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Power BI Security & Architecture

Are you an enterprise, CIO or IT decision maker?

Before investing your budgets in a modern BI tool for your organization, we strongly advise to evaluate your BI vendors security and architecture. Whether the tool is Power BI, Tableau, Qlik or Looker, each of these tools provide a cloud BI solution for your needs.

You have cloud and on-premise versions. Using the cloud version offers several known advantages. However, data security becomes the key. There are several questions that might be bothering you.

Is my data secure?

Where is my data stored?

What security options and best practices does the vendor implement?

How is the data movement?

Is the data encrypted? What all is encrypted?

Does this sound like you?


If you are looking for answers to above questions or evaluating Power BI as your go to modern Enterprise BI tool, I invite you to read Power BI security whitepaper which talks about Power BI security and architecture in detail.

To summarize

Power BI is a SaaS platform by Microsoft hosted on Azure. It uses Azure services for its operation. There are Web Front End clusters and Back End clusters.

The WFE and Back End
Image source: Microsoft

Front End cluster

The frontend cluster (WFE) is responsible for initiation and authentication to the Power BI service, sending static files and content.

The WEF Cluster
Frontend (WFE) cluster

Back End cluster

The Back-end cluster role comes into play once the authentication is done. This cluster is responsible for data, storage, visualization, connections, refresh, and other user interactions etc.

The Back-End Cluster
Back-end cluster

The Back End cluster is the heart. If you consider your data as your asset, then the Back End cluster is a critical asset.

You should particularly focus on items to the left of the dotted line above and items to the right of the dotted line. A request to get data, dashboards or reports goes to “Gateway Role” only. This Gateway Role decides where to route the request.

Snippet from the security paper:

The Gateway Role acts as a gateway between user requests and the Power BI service. Users do not interact directly with any roles other than the Gateway Role.

Important: It is imperative to note that only Azure API Management (APIM) and Gateway (GW) roles are accessible through the public Internet. They provide authentication, authorization, DDoS protection, Throttling, Load Balancing, Routing, and other capabilities.

The dotted line in the Back-End cluster image, above, clarifies the boundary between the only two roles that are accessible by users (left of the dotted line), and roles that are only accessible by the system. When an authenticated user connects to the Power BI Service, the connection and any request by the client is accepted and managed by the Gateway Role and Azure API Management, which then interacts on the user’s behalf with the rest of the Power BI Service. For example, when a client attempts to view a dashboard, the Gateway Role accepts that request then separately sends a request to the Presentation Role to retrieve the data needed by the browser to render the dashboard.

The Gateway role
Back End cluster Gateway Role

Top questions asked by customers

Where is my data stored?

The data that you upload along with Power BI Report (PBIX) is stored in Azure Blob Storage. The metadata – data about dashboards, reports, refresh cycles etc. is stored in Azure SQL Database.

The data is stored in the region same as the Power BI tenant’s region.

Read more here: https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/power-bi/whitepaper-powerbi-security#data-storage-and-movement

Is my data encrypted?

In the Power BI service, data is either at rest (data available to a Power BI user that is not currently being acted upon), or it is in process (for example: queries being run, data connections and models being acted upon, data and/or models being uploaded into the Power BI service, and other actions that users or the Power BI service may take on data that is actively being accessed or updated). Data that is in process is referred to as data in process. Data at rest in Power BI is encrypted. Data that is in transit, which means data being sent or received by the Power BI service, is also encrypted.The data at rest and in transit is encrypted.

Source: Power BI Whitepaper

Is Power BI Pro secure?

Power BI Pro is a shared environment. The Frontend and backend clusters could be shared between customers. Azure Blob Storage and Azure SQL Database could be shared between customers.

Is Power BI Premium secure?

When you initiate a Power BI Premium subscription, behind the scenes the back-end clusters are deployed to dedicated VMs. These VMs are dedicated to you and should not be shared between customers.

What happens when I login to app.powerbi.com?

Check this section in the whitepaper to know what happens behind the scenes when you try to access app.powerbi.com

All Power BI features in one page?

Check out this blog to see all Power BI features in one page!

Planning to migrate to Power BI?

Read this first: https://bigintsolutions.com/2020/04/21/migrate-to-power-bi/

What licensing options does Power BI support?

Power BI supports Power BI Pro and Power BI Premium licensing options. It also has a free version. If you need to know more about different licensing options, check out our Power BI Licensing guide.

I have more questions on security:

Read more here: https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/power-bi/whitepaper-powerbi-security#power-bi-security-questions-and-answers

Conclusion

Power BI is a great Modern BI tool. When evaluating Power BI for Enterprises, we walk them through the architecture and security implementations in Power BI. This boosts enterprise customer confidence to take next big step in modernizing their reporting and analytics.


Next Steps?

Don’t hesitate to contact us today if you are looking for Power BI Enterprise deployment or want us to evaluate Power BI as your go to modern Enterprise BI tool.

What we tell our customers when migrating to Power BI

Power BI has seen viral growth. It is one of the industry leaders in BI and Analytics Platform. One of the reasons for such growth is its integration with existing Microsoft investments. We would say, it’s easier and cost effective to get started with Power BI.

Naturally, everyone would want to migrate to Power BI. Be it from Tableau, or Excel or SSRS or Telerik/HTML/Javascript charting libraries. There are few patterns that have emerged as we help customers migrate to Power BI.

Following points are a must read if you are looking to migrate to Power BI

Mindset

First and foremost, migration to Power BI needs a change in your mindset. You have been using your old tool for quite some time now. You expect Power BI to mimic its functionality and behavior? No, it may not. Power BI is a Modern Enterprise BI tool. With modern approaches to data modelling, data consumption, sharing and governance, Power BI pushes you to think beyond traditional tools.

Don’t Mimic Excel

For laymen, Power BI is Excel++. They expect to modify a “cell” in Power BI and hope to see changes reflected in Power BI. Wait, wait, wait! Power BI is not Excel nor a replacement for Excel. Power BI gives much more power to data extraction, modelling and data storage. Don’t expect Power BI to work like Excel. Excel is best suited for calculations, manipulations and tabular/visual reporting. Power BI is a modern BI tool with storage, compute, data flows, AI, governance – well integrated within the platform. Don’t worry, you can still use Excel with Power BI with “Analyze in Excel” feature. For enhanced functionality you have Power Apps, Power Automate, etc.

Model driven tool

“Can I fire a dynamic SQL query based on filter selections and user login in Power BI”? Charting libraries use this concept quite often. Please note: Power BI is a model driven tool. There is a model behind which powers the visualization and analytics. You need to start thinking about models and relationships when working with Power BI. You can import the data in Power BI or connect directly/live with supported data sources. Once done, you can slice and dice they way you want.

In Active development

Power BI is a tool that is in active development and growth. There can be some features that are not yet available, but that doesn’t mean you will stop leveraging the power of this modern tool. Power BI has a monthly release cadence and they also publish a roadmap so you know what’s coming in future releases.

They just announced some fantastic updates in MBAS 2020.

A Product for all size needs

Power BI is a suite of products.

  1. Power BI Desktop for authoring and creating reports,
  2. Power BI Online for data distribution, consumption, governance, and management,
  3. Power BI Embedded for embedding in your website,
  4. Power BI Premium for enterprise needs,
  5. Power BI Report Server for on-premise needs,
  6. Power BI Report Builder for paginated/tabular reports (SSRS types reports) and
  7. Power BI Mobile for on the go needs.
  8. Plus, integrations with Excel, SharePoint, Teams, Power Apps, Power Automate, AI, Azure Analysis Services, and many more etc.

We can pickup one or more tools depending on your needs. Power BI has definitely come a long way. Many organizations are taking advantage of this modern BI tool. Why not you?


How to get started?

Here are simple steps you can take to get started on your journey to migrate to Power BI.

  1. Get your current data estate and BI systems audited
  2. Prepare a high level modern BI architecture, roadmap, and transition plan
  3. Implement and rollout in phases
  4. Train and educate your staff/audience
  5. Administrative Support

FAQs

What Licensing options does Power BI provide? Check out our latest blog on Power BI Licensing Guide.

What Features does Power BI provide? Check out our latest blog on Power BI Features – End to End.

Can I do real time reporting with Power BI? Yes, why not. Check this blog: Real time reporting with Power BI.

Can I connect directly to my data sources?

Are there any cases where customers have moved away from Power BI? Yes, sometimes, we will blog this soon. Do subscribe to know when that is released.


Contact us, if you want to get your BI and data estate audited. Or signup for one of our services to migrate to Power BI.

Or, use this form below to get started.

Our first impression of Tableau – intuitive, powerful, beautiful

#PowerBI experts, Crush on #Tableau

Power BI and Tableau has been ranked as leaders in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for Analytics and BI 2020. It becomes critical for businesses to choose between one of these solutions for their analytics and BI workloads.

Of late, we have been receiving a lot of questions and interests in choosing BI tools. Recent trends show that companies are open to Power BI or Tableau as long as their needs are met within budget.


We are open to choosing and suggesting BI tools to our customers. We decided to give a try to Tableau.

Our first impression of Tableau

Tableau is intuitive. Tableau is quick. Table is powerful. Tableau is beautiful.

Tableau’s power is its data visualization capabilities.

You need a dual axis chart with bars and lines? You got it.

You need a dumbell chart? You got it.

You need advanced analytics? You need greater control over tooltips? You need annotations?

You got it!

Looks like Tableau was built ground up with data visualization in mind. And, it’s correct. Tableau founders were from graphics and visualization background.


How does it compare with Power BI?

After our hands on with Tableau we can say Power BI visualization capabilities though familiar, are limited. You have the same decade and century old charts.

You can be creative with visuals but then you need to learn Typescript and Node.js. You can create new and advanced charts but development and learning curve is high.

How about modelling capabilities?

Power BI excels in data modelling capabilities. DAX and multi-dimensional concepts are inbuilt in Power BI.

Tableau lacks much of these. Minimal multi-dimensional support, no functional language like DAX. Tableau relies on calculation scripts, LOD etc.

How about Dashboards and Reports on canvas?

Tableau has concept of Sheets and Dashboards. Power BI has concept of Reports and Dashboards.

We feel Power BI wins here as you have greater control over the layout and structure of your reports. You can create Business dashboards quite easily in Power BI.

What about Publishing options?

With Tableau you can publish to a Tableau server or Tableau online. Same with Power BI.

However, Power BI service (or Power BI online) though looks cluttered sometimes, is quite powerful and feature rich. Navigation can be confusing. It has a concept of workspaces.

Tableau online is clean and has simple interface. Admin capabilities and options look limited. It has a concept of projects. Great UX.

What about cost?

To a large extent Power BI wins here. Power BI Desktop is free. Power BI Online is free for personal use. This makes Power BI quicker to adopt and penetrate within your org.

Tableau unfortunately is not free. It’s costlier than Power BI. Though Tableau has a free version called Tableau Public, its functionality is limited.

Note: We need to evaluate cost in a larger scheme of things keeping view of number of creators, number frequent and occasional users.

How is the support for developer tools?

Microsoft is known for developing products for extensibility. Power BI wins here with APIs to manage everything you need. Power BI lacks APIs for designer and modifying models.

Tableau has some support for tools but it’s limited.

What do you recommend?

Power BI and Tableau, both are great tools. However, recent job trend shows greater demand for Power BI developers.

To sum up: Power BI is a great end to end BI tool. Tableau is a great visualization tool.

We recommend to check your existing BI investments, and BI and analytics needs. Based on this and your budget, take a call.


Given high demand for both the tools, we are working on creating a comprehensive guide comparing Power BI and Tableau. We will cover in detail their BI capabilities, Data Integrations, Enterprise support, APIs and costs with screenshots from both the tools.

Join our list to be the first one to know when the guide is available.

Do you want us to evaluate which BI tools fit your business needs? Contact us now.

Gartner Magic Quadrant for Analytics and BI Platforms 2020

Business Intelligence tools have been in market since years. What has now started differentiating them is:

  1. Support for Enterprise reporting needs – large datasets, on-prem and cloud, data governance, security, agile dev cycle
  2. Augmented analytics capabilities – Machine Learning capabilities and AI assisted insights generation and explanation

This Magic Quadrant will help data and analytics leaders complement their existing solutions or move to an entirely new vendor.

Directly from Gartner:

Augmented capabilities are becoming key differentiators for analytics and BI platforms, at a time when cloud ecosystems are also influencing selection decisions

Here’s what Gartner Analysts think in terms of numbers:

By 2022, augmented analytics technology will be ubiquitous, but only 10% of analysts will use its full potential.

By 2022, 40% of machine learning model development and scoring will be done in products that do not have machine learning as their primary goal.

By 2023, 90% the world’s top 500 companies will have converged analytics governance into broader data and analytics governance initiatives.

By 2025, 80% of consumer or industrial products containing electronics will incorporate on-device analytics.

By 2025, data stories will be the most widespread way of consuming analytics, and 75% of stories will be automatically generated using augmented analytics techniques.


Here’s presenting the 2020 Magic Quadrant for Analytics and Business Intelligence Platforms.

Magic Quadrant for Analytics and Business Intelligence Platforms
Magic Quadrant for Analytics and Business Intelligence Platforms – 2020

Microsoft (Power BI), Tableau, Qlik and ThoughtSpot are leaders in this space. How did this look like last year?

Magic Quadrant for Analytics and Business Intelligence Platforms – 2019

How about 2015 vs 2020? Lot has changed since then. The Leaders space was crowded back then.

Magic Quadrant for BI tools – 2015

Here’s the direct link to the full report on Gartner’s site with each vendors strengths and cautions in detail along with 15 Critical Capabilities of an Analytics and BI Platform.


For 13 consecutive years, Gartner has recognized Microsoft as a Magic Quadrant Leader in analytics and business intelligence platforms. When they reference Microsoft, they are referencing to the Power BI platform.

Looking to adopt Power BI in your organization? Book specially crafted service packages for your modern BI vision.

Get in touch now!

Power BI Premium or Power BI Pro – the answer is here!

Power BI comes with multiple licensing model

  1. Power BI Pro
  2. Power BI Premium
  3. Power BI Embedded
  4. Power BI Free

In this post we will cover Power BI Pro and Power BI Premium licensing model.

The licensing model to go with is determined by following three factors:

  1. Cost
  2. Number of users (creators, viewers, occasional viewers)
  3. Features required

The first two factors are the most critical in deciding the licensing model.

It’s a choice between multiple Pro licenses or multiple Premium licenses.

What is Power BI Pro/Power BI Premium?

A Power BI Pro is a per user license currently costing around $10 per user per month, while Power BI Premium is a capacity license currently costing around $5000 per capacity node per month.

Yes, the cost difference is huge. But, wait, there are lots of things hidden in that $5000.

  1. Power BI Premium is a capacity license. It can support 450 users report viewing needs (see example below)
  2. Power BI Premium is for content consumption rather than content creation
  3. Large number of external readers (out of org users with no Power BI license)
  4. AI, Paginated reports, XMLA read/write and many other features
  5. Note: With 1 Premium capacity node you get 8 cores, 25 GB RAM and 6 parallel refreshes.

What does all this mean?

If you want to create, author and publish reports, you definitely need Power BI Pro licenses. You cannot get away with that. Whether to go with Power BI Premium or not, it depends.

Scenarios

Say, if you have 500 users in your org and out of 500 users

  1. 50 users will be creating content
  2. 200 users will be frequently accessing the content
  3. 250 users will be occasionally accessing the content

Then, you require

  1. 50 Power BI Pro licenses
  2. 1 Premium capacity node

With the premium capacity node we can serve the “consumption” needs for 450 users.

How did we come up with that conclusion? A simple Power BI Premium calculator is available to help us decide number of licenses (link below).

But, say your org has 100 users with 50 creating content and 50 viewing, it’s recommended to go with 100 Pro licenses (total cost $1000 per month) than a premium capacity node unless you need additional features like AI, external readers etc.


Power BI Premium vs Power BI Pro – Which licensing model should I choose? The answer is here!


Next steps?

If you are still not sure of the licensing model or worst, if you are not sure if Power BI is fit for your organization’s BI needs then you may request a free consultation.

You may fill the form below or directly setup a call

Or, fill up this form and we will get back to you with time slots within 12-24 business hours.

Notes

Power BI Premium Calculator: https://powerbi.microsoft.com/en-us/calculator/

Power BI premium also comes with additional feature sets including AI, Incremental refresh, Power BI Report Server, Paginated (SSRS types) reports, XMLA read/write and others – or better to say Enterprise features.

Power BI Pro vs Power BI Premium

If you need a quick comparison between Power BI Pro and Power BI Premium feature sets, please check this table provided by Microsoft. (Click the image to view the entire table)

https://powerbi.microsoft.com/en-us/pricing/#powerbi-comparison-table