Articles for the Month of February 2014

Power BI Licensing and Constraints

Licensing is a topic which most people reflexively ignore. They just scroll down until they see the I agree button and click it so they might attain the object of their desire, software with which to amuse themselves.  With respect to Power BI, now might be the time to read the fine print.  The license dictates how much data you can display, which you need to evaluate to see if this is the best tool for your environment. Let’s go to the authoritative source regarding such matters, Microsoft.  Here’s a link to their Power BI release and pricing page .  If you didn’t know, as of right now, Microsoft is only licensing Power BI with Office 365.  Based on their page it appears if you don’t have Office 365, you can’t have Power BI.  If you have been playing around with Power BI, you know that’s not really the case.  

Power BI Components

To ensure that we are all starting from the same place, here’s a summary of the Power BI Preview components. Power BI consists of four Excel add-ins, Power View, Power Pivot, Power Query and Power Map.  Power windows are not included.  Together these tools are used to create a Power BI document to be shared on to the Power Cloud, SharePoint on Office 365.  The add-ins Power Query and Power Map were created for the Power BI preview, because two powers are just not enough you need a quad. If you want to be able to deploy a Power BI report to your tablet or smart phone with HTML 5 or use the natural language query feature Q&A to manipulate the data, both of which are part of the preview, you can only do this from Office 365 SharePoint.  If you desire to distribute your Power BI creation to a mobile device such as a smart phone or tablet, you will then need to send the app to the Windows Store so you can distribute your report app to said devices. 

Help! I don’t have Office 365

If you have loaded Office 2013 or Office 2010 service pack 1 to your computers can you still use Power BI? This is where licensing gets tricky. Sure, you can do it, at least at present. Power BI is in Preview Release mode, and as part of the preview you can download the preview add-ins for both of those versions of Excel. Can you use the add-ins you have once it goes into full release?  This remains unclear.  Excel 2010 has Power Pivot included and Excel 2013 has Power View also so both of those components don’t require a Power BI license.  But Power Map and Power Query add-ins both say they are Preview Editions. What happens after the preview is over? Yet another ambiguity.

If you have seen Power View back when SQL Server 2012 was released you may think that you might have all of the same features of Power BI without having Office 365, but that isn’t the case. Power View was released as part of SQL Server 2012, so if you have SQL Server 2012 you can use Power View with SharePoint 2010 or 2013.  Power View for SharePoint has a map feature as well but the feature set is not the same as Power Map. What about Power Query on SharePoint? Power Query is part of Power BI and right now it can’t be loaded on your current SharePoint server.     

Preview Edition

As of this writing, Microsoft has yet to offer Power BI for sale to end users, although you can easily obtain a preview of it.  If you do decide to give Power BI a whirl, you will be granted a preview license.  The preview license terms differ in significant ways from the proposed release version.  Keep this in mind when you noodling around with Power BI.  If you want to load a file to the Cloud (aka SharePoint on Office 365) the maximum file size is 10 MB.  I divined that tidbit here .

Implications of Excel File Size or Why my Power BI won’t load

You may have learned, like I did in an online presentation, that the maximum size for a Power BI Excel file is 250MB. .  I discovered the file size is dependent on your license, which creates some interesting things to consider. The 250 MB file size does not apply to the preview license version, which seriously dampened my enthusiasm. I was rather chagrined to discover this inconvenient limitation, after my carefully crafted 45 MB presentation file failed to load.  I started looking around for the size that would load, as it was clear mine was too large, making it clear the 250MB limit isn’t true,  as the preview license limits you to 10 MB.  When you buy Office 365 you pay for how much space you have in SharePoint and there are limits which Microsoft reveals to you here . This website states that licensees only have 500MB per user regardless the plan for Office 365.

Power BI is meant to be the tool for all business users to query their data. If you are designing a model for use in Power BI your space is limited.  Given it’s current configuration, it is assumed your entire operational data store could not possibly exceed 250 MB.  If you have a large tabular model, you may find using Power View in SharePoint will provide a better solution as these data model constraints don’t exists there. Power BI is great tool, but the scalability limitations cannot be overlooked.

Yours Always

Ginger Grant

Data aficionado et SQL Raconteur