Azure Analysis Services vs Power BI Premium

One of the most burning questions we get asked while designing the architecture of a Microsoft based BI solution is how to make the trade off between Azure Analysis Services and Power BI Premium. As Microsoft clearly stated the latter to be considered their primary enterprise BI platform, opting for the former still gives us a slight edge over Power BI Premium in terms of available features. This article will get you acquainted with both technologies. We’ll also provide you with a nifty embedded Power BI report to help you sort out the right technology for your project!

Can’t wait to make the trade-off yourself until the end of this blog? 

Are you already familiar with both Azure Analysis Services and Power BI Premium? In analogy with Dave Ruijter‘s absolute guide to selecting between AAS and Power BI Premium (make sure to check out Dave’s blog as well), we’ve composed the below shown interactive and embedded Power BI report which enables you to make a well-considered decision yourself. It will serve as a starting point, guiding you towards the right technology according to your business requirements. Feel free to play around as much as you’d like! Eager to learn about the differences of technologies? Continue reading all about it and impress your colleagues with your newly acquainted knowledge! 

Note: You can simply click Yes or No for some or all specified evaluation topics. Based on your selection, one technology will triumph.

What is this Power BI Premium hype all about?

Power BI Premium is -unsurprisingly- considered as Power BI on steroids. Instead of purchasing Power BI Pro licenses for individual users, Power BI Premium main focus lies on providing both the necessary amount of space and processing capacity you want to carve out for your business. This service is intended for companies with a large user base where extensive app access is required throughout the company.

It’s important to note Power BI Premium isn’t really a license an sich: you are paying for an exclusive use of a predetermined amount of computing power. Users who would like to publish their reports, share their dashboards and collaborate with their beloved colleagues in app workspaces, the so-called “contributors”, will still need to be assigned a Power BI Pro license. “Consumers”, being users who only need access to an app and consume Power BI content, do not need to be in the dispose of a license.

Premium… As in daylight robbery?

The dedicated resource Power BI Premium offers is priced by capacity, for which the minimum capacity level, P1, currently starts at a cost of €4200/month. Additional Power Pro licenses, currently valued at €8,4/user/month, need to be purchased on top of the price you pay for this dedicated resource.

As a rule of thumb, I would advise to consider Power BI Premium as a sensible option if your business consists of 400+ Power BI Pro users. You can easily calculate the total cost, being the desired Premium capacity on the one hand and the number of Pro licenses on the other hand, yourself by dividing your user base into three levels of involvement, as indicated below.

This tool is publicly available here.

At first glance, this seems to be one hell of a costly service. However, you should keep in mind this premium capacity plan offers all users the ability to consume reports once they’re published in an app. Without this premium capacity plan, this wouldn’t be feasible as a Pro license would be required to view content in the app as well. By cleverly indicating your Power BI key users, and thus not upgrading every employee who claims to be in desperate need of a Pro license, purchasing additional Pro licenses can be limited significantly. For contribution purposes, such as sharing and editing reports in app workspaces, a pro license is still required.

Power BI Licensing explained

Microsoft brought into existence two different license types.

Per-User: Power BI Pro licensing and free licensing.

A Power BI Pro license enables access to all content and capabilities in the Power BI service, including the ability to share content and collaborate with other Pro users. Only Pro users can publish content to app workspaces, share dashboards, and subscribe to dashboards and reports. A free license enables access to some of the features of the Power BI service.

Capacity-based: Power BI Premium licensing.

Premium provides dedicated capacity to deliver more consistent performance and support larger data volumes in Power BI. For individual users, Premium also enables widespread distribution of content by Pro users without requiring Pro licenses for recipients who view the content.

Confused yet? Below summary is all you need and will help you tidy up your mind regarding Power BI licensing. 😊 

 What about Azure Analysis Services?

Azure Analysis Services (AAS) is a fully managed platform as a service (PaaS) that provides enterprise-grade data models in the cloud. Use advanced mashup and modeling features to combine data from multiple data sources, define metrics, and secure your data in a single, trusted tabular semantic data model. And this is the most important term to remember: semantic layer. This semantic layer is actually a layer built on top of multiple sources which enables performant slicing and dicing of your data. When opting for this technology, a company shifts its development towards their IT department, instead of their business users, making it easier to manage new business requirements of an existing data model and enabling users to report upon one single version of the truth. 

This service can be directly purchased from the Azure platform and thus supports all advantages which are typical for this platform such as

> Scalability

> DevOps experience

> Azure AD integration

> Global availability

> Flexible expenditure.

You can actually temporary turn of this service, saving costs at times no end users are reporting.

Your turn!

Congratulations! You’re now fully up-to-date about both Azure Analysis Services and Power BI Premium! Head over to the Power BI embedded report at the top of this page and put your knowledge into practice now! 


Thanks for reading through this blog post, we at Lytix hope you’ve learned something new.
If you need advice on your data & analytics landscape,
send a message to Lytix or the author Lou Segers and we’ll be more than happy to introduce ourselves. 🤜

Lou Segers
Microsoft Analytics Consultant @ Lytics
Follow me on LinkedIn