Power BI Licensing Basics

Microsoft Power BI Licensing Basics


Microsoft Power BI's licensing has evolved over time and can be a bit confusing.  The goal of this post is to clear up the confusion.

Power BI Publishers vs. Consumers

Within your organization there will typically be two categories of Power BI users: publishers and consumers.  Publishers are creating reports using Power BI Desktop and publishing them to the Power BI Service.  Consumers are viewing the reports and dashboards on the Power BI Service and interacting with them.

Licensing Requirements

Each publisher will need a Power BI Pro license.  The licensing for consumers is where it gets more interesting.  Each consumer also needs a Power BI Pro license, unless the report is in Power BI Premium capacity.  In that case, consumers just need to be assigned a Power BI Free license.

Power BI Premium

When you purchase Power BI Premium, you are buying capacity in the Microsoft Azure cloud, not a license.  There is no limit on the number of users that a Power BI Premium capacity can support.  For example, if you have thousands of users but they only access a small dataset once a month, even the smallest Premium capacity may be enough.

From a cost perspective, the math is simple.  Power BI Premium P1 capacity costs that same as 500 Power BI Pro seats.  So if you need to support more than 500 viewers, you should get Power BI Premium.

Power BI Premium also has a lot of other great features for enterprise BI, such as support for larger datasets, more frequent refreshes and paginated reports, so even if you have less than 500 viewers it may still be well worth the investment.

Office 365 E5

Power BI Pro is also included in Microsoft's E5 bundles, i.e. Microsoft 365 E5 and Office 365 E5.  So if your organization already has 365 E5 you are covered.  Or, if have been considering E5 and also need Power BI Pro, then upgrading from an E3 bundle to E5 may be a cost-effective option.


Scenario 1

Suppose your organization has 10 publishers and 100 consumers.  What licensing should you buy?

You should buy 110 seats of Power BI Pro.  The cost at list price will be about $1,100 per month.

Scenario 2

What if your organization has 20 publishers and 600 consumers?

You could buy 620 seats of Power BI Pro, for a list price cost of about $6,200 per month.  However, you can save money buy purchasing just 20 seats of Power BI Pro and a Power BI Premium P1 capacity.  The monthly cost will be $200 for the Power BI Pro seats and $5,000 for the Power BI Premium for a total of $5,200.  In this case, you may have just saved your company $1,000 per month by reading this article!


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