On Premise PowerBI, what’s in it for the organization?

About a year and a half ago I have witnessed a very interesting interaction between a consultant and a client. The client kept insisting that they wanted a PowerBI based solution, the free dashboard one, and that they cannot join the cloud. PowerBI was only just getting started. The consultant, created an Excel report, using Power Pivot and Power query from the clients SQL data base and…he added a black background. I found it genious, the client was super excited and added it in their SharePoint site as the “on premise PowerBI”.

Reminds me of:

Well what was changed since?

The online version has developed into a “connect everything” model and the advantages seem to be enormous comparing to many other platforms. While the on premise version lacks the maturity to be implemented in the organization. (In my humble opinion).

Let’s review the necessary components and the options we are presented with by PowerBI:

  • Connectivity to the on premise DB
  • Synchronization with the DB
  • Access to data according to permissions levels (Autentication)
  • Publishing the data in a portal solution
  • Self Service BI
  • Usability and access log

The closest model that Microsoft is suggesting in the Governance whitepaper is:

Well, it still does include the cloud for:

  1. Authentication
  2. Publishing
  3. Logs

What if we have an organization that does not include an internal SharePoint portal and Azure AD to authenticate with?

So we get the following architecture:

This particular architecture has many disadvantages:

  1. It allows multiple copies by multiple users and the data governance can hardly be implemented- the same problem Excel spreadsheets are creating, and getting read of stand alone Access or Excel solutions just to get a better looking one is not an option
  2. The synchronization is done manually, each time the .pbix file is opening, through a local client that must be installed on the machine
  3. The authentication and synchronization is performed by the DB itself, if the organization doesn’t have the AD implementation
  4. There are no usability logs, they are created in the desktops per user

I have thought of a creative solution for problem no 4, build an aggregator and a timer job that is going to connect and collect the data to a PowerBI report on one of the administrators machines. This is not exactly feasible…but I get some points for creativity. 🙂

What does PowerBI still has to offer?

Well the Self Service BI option, friendly interface comparing to other Enterprise solutions and recently ability to later use the data sets as data sources.

In conclusion, in order for PowerBI to work on premise, I would love to see if the integration can work great on something other than Office 365. Not all the organizations are willing to move to the cloud, and right now I feel that PowerBI lacks a few features to be a leading product.

So if we quickly sum up the current state, I would like to add that

PowerBI on premise? well maybe…not just yet

Requirements PowerBI on premise
Connectivity to DB Direct query direct access to DB
Synchronization Client, slow and authentication against DB each time
Permissions PowerBI gets the permissions form AD application or public to all the users who have access to the cashed data in the report, if the data was imported
Publishing Stand alone files

Can be reused as data sources

Self Service BI Stand alone, flexibility and easy interface
Activity log Log only, on premise don’t have a viewing tool