On June 12, Microsoft officially released the Power BI Report Server. The version that was released had a different set of features than what was promised when the product was announced earlier, which I discussed in a previous post. Some of the features and versions of SQL Server which are available to receive the Power BI Report Server upgrade were clarified at MS Data Summit. This post contains everything you need to know to determine if you can upgrade from a current SQL Server Reporting Services Instance, what features are included in Power BI Report Server and what time frame those who want to use it should follow.
Power BI Report Server Only Connects to Analysis Services Data Sources
The most glaring change from what was announced earlier, is Power BI Report Server can only connect to analysis services data sources, both tabular and multidimensional. If you want to connect to SQL Server, Oracle or Excel or all three, use the Power BI Web Service. Only going to the cloud version will users be able to create a data mashup or connect to anything but SQL Server.
Connecting to one data source is not what was promised when the Power BI Report Server was announced in May. Various Power BI Product members held a session at the Microsoft Data Summit where attendees were able to ask questions. I asked, “When are we going to be able to use Power BI Report Server with data sources other than analysis services?” In a room full of people, I was assured that it was a top priority of the team to release the same data connectivity functionality for Power BI Report Server that currently exists for Power BI Services and the current plan was to release this functionality the next release.
Power BI Report Server Releases are Planned for Three Times a Year
Power BI Desktop currently has a monthly release schedule. The Power BI Service is often updated more frequently than that, as Microsoft tends to make changes when they are complete, rather than hold them for a given date. In a corporate environment, it is sometimes difficult to accommodate such frequent releases. Power BI Report Server has a planned release cycle of three times a year, with exceptions of hot fixes or security patches. The next release of Power BI Report Server is planned for the fall.
To ensure that the version of Power BI Desktop matches Power BI Report Server, there is now a version of the Power BI Desktop for Power BI Reporting Server. The icon is exactly the same, but when you start the program the splash screen is different, as it shows you that you are running Power BI Report Server, in the top left corner. When running the Power BI Desktop, the title also clearly says report server. It is possible to run both, as I am presently doing on my PC. One of the pitfalls of doing this, is when you click on a PBIX file, the Desktop version which loads is the last one you installed. The Power BI Desktop Report Server version contains functionality which is not supported in Power BI Report Server, as it allows you to connect to other data sources and run R, neither of which will work in Power BI Report Server. Since the next release of Power BI Report Server, the one which should support connectivity to more than analysis services, is going to be part of the next fall release, that release should contain the data mashup capabilities in the future Power BI Report Server Desktop version.
No Dashboards for Power BI Report Server
As I talked about in a previous post, there is no dashboard capability for Power BI Report Server, as it creates reports and other desktop features. Power BI Service features, like Dashboards and Workspaces, are not available in the desktop or in Power BI Report Server. In the meeting that the product team held, someone else in the room asked a question which I promised to answer in a previous post. “Are there plans to add dashboards in a future release of Power BI Report Server?” The answer was no. Microsoft does not consider that a Power BI Report Feature and does not have the desktop feature in the product road map.
Data aficionado et SQL Raconteur