Although Microsoft always had said that bringing Power BI on-premise was on the road map, no clear time frame could be given. That was the case at least up until recently, when Microsoft announced the Technical Preview of the Power BI on-premise at SQLPass and Ignite.
Power BI on-premise is probably one of the most wanted features of the product. When talking to customers, or when giving training on Power BI, one of the most heard questions was: “Will Power BI be also available on-premise? And that’s only the people we talked to, but it is actually the second most voted on idea that is available today for Power BI.
The long-awaited moment
So, finally we can see and test drive the Power BI on-premise. Well, yes and no. Yes, we can install a Microsoft Azure Virtual Machine that has the Power BI on-premise Technical Preview bits. But, for now, we won’t be able to install the setup in our own environment. So on-premise is for the first technical preview still not completely true. Another limitation is that the possible data source for having Power BI reports running in the SQL Server reporting portal, is limited to Microsoft SQL Server Analysis Services with a Live connection.
Although there are still some limitations in the first technical preview, we are able to have an idea on what is coming to us with Power BI on-premise. So let’s have a look at what we can expect.
Looking at the reporting portal, we see that this is a SQL Server 2016 enterprise reporting environment. Next to the three existing headers KPI, Mobile Reports and Paginated Reports, we now also see a fourth topic: Power BI desktop reports. Opening a report will give you more or less the same interactivity and visualisation as you are used to online in PowerBI.com or the desktop application.
Clicking on an object will filter all others, drill down works as it would in the online or desktop version. When looking at the properties, we see that currently a limited set is available. Some of the feature that are available online on PowerBI.com, like publishing and printing, are currently not available in this preview.
Next to opening a report in the desktop application, or downloading the report most of the properties are standard properties for Reporting Services. You can move, replace or delete a report. The data source is embedded in the report (No shared data source). Since the data source is limited to analysis services, no additional types can be selected.
Concerning security, we see that the standard reporting services security is used.
Creating a new report is actually the same as creating a report for the PowerBI.com online environment. You open the Power BI desktop application and select your source. For now, this is limited to Analysis services with a live connection. And then you start creating your report.
Once finished in the past, we clicked the ‘Publish’ button and the dataset, connection info and report was uploaded to the PowerBI.com portal. With the technical preview version, it is not possible yet to publish your reports to the reporting Services portal from within the desktop application.
To actually publish a report you need to:
- Save the report
- Go to the reporting Services Portal
- Click the upload button
- Select Power BI desktop file that was just created
When you follow these steps, you will see the new report appear in the Power BI desktop report section.
One last thing that I also tried but doesn’t seem to work for now, is to open a Power BI report on Reporting services portal in the Power BI mobile app. Making a connection to the server with the Mobile app will only show my mobile reports of reporting services, but won’t show the Power BI reports. Hopefully this is still a feature to come in the near future.
To wrap up, we can say that we like the technical preview. Although it still has a lot of limitations, we do get a good view on what Microsoft is working on. Once more features are added, together with a real on-premise installation, we can actually start using the version at our customers in a test phase.