Fernando Ibarra Avila
senior SAP BI Associate
Over the past couple of months, we have noticed a pickup in interest towards Microsoft’s Power BI tool. As usual, whenever a client shows interest in a new tool or we see a new trend, we try to incorporate it into our knowledge base for future reference. More importantly, we analyze tools to see how they can be incorporated into the larger landscape of our clients. Since most of our clients are SAP shops, that means incorporating tools to communicate efficiently with the SAP tool set, specifically SAP BW and SAP HANA. In this blog post we try to answer some of the initial questions about Power BI as a tool set including Microsoft’s licensing model, connectivity capabilities, and some initial thoughts on the tool itself.
Whenever a new tool appears on the market, the first thought from decision makers is: “How much is this going to cost me?”
One of the biggest complaints from our clients is the convoluted nature of SAP’s pricing model. Microsoft, like many other companies, is seeing the trend go toward a subscription-based pricing model. As such, Power BI is priced in that matter. As we talk about pricing, it is important to note the different products that are delivered per pricing.
At the time this blog post was written, Power BI had three different components:
- Power BI Desktop
- Power BI service
- Power BI Mobile
As you have probably already guessed, Power BI Desktop is installed on local machines to connect to data, create reports, and publish the reports. Power BI service is the browser-based hub where reports can be created and published. Power BI then services as a central repository that Power BI Mobile connects to in order to access these reports.
Now that we discussed the actual product, from the licensing perspective it's just as simple. As of the day of writing this post, Power BI Desktop is free to download. From initial testing, it doesn't seem that there are limitations to the connectivity options or the visualization options. Power BI service, on the other hand, does require a Power BI Pro subscription. Currently that is only $9.99 per user. What makes the licensing structure interesting is that all of it is managed from the Office 365 administrator portal. This is the same administrator portal that many companies use for email and Office products.
To view the most updated pricing you can visit the following: https://powerbi.microsoft.com/en-us/pricing/
If you are looking for a large deployment, Microsoft also provides a pricing calculator for Power BI Premium that can be seen here: https://powerbi.microsoft.com/en-us/calculator/
Any reporting tool would be useless if it can't connect to data. With more companies moving to SAP HANA, it is important to be able connect to Calculation views. Lucky for us, Power BI has the ability to seamlessly connect to both the SAP HANA database and SAP BW. It is important to note that there is also a Beta version for it to connect to the SAP BW Message Server. The 'Get Data' screen has all the connections and looks like this:
When selecting the SAP HANA database connection type, the user will have the ability to enter the server information as seen here:
Once entered, the user will have access to the various SAP HANA views to load. The screen will look like this:
As you can see, the connection is quite simple to create.
Initial Thoughts on the tool
The initial setup of Power BI was simple and straight forward. The download and installation process was quick and easy. I was able to create a very simple dashboard by connecting to a HANA Calculation view in a matter of minutes. I did notice that there is some support of geospatial visualizations which will be interesting to try out.
Overall, Power BI seems to bring forth a new big player into the reporting an analytics tool set. From a value proposition, companies will need to validate their current landscape to see if it is worth moving from one tool set to another.
Over the next couple of weeks, we will be looking at some of the different features of Power BI. Some of the features that we will focus on are the data preparation, visualizations, and sharing capabilities that are mentioned on Microsoft's Power BI home page. Stay tuned!