The Power BI report server is the on premises alternative

// Business Intelligence, Cloud Computing, IT-Strategy

Microsoft Power BI has been on everyone's lips for several years now under the keyword "Self-Service BI" and contributes significantly to the perception of the Microsoft Data Platform as a leading analytics and business intelligence platform. In order to maintain and expand its leading position, Microsoft is making significant investments in the further development of the platform and is constantly increasing the range of functions via short, sometimes monthly release cycles. Even though the focus is obviously on the further development and marketing of the cloud-based Power BI service, the Power BI offering has been rounded off with an on-premises component in the form of the Power BI Report Server, which was released in June 2017. In this way, Microsoft is taking into account the reluctance of some companies towards the cloud and continues to offer the possibility of correspondingly conservative data storage in the medium term.

The Power BI Report Server can be licensed via a Power BI Premium license or a SQL Server Enterprise license with Software Assurance and allows companies to run Power BI locally (or hybrid with the Power BI Premium license).

Technically, the Power BI Report Server proves to be a charming enhancement of the Microsoft SQL Server Reporting Services. The Microsoft SQL Server Reporting Services enable the central provision of paginated reports, Excel documents, mobile reports, data sets and data sources via a web portal as well as the automated distribution of reports via subscriptions. The Power BI Report Server complements this functionality with the deployment and distribution of Power BI reports.

The installation is performed in the traditional manner together with the Reporting Services, whereby a dedicated installation medium must be downloaded. Migration of an existing instance of Microsoft SQL Server Reporting Services is also supported.

After successful installation, reports can be created and stored on the report server using a version of Power BI Desktop dedicated to the report server.

Finally, using the browser, Power BI reports can be found, managed (security, updating, distribution, and so on) and displayed in a separate "Power BI Reports" section of the Reporting Services Portal.


The Power BI report server represents a real alternative to the cloud-based Power BI service and closes the gap of the Power BI offer in the on-prem world. This benefits companies that are generally skeptical about the cloud and want to avoid the step into the cloud.

For companies that have yet to take the step into the Cloud and where there is a much greater hurdle to introduce the Power BI service because cloud infrastructures such as Azure Active Directory or Office365 are still to be set up, the Power BI Premium license offers the option of running Power BI locally and then migrating to the Cloud or running Power BI hybrid.

Especially companies, where SQL Server Reporting Services are already established and possibly also the SQL Server Enterprise license with Software Assurance is already available, a migration to the Power BI report server offers a good possibility to integrate the functional range of Power BI and to guarantee a central and uniform access to Power BI reports, Reporting Services reports, Excel documents, etc. via the Reporting Services Portal.

Even though the Power BI report server is a serious alternative, it must be noted that the Power BI report server has a smaller feature set than its counterpart in the cloud. A thorough comparison of requirements and features is therefore mandatory.


noventum consulting

Daniel Christoph

Management Consultant

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