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Your Guide to Power BI Premium

Who is Power BI premium meant for, does your organization need Power BI premium, and what are the benefits of Power BI premium compared to Power BI Pro?

First, let's cover what doesn't change with Power BI Premium, and the existing options for Power BI users. Power BI Pro Licenses are still $10 a month, and will meet the needs of about 99% of all organizations. Power BI Pro Licenses are necessary for users to share a dashboard and reports. So, if you have 5 business analysts creating Power BI reports and dashboards, and 5 C-level executives and managers who will also be consuming it, you'll need 10 Power BI Pro Licenses.

There are two different User Tiers:

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Now, a quick reference guide to the remaining Power BI portfolio:

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What is Power BI Premium?

The standard Power BI Pro uses "Shared Capacity", meaning your Power BI data is securely stored in the Power BI service, but other organizations data could also exist in the same cloud environment (hardware). Power BI Premium is "license by capacity", providing an organization with a dedicated cloud environment for Power BI. This is like an Azure VM in a lot of ways, coming in three tiers with different levels of CPU Cores and Memory. The benefits of which are discussed later in this post.

Here's an overview of other feature differences as well:

temp-post-imageIt basically boils down to four feature differences:

1. Dataset Size
2. Refresh Rate
3. Dedicated Hardware
4. Simplified distribution of Reports and Dashboards

How much do these “Premium” features cost? (Warning, Sticker Shock May Occur!)

Well, here are the three pricing nodes available as of this writing (06/19/2017).

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“Power BI Premium reminded me of a bladeless fan; it solves problems that nobody ever had, and charges an exorbitant price to do so.”

My initial review of these differences and the pricing scheme had me scratching my head. Power BI Premium reminded me of a bladeless fan; it seemed aimed at solving problems nobody had and charging an exorbitant price to do so. Even more so, Power BI premium is an add-on to Power BI Pro, so for users developing reports and dashboards, you’ll still need to purchase Power BI Pro licenses for them.

First, the dataset size of 1 GB is more than sufficient for 99%+ of users, and if a user is running into this as an issue there are two solutions:
• The have a poorly designed data model and need to reconfigure it – Power BI Premium will allow you to upload it, but it won’t make your model any more efficient.
• They’re a big organization with lots of data, and they can make their data model into an SSAS tabular model and connect via a live connection.

The Second feature difference is the Refresh Rate. Going from 8 a day to 48 times a day isn’t enough to satisfy the users who were hoping for more frequent refreshes (i.e., every minute or 5 minutes), and it doesn’t add value for the clear majority of users whose needs are met with the 8 scheduled refreshes.

Third, the difference between Dedicated hardware (Power BI Premium) vs. Shared Capacity didn’t make sense to me at first. The dedicated hardware is no more secure than the Shared Capacity version (Seriously, no difference in security – ask Microsoft). However, there is one actual benefit that comes from the dedicated hardware; If you have data or are an organization based in a European, Non-UK country, they may have laws that dictate data in the cloud and require you use hardware that is dedicated to your organization's data ONLY.

Lastly, the ability to distribute reports to workspaces organization-wide. Power BI Pro allows you to easily share and distribute reports and dashboards to any other Pro user in an organization. Now, if you’re a very large organization with 100,000 employees that will need to access Power BI dashboards, Power BI Pro is prohibitively expensive (100,000 * $10 per month = $1,000,000 per month). Here’s where Power BI Premium finally adds some value, where the same organization could now utilize Power BI for roughly 5,000-10,000 dollars a month. With Power BI Premium, you don’t need a pro license for every user, just for report authors. However, there are other ways to distribute dashboards that aren’t based on pro user, such as publish to the web.

Now, this has got to be a pretty rare circumstance. It would mean that more than 500 users must frequently use Power BI dashboards and that the alternative solution of publishing a report, then putting the link on an intranet or SharePoint, is not possible.

To summarize, here are the questions you need to ask to see if Power BI Premium makes sense for you:
1. Does your organization have more than 500 Power BI Pro users, with the majority having a license just to consume the data?
a. Users are defined requiring any of the following: collaboration, data modeling, content authoring, dashboards, sharing, ad-hoc analysis, and report publishing.
2. Do you have data or is your organization based in a European, Non-UK country that has laws dictating cloud data storage?

If your answer is yes to any of the questions above, then I’d advise looking further into Power BI Premium by going to the Cost Calculator.


Points to consider for Microsoft: Marketing Power BI Premium should be very targeted, not mass marketed to organizations with no use for it. Fun fact, less than 99.8% of organizations in the US are larger than 500 employees. However, Power BI Premium is being marketed to everyone without distinction. If I sell Ferrari’s, I have a different marketing approach and target group than if I’m Ford.
Points to Consider for Power BI Consultants/Evangelists: Power BI Premium introduces confusion, making it harder for new users/organizations to figure out the cost of Power BI. Unfortunately, this can weaken/obfuscate some of Power BI’s strongest selling points, such as its cost effectiveness compared to competitors like Tableau. Knowing the actual use cases for Power BI Premium, as well as the costs, will help you guide your client/organization to using the appropriately.

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