PowerBI goes OnPrem


Having Power BI as an on-premise solution is probably one of the most requested "Ask" I get from customers. There are a large chunk of them wanting an on-premise solution with little interest in hosting anything on the cloud. This can be due to various reasons such as a sense of security, regulatory requirements, unfamiliarity with cloud technologies, etc. Although Power BI does allow you to maintain data on-premise via a data gateway, the portal itself is still very much a cloud offering.

The good news is, "on-premise Power BI" is about to come true! Remember the SQL Server Technical Preview with Power BI running embedded in Reporting Services? Well, that's not it. That plan is shelf, dead, gone. What's replacing it is the Power BI Report Server. So what is Power BI Report Server?

In a nutshell, it's like a SSRS (SQL Server Reporting Services) stand-alone server that can also host Power BI reports. It is "Built on proven SSRS technology" as depicted by Microsoft.

Power BI Server 1

Besides hosting PBI (Power BI) reports, it can also host SSRS reports. In fact you can migrate all your SSRS report from your current SSRS native server to Power BI Report Server by migrating the SSRS database.

Power BI Server 7

The Power BI dashboard portal would be similar with the current hosted Power BI portal, allowing you to Pin charts, maps, graphics and drilling down to individual PBI reports. However, certain features such as Q&A, Quick Insights and creating Content Packs will not be available for the current release.

The Power BI Report Server can be scaled-out just like SSRS in Native mode. Notice the similarities? and Single Sign-On can be achieved via Active Directory Federated Services.

Power BI Server 2

Power BI Report Server will follow "Microsoft's modern life-cycle policy" which basically means it will get a frequent update cycle, currently planned for 3 times per year. Any new Power BI Report Server release will be accompanied with a Power BI Desktop release as well, which must be upgraded simultaneously.

Btw, the Power BI Desktop version use to deploy PBI reports to Power BI Report Server will be different from the current Power BI Desktop that's now available. Meaning, we will now have 2 versions of Power BI Desktop. Go figure!

You would have thought Microsoft would just maintain a single version of Power BI Desktop rather than having 2 versions of essentially the same product. Perhaps it's a trend now to have 2 version of everything? (Windows 10 S ... ahem). Anyways, it's said to be temporary and both versions of Power BI Desktop should have the same rich authoring feature.

Power BI Server 3

How does one acquire Power BI Report Server?
You either subscribe to Power BI Premium or via purchasing SQL Server Enterprise Edition with SA (Software Assurance). Let's talk about Power BI Premium first. It is basically a new Power BI offering that provides dedicated capacity for your Cloud hosted Power BI portal.

The Power BI Premium calculator can assist you in judging how much it's going to cost you based on number of users. Just punch in the number of users and it will estimate if they are Pro, Frequent or Occasional Users. Power BI Pro subscription is required for users who publish PBI reports while View only users doesn't require additional subscription. You can manually adjust the dials accordingly for type of users you have and it will adjust the sizing accordingly.

Power BI Server 4

You will notice that the bulk of the cost comes from "P1 nodes". So what are these Nodes? These nodes depicts a certain Dedicated Capacity assigned to your subscription. Currently, Power BI is running on a shared architecture, meaning same set of machines for multiple users. When you subscribe to a "P1 node", a certain amount of dedicated virtual machine cores is assign to you... hence it being "Premium"... essentially becoming a dedicated cloud compute offering.

It also acts as a sort of hardware sizing guidelines for your own Power BI Report Server to be deployed on-premise. There is the Front-end machine to provide the dashboard management, web service, API, etc... and the Back-end machine that does the query processing, data refreshes, etc. Hence, it seems like you will need at least a 2 Tier setup to host your own on-premise Power BI. Judging from my brief play-through with the calculator, about every 1000 pro users require an additional P1 nodes. It doesn't seem to recommend any other type of nodes for now... seems to be stuck with P1.

Power BI Server 5

So in summary, say you subscribe to P1, you will have your own dedicated Power BI (cloud) capacity of 8 v-Cores and also the rights to install the Power BI Report Server (On-Prem) of up to 8 v-Cores.
Read more about it here.

If you acquire Power BI Report Server thru SQL Server Enterprise with SA, it's not necessary to subscribe to Power BI Premium. The # of v-Cores you are entitled to install Power BI Report Server will be based on SQL Server Enterprise core licensing. Meaning, SQL Server per Core license is "the" licensing model for Power BI Report Server.

With the release of Power BI Report Server, Microsoft now have 3 reporting options.

Power BI Server 6

It does seem to breakdown like a "On-Premise", "Hybrid" or "Cloud" offering... doesn't it?
Release date? Sometime mid-2017.