Microsoft's Business Intelligence Service Gets a Power Boost
An updated version of Microsoft’s Power BI service will be released July 24, the company announced Friday.
The goal of the updated service is to enable business users to benefit from business intelligence and analytics without requiring sophisticated help from analysts, data scientists, or other tech staff.
The new set of business-intelligence tools will replace Microsoft's current Power BI for Office 365 service. Also available on July 24 will be Power BI Desktop -- formerly known as Power BI Designer.
Enhancements to the Power BI Desktop include new visualizations; visualization formatting; more source support to include Zendesk, Intuit Quickbooks Online and AppFigures, among others; and direct connection to SQL Server Analysis Services tabular models for data exploration.
"We believe Power BI is, by a very wide margin, the most powerful business analytics SaaS service," said James Phillips, corporate VP for Microsoft's Business Intelligence Products Group. "And yet, even the most non-technical of business users can sign up in five seconds, and gain insights from their business data in less than five minutes with no assistance, from anyone."
Microsoft offers two levels of the upgraded Power BI service: a free version and another that’s $9.99 per month/per user. The differences between the two tiers have mostly to do with data-refresh rates and collaboration capabilities.
Should business owners upgrade? We reached out to Ulrik Pederson, CTO/COO of business analytics software maker Targit, who told us that it’s key to first define the objectives and how BI is currently being used in an organization.
"With Power BI, we have to keep in mind that it is built as a cloud-only solution, so if all the data are stored on premise [not in the cloud], the Power BI user would require large investments in reorganizing the infrastructure," said Pederson.
Pederson added that departments or businesses looking for dashboard solutions on top of fairly simple data structures are the ones who might be best suited for Power BI.
Although Power BI is a cloud-based service, earlier this year Microsoft released a new beta tool that connects Power BI Analysis Services to on-premises SQL Server Analysis Services instances. Once the tool is installed, Power BI users can author interactive reports and dashboards that directly query the company's on-premises Analysis Services instance based on the users' role memberships on that instance.
The new service also lets users leave data in their data centers and later use it in conjunction with Power BI. Users also have the option of putting different front ends, such as Apache Spark, on that data.
In the six months the updated Power BI service has been in public preview, Microsoft says 45,000 companies in 180 countries have signed up to test it.
In related news, Microsoft also announced that the Power BI visualization framework and its complete library of visuals are available to the open source community under an MIT license.
Posted: 2015-07-12 @ 5:31pm PT
@Arthur: The main point Pederson was making is that businesses should give the matter a lot of thought before upgrading to Power BI, based on their particular needs. You make a good point though that there are security concerns regardless of whether data is kept on-premises or at Microsoft's (or any one else's) remote data center. Thanks for the feedback.
Arthur Jenkins/El Segundo:
Posted: 2015-07-12 @ 1:52pm PT
Why reach out to the CTO/COO of a competitor to comment on Power BI? This is doing a disservice to your readers. The comments he makes are flat out wrong. Power BI can access on-premises data, although why companies think their data is more secure on-premises rather than in Microsoft's data centers is beyond me. His comment about fairly simple data structures in also flat out wrong. Targit may be one of many companies who will find it very tough to compete with Power BI.
From a CPA and Power BI user who applauds Microsoft for developing this technology - not a Microsoft employee or ShareHolder.