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Power BI Licensing in Pictures - Updated!


This article is an update to one of my more popular blog articles and includes updates and corrections.


Even though Microsoft took away the ability to share using the Free version of the Power BI Service, there is still a free method available for sharing reports in Power BI. That feature is called "Publish to Web" and creates an HTTP link to the report that is long and cryptic. On the plus side, anyone with the link can look at the report. On the downside, anyone with the link can look at the report. If you want to create some obfuscation, you can always iframe it into an intranet or extranet page.


A spin on this concept would be to just store your PBIX files in something like OneDrive and share out the folder or the file. Or just email around your PBIX files if they are small enough! Provided that everyone has Power BI Desktop (free to use) then this will work albeit with obvious drawbacks.


The key word here is Free and that's not "Free as in Speech" but rather "Free as in Beer". It is a gift from Microsoft with no expectations from you, the user. That being said, it is a free gift that does not include all of the bells and whistles and has limitations and drawbacks.

Power BI Pro

Since the dawn of time (or at least Power BI) there has been the $9.99 per user per month licensing model for Power BI. Effectively, each user that authors or consumes the report must tithe Microsoft. The important thing to note here is that the Desktop is, and always has been free to use. It is only when you want to share and collaborate on your work that you pay $9.99/month.


Power BI On-Premises

With the integration of SQL Server Reporting Services and Power BI, organizations can now use Enterprise SQL Server with Software Assurance to publish Power BI reports fully within the bounds of their organization. Depending on whether you believe Microsoft's pricing or CDW's pricing, the cost is somewhere in the $4,000 - $7,000 per core.



Embedded is a usage based option for Power BI and is specifically designed for Independent Software Vendors (ISVs) to allow Power BI reports and visuals to be embedded in custom, external facing web applications. Publishers require a Pro license at $9.99/month and capacity starts at $1/hour. There are six A SKU's and they get progressively more expensive. Each level essentially doubles the price of the previous level and tops out at the A6 SKU for around $32/hour. The terms of service for Embedded dictate that this is only for viewing outside of one’s organization and cannot be used for internal viewing of reports. In other words, this is not intended to be a low cost way to share reports and not require a Pro license for everyone. But, see Embed below.



With Premium, Microsoft essentially introduced a model where View Only users do not need to pay individually. The licensing is instead capacity-based. You pay for a Power BI Premium instance and that comes with 100TB of data storage and a license for SQL Server Reporting Service Power BI Edition. You still need to pay the $9.99 per user per month for report authors and editors but view only users are free.



Here is where things start to get confusing. A relatively new and little known option is the Power BI Embed SKUs. These SKUs are the EM SKU’s and there are three of them, EM1, EM2 and EM3. These are capacity based SKU’s with prices ranging from $650/month - $2,500 per month. These are the SKU’s that are targeted to mid-market businesses that want to broadly share reports but fall into that range where Premium is too expensive and Pro is too expensive if everyone that needed to view the report required a Pro license. These SKUs come with some restrictions, view only users do not view the reports via Power BI Apps for example. The true intention of these SKUs is to allow reports to be embedded into SharePoint Online and Teams and shared with a broad audience without requiring stepping up to a Premium SKU. At a low price point of $650/month this means that once an organization hits about 65 Pro users, the Embed SKUs become a consideration. Despite their naming similarity, the EM SKUs are not intended for use by ISV’s embedding reports within their custom applications, those are the Embedded A SKUs.



Thanks, this is a vivid explaination that clears any confusion regarding the features of each service.


Beautifully explained. Thanks for sharing @Greg_Deckler 

Fantastic! Thanks!

This is a great article

Wow @Greg_Deckler this is brilliant!  So easy to follow!  Thank you so much, this clears a lot up for me.  Not thrilled with the realities of costs but at least now I am clear on what is what.  The secret EM licenses might be the key, I just need to do some counting of people who will actually use the dashboards and reports that we publish.


Thank you so much!  You rock!


@Greg_Deckler - This is an excellent post..

@Greg_Deckler thanks for this superb summary. Very clear and helpful.


@Greg_Deckler Where is the GBP (Great British Pounds version) 😁

Here is latest pricing of power bi.


power bi pricing.png

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