UPDATE: Power BI now has one Gateway, with the option to use a personal gateway. Check out this post on the new gateway for more information.
Power BI has two data gateways, Personal and Enterprise. Since I assist companies with Power BI, the name Personal Gateway made no sense to me, especially when I used a personal gateway to update an Organizational Pack. While this is a valid reason for a name change, after all Power Query is now called Get & Transform, so why not just rename Personal Gateway? I digress. Enterprise Gateway is not a replacement for Personal Gateway. It is partially an upgrade of the Power BI Analysis Services Connector, as it contains the features in that app and more. In the future, Enterprise Gateway going to be a way to manage all of the data connections within Power BI. I look forward to writing about that once it is available. The Enterprise Gateway, which I should mention is a Preview Release, supports three different Data Source Types: SQL Server, SAP HANA, and Analysis Services. One enterprise feature which is available is the ability to add users to the gateway you just added, rather than relying on one ID to grant access to everyone. For connections to SQL Server or SAP, the connection to the database is made via the user you entered, so that user should have appropriately limited reporting connections to the data source.
Power BI Data Access Based on User Security
Please note that right now, data access based upon user credentials only works for Analysis Services. For reports with an Analysis Services data source, the information passed to the server is the User Name of the user accessing the report. Using Active Directory, this user is granted the same access to the data on the server that they have on the on-premises network. Here’s an example, let’s say Jason is the sales manager for the Eastern Region, and doesn’t have access to the Western Region within Analysis Services security. Jennifer is the sales manager for the Western Region and has only been granted the ability to see the Western Region information in Analysis Services. If a sales report is created in Power BI which uses Analysis Services as it’s data connection via the enterprise gateway, Jason will only see the information on the Power BI report for the Eastern Region and Jennifer will see the same report with only the information for the Western Region. If Jason gets promoted to National Sales Manager and needs to see everything, once the security in Analysis Services is updated granting him access to all sales regions, he will see everything. Unfortunately, if you have 2008R2 or Standard Edition for SQL Server 2012 or greater, you won’t be able to connect to the server via the Enterprise Gateway.
Factors for selecting Power BI’s Personal Gateway
The Personal Gateway takes the data and imports it into Power BI. If you want to extract data from a variety of different places such as an Oracle Database, and Excel Spreadsheets, the Personal Gateway will support this, and the Enterprise Gateway won’t. Remember the Enterprise Gateway only connects to three different data sources, and Excel and Oracle are not on that list. If you want to manage connection and refresh of the data as the administrator or provide access to the data to everyone who needs it, use the Personal Gateway.
When might one want to use Power BI’s Enterprise Gateway?
All of the connections via the Enterprise Gateway are live connections to the underlying server, so there is no need to have a scheduled refresh. After all you are always using the connection to live connect to the server accessing the data. Enterprise Gateway imports nothing, so if you have really large databases which you are reporting upon, it probably makes sense to user the Enterprise Gateway as nothing gets copied. If you have a security policy which forbids storing data in the cloud, Enterprise Gateway meets that requirement as all of the data is stored locally and is merely accessed when needed, like a web page.
Future Plans for the Enterprise Gateway
Microsoft is planning on providing the ability to monitor and audit all of the data sources in the Enterprise Gateway. That would make it truly enterprise as it will provide the ability to see what data is being used throughout Power BI. When that happens, it might be time to get rid of the Personal Gateway. Right now, if the Personal Gateway is working for you for connecting to SQL Server, Analysis Services or SAP and the data refreshes are working, I would hold off upgrading. It’s not terribly easy to what refresh methods are configured in Power BI right now, which is also something that I hope gets fixed in the future as part of the Admin features. When Microsoft releases new versions of the Enterprise Gateway, I will definitely discuss them here. To get future updates, please subscribe to my blog to be notified when they happen.
Data aficionado et SQL Raconteur