities are included in PPU. Premium Per User is the lowest entry-point for Power BI Premium features at $20 per user per month. As such, it is built upon the Premium platform which has built-in mechanisms ensuring PPU users can leverage the platform’s ability to scale.
Premium Per user is designed to support enterprise workloads, against Power BI items with size limits that are equivalent to that of a P3.
If your organization has at least 500 users, you’re probably a good candidate for Power BI Premium. Pro licenses are $9.99 per user per month, and the entry-level SKU of Power BI Premium costs $4,995 per month, making Premium a better value proposition. Additionally, if you have less than 500 users but work with very large datasets, need dedicated capacity, or require larger storage capacity, you’ll also want Power BI Premium.
While PPU offers most of the premium features for individual users, it differs significantly from Power BI Premium in terms of Share. PPU does not grant users unlimited distribution rights. When you have a Premium license, reports and content in Premium capacity can be shared with users who have a free license.
This is useful for large organizations that want many users to view and interact with reports and data because they don’t need everyone to have a Power BI Pro license and only need the Power BI Free license to view the content.
But PPU doesn’t do that, and any content saved in PPU workspaces can only be shared with users who also have a Power BI Premium Per User license.
What is the Price of Power BI Premium?
SKUs (A1-A6) is a Platform-as-a-Service and set of APIs for Independent Software Vendors who are developing an application to take to market. These ISVs choose to use Power BI as the data visualization layer of that application to add value to their own application.
As such, Power BI assets contained in Power BI Embedded capacities cannot be accessed by a licensed Power BI user, but are only accessed by customers of the ISV’s application
- A1 ~$750/month
- A2 ~$1,500/month
- A3 ~$3,000/month
- A4 ~$6,000/month
- A5 ~$12,000/month
- A6 ~$24,000/month
SKUs (P1-P3) for embedding and enterprise features. The commitment is monthly or yearly, it is billed monthly and includes a license to install Power BI Report Server on-premises.
- P1 ~$5,000/month
- P2 ~$10,000/month
- P3 ~$20,000/month
- P4 ~$40,000/month
- P5 ~$80,000/month
SKUs (EM1-EM3) for organizational embedding. The commitment is yearly and it is billed monthly. EM1 and EM2 SKUs are available only through volume licensing plans (Office 365). You can’t purchase them directly. In an EM SKU environment, we recommend looking at the PPU option for developers in a separate workspace to avoid crossing hairs with business-critical reports that your free-licensed viewers will be interacting with.
- EM1 ~$625/month
- EM2 ~$1,250/month
- EM3 ~$2,500/month
The SKU represents the storage, memory, and a set amount of resources consisting of processors where ALL SKUs are considered as capacity nodes. Each SKU contains operational limits on the number of DirectQuery and Live Connections per second, and the number of parallel model refreshes.
The A SKU pertains to capacity that solely includes Power BI embedded capability, and is typically reserved for customers that are developing applications for third parties rather than internal customers.
For this blog, we’ll take the assumption that you’re looking to deploy Power BI for internal capabilities and only focus on the P and EM SKUs. With P and EM SKUs, all viewers can utilize unlimited free licenses and you can set your developers up with Pro or Premium Per User licenses.
The resources and limitations of each Premium SKU (and equivalently sized A SKU) are described below:
Processing is achieved by a set number of v-cores, divided equally between the back and front end. Back-end v-cores are also known as active datasets where it has assigned a fixed amount of memory that is primarily used to host models. Back-end v-cores are responsible for core Power BI functions like query processing, cache management, running R services, model refreshes, natural language processing, and server-side rendering of reports and images.
Front-end v-cores are responsible for the following activities: Web services, dashboard, and report document management, access rights management scheduling, APIs, uploads and downloads, and everything related to the user experiences. Storage is set to 100 TB per capacity node.
What SKU Should You Choose?
Determining the size and number of Premium capacities can be challenging, especially for the initial capacities you create. The first step when capacity sizing is to understand the average workload representing expected day-to-day usage.
It’s important to consider that not all workloads are equal. For example – at one end of a spectrum – 100 concurrent users accessing a single report page that contains a single visual is easily achievable. Yet – at the other end of the spectrum – 100 concurrent users accessing 100 different reports, each with 100 visuals on the report page, is going to make very different demands of capacity resources.
When thinking about which SKU will be able to handle your environment’s specific activity levels, there are a few key factors to consider:
Model size and data – The storage method of each model will have different effects on capacity. Import models will be fully loaded into memory to allow queries/refreshes, whereas live connections and DirectQuery models require significant processing time and memory to evaluate measures or RLS rules. Additionally, dataset size will play a factor in performance. Large datasets can be resource intensive. You should have at least a P1 or an A4 SKU for any datasets larger than one GB. As a recommendation, P1 should only have .pbix files up to 3GB, P2 up to 6GB, and P3-5 up to 10GB. Note that if you are on a Premium Per User capacity then the 10GB limit applies.
Concurrent active models – The selected capacity should bear in mind how many different models will be queried at the same time, as memory will need to be allocated to both host frequently queried models as well as all refreshes. In Premium capacity, concurrent refreshes are constrained by the capacity size (1.5x backend v-cores). Keep in mind the complexity of reports as well as the number of visuals. Reports can become unresponsive if there are too many concurrent queries.
Dataflows and paginated reports – Capacity can be configured to support any dataflows or paginated reports, with each requiring a configurable maximum percentage of memory. The memory will be dynamically allocated to your dataflows, but the memory allocated to paginated reports is static.
With each of these factors in mind, you may also consider creating multiple capacities in order to isolate workloads that may require more resources. Our recommendation is to consider creating a capacity for business-critical reports and a separate one for self-service workloads to ensure users don’t max out the resources required for those business-critical reports.
In Premium Capacity, you can also mix and match aspects of your SKUs. For instance, you could break your P3 SKU into a P1 and P2 capacity in order to meet your needs. Additionally, you’ll want to consider how many users you’ll have interacting with your Power BI service, and in what capacity.
Pro users will be creating and publishing reports, while frequent and occasional users may only be interacting with a few reports. Below, we’ve included a rough estimate calculator for you to generate a SKU recommendation based on the number of these different types of users.
If you aren’t sure what license your users will have, check out our blog on the different types of licenses in Power BI.
Keep in mind that these are rough estimates based on available pricing data from Microsoft. Actual costs will vary depending on a number of factors discussed above. For a detailed pricing estimate, we recommend utilizing the Power BI Capacity Load Assessment Tool or reaching out to the pros here at phData to develop a comprehensive strategy for Power BI enablement at your organization.
While there is no one size fits all approach for Power BI Premium capacity deployment, there are a few key factors to consider before you get started. Depending on your analytics maturity, you may not have all of the answers to the questions we’ve covered in this blog. That’s okay!
Incorporating these questions into your decision process will make sure that your platform is set up for success when you are ready to start deploying content.
If you’re just getting started developing an analytics strategy, we want to help. Each decision you make at every step of analytics deployment will be critical to the success of your program, and selecting the right Power BI Premium SKU is just one piece of the puzzle.
At phData, we know this work is foundational to your success and we are here to help. Drawing from years of experience, learning, iterating, and doing this for customers at every stage of their life cycle, we’ve built a set of tools, processes, reference architectures, and a team that is ready to help you get on the right path towards better-utilizing data and analytics within your organization(s).