Microsoft's Power BI Premium Hits Prime Time

The "Premium" version of Microsoft's Power BI data analytics offering is now generally available.

Monday's launch of Power BI Premium, which Microsoft first announced last month, coincided with the kickoff of the Microsoft Data Insights Summit event in Seattle, Wash., where Microsoft also revealed upcoming Power BI capabilities that will bring more drill-down capabilities and advanced ways of querying data using conversational input.

Since the release of Power BI three years ago, Microsoft has fast-tracked the addition of new tools, integration capabilities and scale of its self-service visualization offering. Power BI is now used by 2 million people who create 30,000 data models in Power BI services every day, said James Phillips, corporate vice president of Microsoft's Business Applications, Platform and Intelligence (BAPI) organization, during the summit's opening keynote.

Phillips said Power BI is integrated with "content packs" embedded among thousands of software and SaaS offerings using its common API. "If you go back three of four years, there were reasonable questions about Microsoft's commitment to the business intelligence market," Phillips said. "I think if you look at the levels of investments that we've made, the progress that we've made, the growth of our user population, I think those questions are far behind us."

Microsoft believes it can change the economics of delivering visualized operational analytical data from any data source. The release of Power BI Premium comes with a new licensing model that allows for the distribution of reports enterprisewide, as well as externally to business partners and customers. The cost of embedding Power BI Premium into apps starts at $625 per month.

Power BI Premium is offered in a variety of capacities, virtual core and memory sizes, depending on the requirements of the application. Microsoft posted a Power BI Premium calculator to help customers estimate the configurations they'll need and the monthly costs. According to Microsoft, the scale of Power BI comes from the fact that it is deployed throughout its Azure footprint.

The new premium offering offers an on-premises Power BI Report Server. In addition to Power BI Premium customers, those with SQL Server Enterprise Edition and Software Assurance (SA) can deploy the Power BI Report Server via their entitlements.

Microsoft Technical Fellow Amir Netz also took the stage during the opening keynote to announce new features coming to Power BI Premium this summer that will allow customers to embed Power BI into their applications. He also demonstrated how Power BI Premium allows key Microsoft applications to generate visualizations. For example, users can embed Power BI reports into SharePoint collaboration projects "that are fully dynamic and fully updateable that you can distribute to everybody," Netz said.

In addition to Power BI working with SharePoint, Netz said it works with the new Microsoft Teams collaboration workspace application, allowing members of a team to add Power BI reports. "All you have to do is go to the channel and pick one of the workspaces you want it to work with and, just like that, I have a Power BI report embedded into Microsoft Teams," he said.

Also demonstrated was the forthcoming Microsoft Visio custom visual, which Microsoft will release next month, though a preview is now available.

Netz also described new capabilities that will allow users to act on data generated from Power BI Premium, which will be enabled though Microsoft's Power Apps offering. Netz said users will be able to write back directly to Power BI. The keynote also showcased a new Quick Insights feature that will allow advance predictive analytics via the Power BI Desktop, enabling people to gather answers to queries.

About the Author

Jeffrey Schwartz is editor of Redmond magazine and also covers cloud computing for Virtualization Review's Cloud Report. In addition, he writes the Channeling the Cloud column for Redmond Channel Partner. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreySchwartz.