Save cost by removing unused (Power BI) licenses

In recent discussions with customers, I almost got every time the same question when we talk about administrating and governing the environment: How do we know who REALLY needs a Power BI Pro license? The root cause of this question is obviously the urge to save cost and not to spend money on unused licenses. On the other hand, if a Power BI admin has to check each user manually if the license is still needed, there is no really cost optimization as the manual work also require time and cost at the end. Therefore, we’re looking for an automated way to solve this need. Luckily, there are REST APIs to support us! Let me walk you through the different steps and how a solution could look like.

What kind of information do we need?

To be able to tell who needs a license there are different information needed:

  • All users with a Power BI license
  • Last activity date for each user (like last log in, viewed report, etc.)
  • Decision how many days / months / years an user can be inactive and still keep a license

Once we got all users with a Power BI license, we can check with the last activity date and decide if the user still requires a license. In my case, I wish to remove the license if the user hasn’t had an activity in the last 90 days, but this can be adjusted based on your needs.

Prerequisites

As I love Python, I’m going to code in Notebooks and call REST APIs. The whole solution could also be done with PowerShell if you prefer this language more.

To get the needed details which user has what kind of license, we have to work with the Microsoft Graph API. Right now, there are two different versions: v1.0 and beta. As recommended by Microsoft documentation, I’m going to use the general available v1.0. Scrolling through the different options of the API, we’ll find the GET /users request which gives us all users in our Azure Active Directory (AAD).

Looking further, the API also offers to list all licenses an individual user has through the GET /users/{id}/licenseDetails where we have to provide the user ID. Combining those two APIs we’ll know which user have what kind of license.

As a next step, we’ll need the activity details as well. You can find a possible solution on my blog how to extract those details here.

Lastly, to be able to call the Graph API I would recommend setting up a Service Principal with the needed permissions. So, let me first walk you through this process.

How to set up a Service Principal for the Graph API

Head over to https://portal.azure.com and search for App registrations in the search bar at the top and select it.

Hit + New registration and give a recognizable name to your Service Principal (SP). In my case I’m going to name it “Power BI Guy Graph API”. As I wish to run the SP only in my directory, I choose the first account type in the list and let the redirect URI empty. Once done, I just hit the “Register” button.

After the SP is registered, we have to give the necessary API permissions. To do so, click on “API permissions” on the left-hand side and select + Add a permission.

Because I want to use the same SP to read all users and check licenses for each user, I’ll give the combined permission of both endpoints. To check which permissions are needed, check the Graph API documentation under the section “Permissions”. As we’re using a SP, we’re interested in the “Application” type of permission. Here’s an example of the list users API.

Heading back to the Service Principal, I choose “Microsoft Graph” at top after selecting the + Add a permission button. Because I want to run my app in the background, I choose the “Application permissions”. Once selected, I search for all listed permissions needed for the API. In this case, it’s User.Read.All, User.ReadWrite.All, Directory.Read.All, Directory.ReadWrite.All I just enter the needed permission in the search box and select it. Once all permissions are selected, I hit the Add permissions button.

After the permissions have been added, we have to grant admin consent to be able to call the API and read our necessary information.

When you grant tenant-wide admin consent to an application, you give the application access on behalf of the whole organization to the permissions requested. Granting admin consent on behalf of an organization is a sensitive operation, potentially allowing the application’s publisher access to significant portions of your organization’s data, or the permission to do highly privileged operations. Examples of such operations might be role management, full access to all mailboxes or all sites, and full user impersonation.

https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/azure/active-directory/manage-apps/grant-admin-consent

Lastly, we have to create a secret (that’s like a password for our SP) to be able to log in with the SP. To do so, select Certificates & secrets on the left, select Client secrets, and hit the + New client secret. Give a recognizable description and an expires timeline. In my case I’ll use “PBI Guy: Read Users with Power BI licenses” and 6 months expiration.

Keep in mind your password will in this case expire after 6 months! Meaning you’ll need to recreate a secret or set up another expiration time.

Copy the Value of your secret now! Once you refresh / leave the page, the secret value will not be fully visible anymore and you would need to create a new one.

Now that we have our SP registered, let’s start the fun part with Python.

Get the job done with Python

As usual, we first have to import our needed libraries. In this case, following libraries are needed.

#Import necessary libraries

import msal
import requests
import json
import pandas as pd
from pyspark.sql.functions import *
from datetime import date, timedelta

You’ll probably notice that I work in the Azure Synapse environment to create and run my Python code. Obviously, you can choose your own environment but the benefits of using Synapse will come along this article!

In my next block of code, I set the needed variables. I start with the Service Principal ID or also called Client ID. This can be found in Azure Portal by selecting the newly created App and in the Overview screen, you’ll find the Client ID at the top.

The previously copied Secret Value is my next parameter. To get an access token, we have to specify the scope and authority URL as well. Scope in this case is set up to the Graph URL and the authority URL includes your tenant’s name at the end. Lastly, I define a Pandas DataFrame including all licenses SKUs with ID and Name in which I’m interested in. Because we’ll get all licenses back from each user through the Graph API and I’m only interested in the Power BI licenses, I want to specify and filter afterwards on those. Keep in mind that Power BI Pro is part of different SKUs like the E5 or A5. A full list of all SKUs including name and UID can be found here: https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/azure/active-directory/enterprise-users/licensing-service-plan-reference

#Set parameters

client_id = '' #ID of Service Principal / App
client_secret = '' #Secret from Service Principal / App
scope = 'https://graph.microsoft.com/.default' #Defining Scope for Graph API
authority_url = "https://login.microsoftonline.com/..." #Defining authority / host

#Define all needed Power BI related SKUs
#All SKUs with the ID and friendly name of Microsoft can be found here: https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/azure/active-directory/enterprise-users/licensing-service-plan-reference Check if new SKUs are available or have changed over time. The list below has been created on 15th September 2022
all_skus = pd.DataFrame ({
    'skuId': ['e97c048c-37a4-45fb-ab50-922fbf07a370', '46c119d4-0379-4a9d-85e4-97c66d3f909e', '06ebc4ee-1bb5-47dd-8120-11324bc54e06', 'c42b9cae-ea4f-4ab7-9717-81576235ccac', 'cd2925a3-5076-4233-8931-638a8c94f773', 'e2be619b-b125-455f-8660-fb503e431a5d', 'a4585165-0533-458a-97e3-c400570268c4', 'ee656612-49fa-43e5-b67e-cb1fdf7699df', 'c7df2760-2c81-4ef7-b578-5b5392b571df', 'e2767865-c3c9-4f09-9f99-6eee6eef861a', 'a403ebcc-fae0-4ca2-8c8c-7a907fd6c235', '7b26f5ab-a763-4c00-a1ac-f6c4b5506945', 'c1d032e0-5619-4761-9b5c-75b6831e1711', 'de376a03-6e5b-42ec-855f-093fb50b8ca5', 'f168a3fb-7bcf-4a27-98c3-c235ea4b78b4', 'f8a1db68-be16-40ed-86d5-cb42ce701560', '420af87e-8177-4146-a780-3786adaffbca', '3a6a908c-09c5-406a-8170-8ebb63c42882', 'f0612879-44ea-47fb-baf0-3d76d9235576'],
    'skuName': ['Microsoft 365 A5 for Faculty', 'Microsoft 365 A5 for Students', 'Microsoft 365 E5', 'Microsoft 365 E5 Developer (without Windows and Audio Conferencing)', 'Microsoft 365 E5 without Audio Conferencing', 'Microsoft 365 GCC G5', 'Office 365 A5 for Faculty', 'Office 365 A5 for Students', 'Office 365 E5', 'Power BI', 'Power BI (free)', 'Power BI Premium P1', 'Power BI Premium Per User', 'Power BI Premium Per User Add-On', 'Power BI Premium Per User Dept', 'Power BI Pro', 'Power BI Pro CE', 'Power BI Pro Dept', 'Power BI Pro for GCC']
})

You can of course adjust the all_skus DataFrame based on your needs.

As a next step, I want to log in with the SP and get an access token to work with and call the Graph API. To do so, I call the msal.ConfidentialClientApplication and provide the needed details. Afterwards, I store the access token in a result variable.

app = msal.ConfidentialClientApplication(client_id, authority=authority_url, client_credential=client_secret)
result = app.acquire_token_for_client(scopes=scope)

Next, I specify the Graph API to get all AAD users in a variable called url_get_all_users. Going further, I check if I got an access token and if so, I want to call the Graph API to get the needed details. If in any case I don’t get an access token, it also doesn’t make sense to call the Graph API as we’ll get a 403 error. Once the call succeeded, I store the result in a df_all_users DataFrame including only the needed columns “displayName”, “mail”, “userPrincipalName”, and “id”.

url_get_all_users = 'https://graph.microsoft.com/v1.0/users' #URL to get all AAD users

#If access token is created and received, call the get all users url to receive licenses per user
if 'access_token' in result:
    access_token = result['access_token']
    header = {'Content-Type':'application/x-www-form-urlencoded', 'Authorization':f'Bearer {access_token}'}

    api_call = requests.get(url=url_get_all_users, headers=header) #Effective get all users from AAD URL call

    result = api_call.json()['value'] #Get only the necessary child
    df_all_users = pd.DataFrame(result) #Convert to DataFrame
    df_all_users = df_all_users[['displayName', 'mail', 'userPrincipalName', 'id']] #Get only needed columns

As I have now all AAD users, I want to check which license each user has. To do so, I have to loop through all users in the df_all_users DataFrame and call the Graph API to get the license details. To be able to collect and store those details from each user into once, comprehensive DataFrame, I create an empty one before the loop.

In the loops itself I extract the current User ID, User Principal, and specify the Graph API URL for the current user in a separate variable. Afterwards, I call the API and store the result in a df_user_licenses DataFrame. To make sure I know which user is called, I expand the DataFrame with the User ID and User Principal info.

    df_all_user_licenses = pd.DataFrame() #Create empty DataFrame to store all users and assigned licenses

    for idx, row in df_all_users.iterrows(): #Iterate through each users from AAD
        user_id = row['id'] #Store the User ID in a separate variable
        userPrincipal = row['userPrincipalName']
        url_get_licenses = 'https://graph.microsoft.com/v1.0/users/' + user_id + '/licenseDetails' #Defining the URL to get licens per user

        api_call = requests.get(url=url_get_licenses, headers=header) #Effective get license per User URL call
        result = api_call.json()['value'] #Get only the necessary child

        df_user_licenses = pd.DataFrame(result) #convert to DataFrame
        df_user_licenses['userId'] = user_id #Add User ID to identify user
        df_user_licenses['userPrincipal'] = userPrincipal #Add User Principal to identify user

In the last piece of this block of code I want to filter down all licenses by user to only Power BI related ones. Because I get through ALL objects in AAD it could be that some of them don’t have a license assigned at all (like a room resource) and to avoid errors, I use the try and except trying to filter the result. Of course, you can do an if else statement as well to check if you have an empty result or even go other paths. In my case, I decided to go with the try and except. Once done, I add the filtered result into my comprehensive df_all_users_licenses DataFrame.

        #I'll use a try and except statement to handle empty requests --> if no license is assign nothing will be return and without try and except the script will run into an error. 
        #An if else statement would also work to check if the result is empty or not
        try:
            df_user_licenses = df_user_licenses[df_user_licenses['skuId'].isin(all_skus['skuId'])] #Get only PBI related SKUs
            df_user_licenses = df_user_licenses[['skuId', 'userId', 'userPrincipal']] #Get only needed columns
            df_user_licenses = all_skus.merge(df_user_licenses) #Using a join to retrieve only users with assigned PBI licenses
            df_all_user_licenses = pd.concat([df_all_user_licenses, df_user_licenses]) #Adding result to all user licenses DataFrame

        except:
            pass

My whole code looks now as following

Let me display the df_all_user_licenses DataFrame to check what we got until now.

As we see we got different users and the assigned licenses. In my screen shot we can see the Office 365 E5 and the Power BI (free) license assigned to some users.

So far, we have logged in via a Service Principal, got all users from AAD and the assigned licenses for each user. As a next step, we have to check the last activity date for each user. Here comes the superpower of Azure Synapse! As mentioned already, in one of my last blog posts I showed how I use Python to store Activity Logs in Azure Data Lake Gen2 – see https://pbi-guy.com/2022/03/10/power-bi-and-activity-logs-with-python/ I’m going to reuse this work and just read all the CSV files already stored with pySpark and store it into the df_activityLog DataFrame. Pay attention to “*” at the end of my path to read all CSV files, not only one.

#Read Activity Log folder with all files
df_activityLog = spark.read.load('abfss://powerbi@....dfs.core.windows.net/Activity Log/*', format='csv', header=True)

If you’re not sure how your abfss path should look like, head over to Data, Linked, select your container and folder where you’re log files are stored, right click on one file, and select New notebook – Load to DataFrame. Azure Synapse will create automatically a code to read your file with pySpark. Resue the path in your code.

My next step is to specify how many days back I want to check if some activity has happened in Power BI. In my case I go for the last 90 days and filter the df_activityLog DataFrame.

#Specify day varialbe for how many days you're looking back
daysBackToCheck = 90 #Configure this number based on need how many days you're looking for an inactive user. In this case 90 means 90 days going back from today on.
activityDays = date.today() - timedelta(days=daysBackToCheck)
activityDays = activityDays.strftime("%Y-%m-%d")

#Filter Activity logs to get last X days
df_activityLog = df_activityLog.filter(df_activityLog.CreationTime > activityDays)

As I’m not interested of what kind of activities have happened, I’ll just group my df_activityLog by UserID and get the max date out of it to see the last activity Date. Obviously, you could specify filters to check for specific activities like “View Report” or similar. But I decided to count every activity the same meaning as long as there is some kind of activity, the license is needed. To not mix things up, I rename the userId from the activity log to userPrincipal – which is more reliable and correct from my point of view. Last piece of the code is to convert the pySpark DataFrame to a Pandas DataFrame to be able to merge it afterwards easily.

#Aggregate to get the last activity day by user
df_activityLog = df_activityLog.groupBy('userId').agg(max('CreationTime').alias('Date'))
df_activityLog = df_activityLog.withColumnRenamed('userId', 'userPrincipal')

df_activityLog = df_activityLog.toPandas()

My whole code looks now as following.

Let’s display the result of df_activityLog as well.

As I’m using a demo environment, I don’t have much user activities on it. In the last 90 days, only 4 users have done something in my Power BI environment.

Now that I have all users with Power BI related licenses, and I have all users with some kind of activity, let’s merge those two DataFrames and check which users has a license but no activity in the last 90 days. To do so, I use the pd.merge and filter afterwards only users without a date as this means no activity has happend.

#Combine both DataFrames to check all users and their last login
df_combined = pd.merge(df_all_user_licenses, df_activityLog, how='left', on=['userPrincipal', 'userPrincipal'])

#Get all Users without login in last X days
df_combined_only_NaN = df_combined[pd.isna(df_combined['Date'])]

Let’s again display the df_combined_only_NaN DataFrame to check if we have some users with a Power BI related license but no activity.

As I’m doing this for demo purpose only, I will focus on removing Power BI Free licenses. Of course, there is no cost behind this license and in a real-world scenario I would focus especially on Power BI Pro (and probably Power BI Premium Per User), but the approach is absolutely the same, regardless which license you wish to remove. Therefore, I add an extra code block to filter down to only Power BI free licenses.

#Filter only to Power BI Free licenses for my demo use case
df_pbi_free = df_combined_only_NaN.loc[df_combined_only_NaN['skuId'] == 'a403ebcc-fae0-4ca2-8c8c-7a907fd6c235']

display(df_pbi_free)

If I now display all users with a PBI Free license, I see two users without an activity in the last 90 days in my case.

My last step is now to remove for those two users automatically the Power BI Free license. And again, the Graph API provides us with the right request. In this case, we need the POST /user/{id}/assignLicense request – see https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/graph/api/user-assignlicense?view=graph-rest-1.0&tabs=http The documentation also highlights that a JSON body needs to be included looking like this.

{
  "addLicenses": [
    {
      "disabledPlans": [ "11b0131d-43c8-4bbb-b2c8-e80f9a50834a" ],
      "skuId": "45715bb8-13f9-4bf6-927f-ef96c102d394"
    }
  ],
  "removeLicenses": [ "bea13e0c-3828-4daa-a392-28af7ff61a0f" ]
}

One important detail is the content-type of the header. It has to be application/json so I start my code by adjusting the header variable. If wished, you can create another access token but in my case I’m going to reuse the already existing one.

#Overwrite header and reuse access token
header = {'Content-Type':'application/json', 'Authorization':f'Bearer {access_token}'}

Because the assignLicense request is per user, we have to create again a loop for each user for our df_pbi_free DataFrame. I extract again the user id, sku id, and the user principal in a separate variable to reuse it afterwards.

for idx, row in df_pbi_free.iterrows(): #Iterate through each users with a PBI Free license
    user_id = row['userId'] #Store the User ID in a separate variable
    sku_id = row['skuId'] #Store the SKU ID in a separate variable
    userPrincipal = row['userPrincipal']

My next step is to create the request URL and body. Once done, I can call the URL and remove the Power BI Free license for users.

    #configure URL to call to remove license from user
    url = 'https://graph.microsoft.com/v1.0/users/' + user_id + '/assignLicense'

    #create body with SKU ID
    body = {
        "addLicenses": [],
        "removeLicenses": [
            sku_id
        ]
    }

    #Call API to remove license
    api_call = requests.post(url=url, headers=header, json=body)

Making sure my call was successful, I print a message at the end depending on the returned status from the API (200 means successful, everything else is an error in my case).

    if api_call.status_code == 200:
        print('License has been successfully removed from user', userPrincipal)

    else:
        print('An error occured and license has NOT been removed')

My whole code looks now as following.

Before I run the code, let’s check manually if Adele and Alex really have a Power BI Free license in the Azure Portal. To do so, I go to the Azure Portal, search for users, and select each user. Once selected, I click on Licenses and check if Power BI Free is assigned. In both cases the answer is yes.

Now let’s run the code and see what will happen. After the code run successfully, I got following message.

It looks like it was successful. Let’s check manually by going back to the Azure Portal and refresh the view of Adele.

How great is this! We just removed the license automatically! This means we can really automate for which user licenses should be removed. In my demo case, I used the Power BI Free license to remove. But obviously this approach could also be used to remove other licenses like Power BI Pro, E5, and many others (depending on your needs and activity logs).

Please let me know if this post was helpful and give me some feedback. Also feel free to contact me if you have any questions.

If you’re interested in the files used in this blog check out my GitHub repo https://github.com/PBI-Guy/blog

How to use Incremental Refresh on ANY data source!

A few days ago, a colleague asked me if it would be possible to have more data from the Azure Cost Management API than only the last 30 days. Obviously, my first thought was sure, let’s use Azure Synapse and store it in a Data Lake. But then the real challenging question was asked: Would it be possible purely and only with Power BI, not with other services and tools? I was like: Let me brainstorm with my good colleague and co-organizer of the Power BI User Group Switzerland, Denis Selimovic. After a few minutes we (mainly him, but I’ll never admit it 😀 ) came up with the idea of using Datamarts as staging area and using Dataflows afterwards to enable Incremental Refresh. With this workaround, we’ll have an Azure SQL DB (this is technically a Datamart behind the scenes) as staging area, and therefore Incremental Refresh will work as Query folding will be possible! Denis already wrote a great article how to set it up for the Power BI Log Files, which only holds the last 30 days. Check it out here: https://whatthefact.bi/power-bi/power-bi-datamart/persisting-temporary-accessible-data-via-power-bi-datamarts-with-the-example-of-power-bi-activity-logs/ In my blog post I’m going to use a SharePoint site to test at the end the different scenarios (deleting, modifying, and adding new data). I just want to highlight one more time: This approach will work with any Data Source that Power Query / Datamart can connect to. So, it will also work with Excel Sheets, CSV files, BLOB, etc. What a game changer!

What is this Incremental Refresh, Query Folding, and why should I care?

Usually, if you connect to a data source with Power BI – and once your transformation and modelling is done – you set up an automatic refresh of the dataset. The beauty of this is, that all data will be refreshed every time. That works perfectly fine for small datasets. But what if you wish to only update the last few days because there is no need to refresh data from last years as those data never changes? For example, a sales report showing my sales from 2012 – 2022. Sales coming from the years 2012 – 2021 do not change usually so there is no need to update them on a regular base therefore we’re looking for a way to update only the last 7 days of 2022 in this example. This will speed up the Dataset refresh and that’s exactly what Incremental Refresh does. As creator of a dataset, you can set up how many days, months, or years you wish to refresh and everything older than that should just be stored. More insights about Incremental Refresh can be found here: https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/power-bi/connect-data/incremental-refresh-overview

And how does Query Folding plays a role in this whole setup? Because we configure a specific date in our refresh (in our example we wish to refresh only the last 7 days of 2022), this date has to be provided somehow to the data source. If we’re talking in SQL, this means there has to be somewhere a WHERE clause filtering the data to the last 7 days. While Power BI connects to the data source, it tries to create Queries in the data source language (so if we connect to a SQL DB, it will talk SQL) and on top it tries to push all the different transformations that we did in Power Query to the data source. Again, as an example, if we rename a column from “Column A” to “Revenue” and our data source is SQL, it will generate something like SELECT [Column A] as [Revenue] so that SQL does the transformation. This is exactly what Query Folding is. It tries to push the transformations down to the data source. My friend and MVP Nikola Ilic did a great blog about Query Folding which you can find here: https://data-mozart.com/what-is-a-query-folding-in-power-bi-and-why-should-i-care/ or if you’re more interested in the Microsoft Docs following this link: https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/power-query/query-folding-basics

Due to the fact that Incremental Refresh requires Query Folding to be able to get the latest data we’re looking for, not all data sources are supported. As an example, Excel, BLOB, CSV files, can’t be incrementally refreshed until now!

Power BI Datamarts

During Build 2022 in May, Microsoft announced a new artefact called Power BI Datamarts (see https://powerbi.microsoft.com/en-us/blog/democratize-enterprise-analytics-with-microsoft-power-bi/) to democratize enterprise analytics for everyone. With Datamarts, every user has an intuitive no code / low code database solution at hand as behind the scenes, an Azure SQL Database will be created.

A datamart creator can use the no code experience to extract, transform, and load data into a database that is fully managed by Power BI. There’s no need to worry about creating and managing dataflows or data refresh schedules—it’s all automatic. The user gets an intuitive SQL and visual querying interface for performing ad-hoc analysis on the data. Users can then connect to the datamart using external SQL-aware tools for further analysis.

Arun Ulagaratchagan

Therefore, we can connect to any data source, load it into a Datamart, and store it technically in a Database. Because now we have our data in our database, we can connect to it with a Dataflow and set up Incremental Refresh as Query Folding is now supported!

Let’s create a Datamart

As of today, Power BI Datamart is in Public Preview and a Premium feature so Premium, Premium per User, or Embedded is required. In my case I’m going to use a PPU license to create a Datamart. To be able to do so, I log in to PowerBI.com and select my demo workspace PBI Guy. In there, I choose New and select Datamart.

For the purpose of this blog post, I’m going to use a SharePoint list but as mentioned already, you can easily use something else like an Excel Sheet, CSV file, etc.

Therefore, I have to select Get data from another source and choose SharePoint Online list afterwards. Once selected, I provide my SharePoint site and my credentials, select my list, and hit transform data.

In Power Query Online I select only the needed columns (ID, Title, Date, and Revenue) and make sure that all data types are correct. As Incremental Refresh requires a DateTime column, please ensure your date column is set up correctly.

Once done, I select to load the data into my Datamart, and rename it on the next screen to “Staging Datamart” by selecting the arrow at the top.

Next, I create a Dataflow which should connect to my Datamart. Before I do so, I go back to my workspace, select the three dots besides my newly created Datamart, and hit Settings.

In there, I expand Server settings and copy the string.

Now I head back to my workspace, select New, and choose Dataflow.

On the next screen, I select Add new Table, and search for Azure SQL Database.

Once selected, I provide the copied Datamart (Azure SQL) string connection as Server name, select Authentication kind “Organizational account”, and select Next.

On the next screen, I select my table, and check in the Preview window if the data is correct. Once approved, I select Transform data.

In the Power Query Online experience, I don’t have to adjust anything anymore, but it would be possible if needed. Therefore, I just select Save & close, and save my Dataflow on the next screen with the name “Incremental Refresh”.

As next step, I have to configure Incremental Refresh. Luckily, this is pretty straight-forward. I just select the Incremental Refresh button, turn it on, and choose my Date column within the Dataflow as the DateTime column needed.

Lastly, I configure to store the past 3 years and only refresh the last 7 days. After hitting save I finished the configuration.

Once saved, a window pops up at the top right to Refresh the Dataflow now. I do so by selecting the button Refresh now to load the data into the Dataflow.

It’s time to test

Now that we have set up everything (connecting with a Datamart to our data source, connecting a Dataflow to our Datamart and setting up incremental refresh) let’s test if it works as expected. Today is the 14th of July 2022. In my demo list, I have some sales starting 1st of July until today. If I connect now with Power BI to my Dataflow, I see all five entries coming indirectly from SharePoint – so far so good.

Now, let’s do some changes in the SharePoint list. I will delete two rows, one from the 1st of July and one from the 11th of July. Further, I changed Product 2 name to Product 22 on the 4th of July and updated the Revenue on the 7th. Lastly, I added a new sale for today.

Our first step is now to trigger a refresh for our Datamart. Once the refresh successfully finished, we see a 1:1 copy of our SharePoint list.

Now, let’s trigger a refresh of our Dataflow. Once it’s finished, I hit the refresh button in my Power BI Desktop, which is connected to the Dataflow, to see the end result.

And as expected, Product 1 and 2 haven’t changed! So, we have now some historization in Power BI – awesome! But let’s analyze each row to understand the behavior.

Because we set up the Incremental Refresh to refresh only the last 7 days, everything prior to it will be ignored. Because Product 1 and 2 are older than 7 days, the changes didn’t affect our data in the Dataflow. But what about Product 3 which is dated 7th of July? This is, from an Incremental Refresh Point of view, 8 days ago because

  • 14. July = Day 1
  • 13. July = Day 2
  • 12. July = Day 3
  • 11. July = Day 4
  • 10. July = Day 5
  • 09. July = Day 6
  • 08. July = Day 7

and therefore, 7th July hasn’t been updated neither in our refresh. Product 4, which was dated on the 11th of July, has been removed – this is as expected. And lastly, our newest sale from today has been added (Product 6) which is also as expected.

Great, this is a real game changer as with Power BI you can now create a real staging area, and on top use Incremental Refresh to historize your data! But keep in mind, with this approach the data will only be available in the Dataflow. I would highly recommend using at least your own Azure Data Lake Storage Gen2 to store the Dataflow into it (see https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/power-bi/transform-model/dataflows/dataflows-azure-data-lake-storage-integration). This way, you can access and enhance it if needed. Further, you can do backups and make sure it will not be lost if you delete your Dataflow.

Please let me know if this post was helpful and give me some feedback. Also feel free to contact me if you have any questions.

If you’re interested in the files used in this blog check out my GitHub repo https://github.com/PBI-Guy/blog

The Power BI Championship Switzerland

For the first time in Switzerland, we organized the Power BI Championship which crowned the top 3 teams based on their solution. In this post I’m going to share what the Championship is all about, what the challenge was (feel free to challenge yourself and create a report on your own), and how the jury scored all the amazing solutions we got. Lastly, I’m going to share the Top “10” solutions in the GitHub repo so everyone can get inspired about the different ideas and solutions.

What is the Power BI Championship

The whole idea of the Championship was to enable everyone to work with Power BI and get to see what’s possible within just a few days. We organized a Briefing Session on the 20th of May 2022 to explain everyone who registered how the Championship will look like and how – even if you’re a new enthusiast – you can skill yourself during the upcoming days and weeks. Starting from the 20th we posted every day for the upcoming two weeks a new enablement Guy in a Cube video to make sure you know the basics about Power BI and how to create reports. (See All Enablement Videos from Guy in a Cube down below).

On the 2nd of June we finally had our Kick-Off where we introduced the Dataset which all Champions have to use. We gave each individual and team the choice between the GHO OData API (https://www.who.int/data/gho/info/gho-odata-api) and the Swiss Open Data about rent prices (https://opendata.swiss/en/dataset/durchschnittlicher-mietpreis-pro-m2-in-franken-nach-zimmerzahl-und-kanton2). The goal was to use at least one of these two datasets and create a report on top. Everyone was free to add more, publicly available data to enhance the report and provide a solution until midnight 7th of June.

Once all teams have submitted their solution a jury of three technical Microsoft FTEs went through the PBIX files to score the solution based on a scoring system. This made sure scoring was as objective as possible and the winner was really determined based on neutral criteria, not personal preferences. All three jury members scored different aspects of each report and the average was taken as final points, e.g. How is the Layout? How is the Data Model? Did the team follow Best Practices? Are all columns / tables from the Data Model used? How is DAX structured? How complex is the DAX used? Did they think about a mobile layout? And so on. Nevertheless, some criteria are still more important than others. Therefore, we decided to weight the different categories. An overview can be found in the image below.

The main idea was to determine a Top 10, announce them on the 10th of June, and invite them to the Finals on the 17th of June. But there was one “issue” – the different solutions have been so amazing and the scoring so close we just couldn’t do a hard cut and invite only the Top 10! We decided during the scoring that we invite even the Top 14 plus 3 Golden Buzzers to the Finals! Golden Buzzer in this case means that each jury member had a Golden Buzzer to vote for a solution once to see them in the Finals regardless of their score. This way we had 17 great teams presenting their solution on the 17th of June.

Once the teams have been announced they had seven days to prepare for the live demo and also collect some extra points through LinkedIn. This means each team had to collect Likes, Comments, and Shares to score more points at the end. Idea behind this was to check if others also like the team’s solution or was it only the jury. But again, we wanted to make sure that just because someone had a huge LinkedIn community, they will not win based on this. So, we weighted again all Teams. The team with the most Likes, Comments, and Shares got 10 points, the second best got 9 points, etc.

Lastly each Team had to sell their solution to the jury who represented a CEO, CIO, and CMO within a 10min live demo. Again, all teams have been scored and weighted (best team 10 points, second best team 9 points, etc.) to make it as fair as possible.

In a last step, we weighted each score (Solution Score 70%, Social Media Score 10%, Live Demo 20%) to determine the Top 3.

This is just an example and not the real scoring during the Championship

Based on these criteria, the winners of the Power BI Championship Switzerland 2022 are:

1st Place: Team BIdventure, Members: Karim Abdrakhmanov & Anthony Haberli
2nd Place: Team Clouds on Mars, Members: Greg Stryjczak & Wojtek Bak
3rd Place: Pascal Kiefer

I want to highlight one more time that this doesn’t mean the other solutions haven’t been good – contrary! All finalists have delivered awesome and outstanding reports and it made the jury’s life really hard to have “only three winners”! But the small details in the end decided the scoring – like a Championship should be. If you’re interested in how close it really was, check the GitHub repo with all the final solutions and write in the comments which was your favorite one.

All Enablement Videos from Guy in a Cube

Please let me know if this post was helpful and give me some feedback. Also feel free to contact me if you have any questions.

If you’re interested in the files used in this blog check out my GitHub repo https://github.com/PBI-Guy/blog

Power BI and Activity Logs with Python

One of the most asked questions when I talk with Power BI Admins / Service Owners is how can they analyze which reports are (most) used. Power BI respectively Microsoft offers you different ways to get such insights. In this blog post I’ll give you an overview of the different ways and walk you through how to leverage the Power BI Admin REST API with Python to extract log files and analyze them – obviously – with Power BI.

What’s available

Here is a quick overview of different ways to get an usage metric of one or multiple reports.

  • Usage Metrics
  • M365 Audit Logs
  • Power BI & Azure Log Analytics
  • Power BI & PowerShell
  • Power BI REST API

Let’s explore them in more details. First of all the Usage Metrics which is out-of-the-box available in Power BI Service. As of this writing we differentiate between the classic workspace and new workspace Monitor Usage. Both of them gives you insights about the usage of your report. For example you can see how many views, unique viewers, and viewers per day for the specific report. Further, you could edit the report and delete the filter to get an overview of all reports within the same workspace. Unfortunately it’s not possible to have one Usage Metrics report across different workspaces this way which is therefore not the best solution for admins to get a total overview. Lastly, the Usage Metrics gives you an overview of the last 90 days, not more.

Going further with M365 Audit Logs. Each user, who have View-Only Audit Logs, Audit Logs, Global Admins, and/or Auditors permissions, have access to the general M365 Audit Log files. Power BI, like any other M365 service, logs all kind of different activities in the M365 Audit Log for the last 90 days. Therefore you can go the the M365 Compliance Center – Audit and search on different Activities. In the screen shot below I’m searching for Viewed Power BI report and get a result per Date and Time of the different Reports users have accessed (viewed). If wished I can download the result as CSV.

As nice as this possibility is there are two pain points from my point of view. First, if I have the sufficient rights to access the Log Files I have access to every log entry from any other M365 Service as well (e.g. SharePoint Online, Exchange Online, Dynamics 365, etc.), not only Power BI. Secondly, it’s a manual process. As Patrick from Guy in the Cube says: I’m not lazy, I’m efficient. And every manuel process is not really efficient. Therefore let’s explore the other ways, probably we find a better solution.

Since June 2021 you can connect an Azure Log Analytics Workspace with a Power BI Workspace to store automatically activity information. The beauty of this way is that once set up, you don’t have to run any kind of script or do something manually as everything is automatically saved in Azure Log Analytics. Further, it’s just storing Power BI related data and you don’t have access to other Microsoft Services logs. The downside is that Power BI Premium (per Use) and Azure Log Analytics is required, which can increase your costs. Costs for Log Analytics are, from my point of view, not that high. It starts already at $2.76 per GB but still it has to be considered. Prices for Azure Log Analytics can be found here. Another limitation (as of writing this post) is, that you can connect only one Power BI Workspace with one Azure Log Analytics workspace meaning you would need to create one Azure Log Workspaces per Power BI Workspace to store the log data. Of course you can combine it afterwards in Power BI or other tools but it’s still not on one central place. How to use and set up Azure Log Analytics with Power BI can be found here.

Moving on to the next possibility of using PowerShell to extract the log files. Instead of manually extracting the Log File in the Microsoft Compliance Center, as seen above, you can also create a PowerShell script to automatically get the needed data. Microsoft offers a good documentation (see here) how to use it and what’s required. One important thing to keep in mind is that you have two different cmdlet to get your data. One is the Power BI Activity Event (Get-PowerBIActivityEvent) and the other is the Unified Audit Log (Search-UnifiedAuditLog). The first one will give you only Power BI-related data for the last 30 days while the Unified Audit Log will give you access to the whole audit log for the last 90 days. This means you could also get data from other Microsoft Services, not only Power BI. Therefore you’ll find a filter option with the Unified Audit Log to get only Power BI related data (see screen shot below, marked with a red line).

I tested successfully the Unified Audit Log cmdlet as you can see below. I extract one file for the last 90 days in this example but of course you can extract only one day and run the script on a daily basis to get a history of your data (see line #20 in script) The whole script is of course in my GitHub repo.

The best part of this approach is that you can specify what exactly you wish to export – not only Power BI related logs. Further if you’re exporting it on your own you can choose how to store the data (CSV, Excel, Database, etc.) and create a historization. But like with manually extracting the log files you would require sufficient permissions. If you would use the Power BI Activity Log (Get-PowerBIActivityEvent) you won’t have access to the whole log file and you would only require Power BI Admin, Power Platform Admin, or Global Admin rights. And of course you would require some tech skills for this approach to create and use a PowerShell script but even myself with some guidance from Bing and YouTube could create such a script to extract the data and store it as CSV file. 🙂

Lastly, if you’re more familiar working with REST APIs the last option would be your preferred way. As in the document stated Power BI offers a REST API to get Activity Events. Let me walk you through how you can leverage the API with Python and store the data into an Azure Data Lake Gen2 to analyze it afterwards with Power BI.

Requirements

  • Create / Use a Service Principal
  • Enable Service Principals rad-only access to Power BI admin API in Tenant Settings
  • Azure Data Lake Gen2
  • Python Skills
  • Understanding REST APIs

First of all let’s make sure we have the sufficient permission to run our Python script. Because I wish to automate it and I don’t wish to use my personal account I’ll need a Service Principal. How to register an App / create a Service Principal can be found in this guide. But let me walk you through as well. Log in into your Azure Portal, search for “App Registration” and hit “New Registration”. Give your app a name and select the supported account type (I choose the first option, only Single Tenant). In my case I called my Service Principal “Power BI REST API”.

Note: No API permissions are required as the application’s Azure AD permissions will have no effect. The application’s permissions are then managed through the Power BI admin portal.

Afterwards I created a Security Group called Power BI REST API and added my Service Principal to the group.

Next, we have to make sure that Power BI in general allows Service Principals to use the Power BI Admin REST API. To do so I log in to Power BI, go to the Admin Portal and Enable in the Admin API Settings the necessary feature. Once enabled I add my Power BI REST API Security Group.

Now that we’re ready and have the sufficient permission let’s create our Python script. I’ll do so in the Azure Synapse environment but of course it would also work in any other tool like Visual Studio Code.

As usual with Python let’s import the needed libraries first. In this case we need following libraries:

  • msal
    This is the Microsoft Authentication Library which we use to authenticate against Power BI.
  • requests
    I’m using the requests library to send my REST API requests.
  • json
    Because the result from the REST API is a JSON format I’m using this library to read the result.
  • pandas
    With this library it’s very easy to create tables (dataframes) and store them afterwards.
  • date & timedelta from datetime
    I need the current date to be able to automate my script and run it on a daily base.
#Import necessary libraries
import msal
import requests
import json
import pandas as pd
from datetime import date, timedelta

Afterwards let’s parametrize our script. First thing, let’s get yesterdays date. Because I want to run the script in the morning, it doesn’t make sense to use the current date as not much have happened. Therefore I’m focusing on the day before with following code:

#Get yesterdays date and convert to string
activityDate = date.today() - timedelta(days=1)
activityDate = activityDate.strftime("%Y-%m-%d")

I’m converting the date into a string in the format of YYYY-MM-DD which is required for the REST API call. Our next step is to make sure we can authenticate with our Service Principal. For that we need the Client ID, Client Secret, Authority URL, and the Scope. If you head over to the Azure Portal where the Service Principal was created (Search for “App Registration”) you’ll find the Client ID in the Overview pane.

To create a Client Secret hit the Certification & Secrets tab and choose New client secret. Configure and add a description and wished. Once created make sure to copy the value because afterwards it won’t be visible anymore and you would need to create a new secret.

For the Authority URL please us https://login.microsoftonline.com/ adding your tenant name at the end. In my case it’s kbubalo.com. Lastly we need the scope which is https://analysis.windows.net/powerbi/api/.default

#Set Client ID and Secret for Service Principal
client_id = ""
client_secret = ""
authority_url = "https://login.microsoftonline.com/kbubalo.com"
scope = ["https://analysis.windows.net/powerbi/api/.default"]

Now let’s set up the REST API URL which we’re calling to get our Activity Data. Looking at the doc here or in the Power BI Admin REST API doc here we see the main request is GET https://api.powerbi.com/v1.0/myorg/admin/activityevents following with the start and end datetime parameter. Because we parametrized our start and end date my URL parameter in Python looks as following:

#Set Power BI REST API to get Activities for today
url = "https://api.powerbi.com/v1.0/myorg/admin/activityevents?startDateTime='" + activityDate + "T00:00:00'&endDateTime='" + activityDate + "T23:59:59'"

As you see we’re adding the time at the start and end date to get the whole day.

Lastly we specify one more parameter for my CSV path where we wish to store the file.

#Set CSV path
path = 'abfss://powerbi@aiadadlgen2.dfs.core.windows.net/Activity Log/'

Now that we parametrized everything that we need let’s create our Python code. First thing to do is to authenticate against the Power BI Service to make sure we can call the REST API. Therefore I’m using the msal and my parameters to authenticate and store the result into a result parameter.

#Use MSAL to grab token
app = msal.ConfidentialClientApplication(client_id, authority=authority_url, client_credential=client_secret)
result = app.acquire_token_for_client(scopes=scope)

If we receive and access token, we would like to proceed calling our Power BI REST API. From the result we have to extract the access token, which will be used to call the REST API, and specify the header. Once done, we can call the REST API URL specified above with the requests.get method.

#Get latest Power BI Activities
if 'access_token' in result:
    access_token = result['access_token']
    header = {'Content-Type':'application/json', 'Authorization':f'Bearer {access_token}'}
    api_call = requests.get(url=url, headers=header)

Reading the doc it says following:

Microsoft Doc

If the number of entries is large, the ActivityEvents API returns only around 5,000 to 10,000 entries and a continuation token. Call the ActivityEvents API again with the continuation token to get the next batch of entries, and so forth, until you’ve gotten all entries and no longer receive a continuation token. The following example shows how to use the continuation token. No matter how many entries are returned, if the results include a continuation token, make sure you call the API again using that token to get the rest of the data, until a continuation token is no longer returned. It’s possible for a call to return a continuation token without any event entries. […]

Therefore we have to call the continuation URL as long as one is given and we wish to store the already called data of course to not lose them. Because of that we create an empty Pandas Dataframe in which we can append our results from each call. Further we store the continuation URL into a parameter and the first result into a second data Dataframe which we append to our empty one. Afterwards we have to do a while loop until no continuation URL is available anymore. Obviously we need to store from each call again our result into a Dataframe and append it to our first (now not empty anymore) Dataframe. Lastly we specify as Dataframe Index the Id URL.

    #Specify empty Dataframe with all columns
    column_names = ['Id', 'RecordType', 'CreationTime', 'Operation', 'OrganizationId', 'UserType', 'UserKey', 'Workload', 'UserId', 'ClientIP', 'UserAgent', 'Activity', 'IsSuccess', 'RequestId', 'ActivityId', 'ItemName', 'WorkSpaceName', 'DatasetName', 'ReportName', 'WorkspaceId', 'ObjectId', 'DatasetId', 'ReportId', 'ReportType', 'DistributionMethod', 'ConsumptionMethod']
    df = pd.DataFrame(columns=column_names)

    #Set continuation URL
    contUrl = api_call.json()['continuationUri']
    
    #Get all Activities for first hour, save to dataframe (df1) and append to empty created df
    result = api_call.json()['activityEventEntities']
    df1 = pd.DataFrame(result)
    pd.concat([df, df1])

    #Call Continuation URL as long as results get one back to get all activities through the day
    while contUrl is not None:        
        api_call_cont = requests.get(url=contUrl, headers=header)
        contUrl = api_call_cont.json()['continuationUri']
        result = api_call_cont.json()['activityEventEntities']
        df2 = pd.DataFrame(result)
        df = pd.concat([df, df2])
    
    #Set ID as Index of df
    df = df.set_index('Id')

Side note: During the creation of the Python Code I called the REST API for test purpose to make sure it works. During the test phase I received a result with all the columns. That’s the reason why I know which columns and in which order I have to create the empty Dataframe.

Our last step is to save our Dataframe into our ADL Gen2. This is very simple with Pandas Dataframe:

    #Save df as CSV
    df.to_csv(path + activityDate + '.csv')

Make sure to add “.csv” at the end to have the proper file type.

That’s it! Our whole code is done. Let me copy it for you so you have for sure the whole code in proper order.

#Import necessary libraries
import msal
import requests
import json
import pandas as pd
from datetime import date, timedelta

#Set parameters

#Get yesterdays date and convert to string
activityDate = date.today() - timedelta(days=1)
activityDate = activityDate.strftime("%Y-%m-%d")

#Set Client ID and Secret for Service Principal
client_id = ""
client_secret = ""
authority_url = "https://login.microsoftonline.com/kbubalo.com"
scope = ["https://analysis.windows.net/powerbi/api/.default"]

#Set Power BI REST API to get Activities for today
url = "https://api.powerbi.com/v1.0/myorg/admin/activityevents?startDateTime='" + activityDate + "T00:00:00'&endDateTime='" + activityDate + "T23:59:59'"

#Set CSV path
path = 'abfss://powerbi@aiadadlgen2.dfs.core.windows.net/Activity Log/'

#Use MSAL to grab token
app = msal.ConfidentialClientApplication(client_id, authority=authority_url, client_credential=client_secret)
result = app.acquire_token_for_client(scopes=scope)

#Get latest Power BI Activities
if 'access_token' in result:
    access_token = result['access_token']
    header = {'Content-Type':'application/json', 'Authorization':f'Bearer {access_token}'}
    api_call = requests.get(url=url, headers=header)

    #Specify empty Dataframe with all columns
    column_names = ['Id', 'RecordType', 'CreationTime', 'Operation', 'OrganizationId', 'UserType', 'UserKey', 'Workload', 'UserId', 'ClientIP', 'UserAgent', 'Activity', 'IsSuccess', 'RequestId', 'ActivityId', 'ItemName', 'WorkSpaceName', 'DatasetName', 'ReportName', 'WorkspaceId', 'ObjectId', 'DatasetId', 'ReportId', 'ReportType', 'DistributionMethod', 'ConsumptionMethod']
    df = pd.DataFrame(columns=column_names)

    #Set continuation URL
    contUrl = api_call.json()['continuationUri']
    
    #Get all Activities for first hour, save to dataframe (df1) and append to empty created df
    result = api_call.json()['activityEventEntities']
    df1 = pd.DataFrame(result)
    pd.concat([df, df1])

    #Call Continuation URL as long as results get one back to get all activities through the day
    while contUrl is not None:        
        api_call_cont = requests.get(url=contUrl, headers=header)
        contUrl = api_call_cont.json()['continuationUri']
        result = api_call_cont.json()['activityEventEntities']
        df2 = pd.DataFrame(result)
        df = pd.concat([df, df2])
    
    #Set ID as Index of df
    df = df.set_index('Id')

    #Save df as CSV
    df.to_csv(path + activityDate + '.csv')

Let’s test our script by executing it. Once finished I see that a CSV file is stored in my ADL Gen2 – awesome! Now I can automate it in Azure Synapse through a Azure Data Factory Pipeline and run it on a daily base. After a while I see multiple files, one for each day.

Let’s quickly test the result by querying the CSV files through Serverless SQL built-in Azure Synapse (yes, that’s possible!)

Great, we have some data with different Activities!

In my next post I’ll walk you through how to create a Power BI Report on top to analyze the different log files at once – stay tuned!

Please let me know if this post was helpful and give me some feedback. Also feel free to contact me if you have any questions.

If you’re interested in the files used in this blog check out my GitHub repo https://github.com/PBI-Guy/blog

Show “secured” Images in Power BI

Use Case

From time to time I got asked how you can display images in Power BI. The answer is pretty simple and straight forward (see https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/power-bi/create-reports/power-bi-images-tables) if the image is publicly available. But customers can’t expose their internal pictures to the public and still want to display them in Power BI. The issue is with “secured” images that the Power BI visual can’t log in with an account to be able to display it. So how can you still save your images in a secured environment and still display them in Power BI? Let’s check it out.

I tried different ways and found two that work. One would be to get the binaries of each image, transform it to a text field and display afterwards with a custom visual the image. This solution has a big “but” from my point of view. Because the text field has a 32766 character limit you would either have to resize your image or you have to do some Power Query and DAX magic to split the field into multiple ones and add them afterwards together again. Chris Webb wrote a blog how this could be done here: https://blog.crossjoin.co.uk/2019/05/19/storing-large-images-in-power-bi-datasets/

As good as this solution might be I would like to find an easy, low-code / no-code way to achieve the same. And luckily there is one!

Power Apps & Power BI – Better Together

Because Power BI is part of the Power Platform and Microsoft offers a seamless integration into the other Services (and vice versa) let’s leverage the benefits of it and try to display our images through a Power Apps app in Power BI.

Prerequisites

To be able to implement the solution you would need a few things:

  • Power BI Desktop
  • Power BI Service Account (optionally)
  • Power Apps Account
  • SharePoint Document Library with pictures

The Power BI Desktop can be downloaded for free through the Power BI website. Power Apps is included in different licensing options like E3 or E5. In our case we’re going to use a SharePoint Connector which is a Standard Power Apps connector meaning no additional licensing is needed. If you don’t have a Power Apps license yet you can sign up for a Developer Plan and use to for development purpose. Keep in mind that you can’t share your apps created with a Dev. Plan nor can you show Power Apps apps in Power BI coming from this specific environment.

How to

We start in Power BI Desktop and connect to our SharePoint list to get a few basic details. I’ll not guide you through how to connect to a SharePoint Document Library. These details can be found here. In my case I have a simple Document Library with some Star Wars picture.

In Power BI I connect to the Document Library and get only the ID, Notes, Created, Modified, and ServerRelativeURL fields. You can of course select more or less fields but make sure you get the ID which will be needed later on in the Power Apps app.

Once loaded I create a simple Table visual with the three fields ID, Notes, and ServerRelativeURL to display some data. As a next step I add the Power Apps Visual to my canvas and position it to the right. Once you added the Power Apps Visual you’ll see the necessary steps how to get started.

So let’s do our first step and add our wished fields to the data section of the visual. This fields can be accessed later on through Power Apps. Make sure to add the Id field and also check that it doesn’t summarize! The behavior (Sum, Count, etc.) will be provided to Power Apps and we don’t want to summarize our Ids. As soon as you add your first field the Power Apps visual will change where you can choose and existing app or create a new one. In our case we’re going to create a new one. A window will pop up asking if it’s ok to open your browser with the Power Apps URL. Hit OK.

Tip: If you’re facing some issues while opening Power Apps or you can’t choose your environment through the Visual, open Power Apps in your default browser, choose your environment in the browser, switch back to Power BI and try to hit the “Create New” button again.

Once Power Apps is loaded you’ll see an object call “PowerBIIntegration” (besides some others). This object has been automatically created through Power BI and makes sure that Power BI and Power Apps can interact with each other. This means for example if you select now a specific image to filter the same filter will also apply in Power Apps. That’s the reason why you have to start from Power BI and create an App from there. Otherwise the “PowerBIIntegration” object will not be created.

Let’s quickly test if the integration really works. I select the Baby Yoda picture in Power BI and the list is automatically filtered in Power Apps – great!

Our next goal is now to show the Images from SharePoint in our Power Apps app and make sure the integration still works (filter on a specific image in Power BI should also filter the Image in our app). Therefore we first have to create a connection to our SharePoint list. To do so go to the Data Tab in Power Apps and add SharePoint as data source.

If you haven’t created a connection yet hit the “Add a connection” button. In my case I can choose an existing one.

Afterwards choose your Site and Document Library in which you stored your pictures. In my case I have a Doc Library called PBI Guy Pictures. I select it and hit “Connect”.

Now that we’re connected to our Doc Library we can display the images out of it. To do so insert a Gallery. I choose a vertical one but the layout can be modified afterwards as well.

Once inserted I adjust the two Galleries so that our freshly inserted one is at the top and at the bottom I display the first Gallery. Per default our new Gallery shows default text and images. We have to connect our Gallery to our SharePoint Doc Library and than decide what we wish to display. So let’s connect it by selecting the Gallery and set the Data source through the Properties pane.

Our next step is to display the right image. Select the first image object in the Gallery and choose the “Items” property either on top left of the screen or find it in the properties pane in the Advanced section.

Replace “SampleImage” with ThisItem.’Link to item’ to create the link to our needed image.

You can also modify the view of the Gallery, add new fields into it, etc. but in my case I just want to display my notes with the ID together. Therefore I select the ID Text Box and change the code in the function window from ThisItem.ID to ThisItem.ID & ” ” & ThisItem.Notes

Our last step is to create a connection between our SharePoint Gallery and the “Power BI Gallery” from the beginning so that filters from Power BI will effect our SharePoint Gallery as well. The best way to do so is to filter the new Gallery by an ID to make sure we got that one specific image we’re looking for. That’s the reason why we need our ID field from the beginning! 🙂

To filter the new Gallery select it and choose the Items property. In my case I see ‘PBI Guy Pictures’. This is the whole table we have to filter and making sure that only the selected ID is showing up. Therefore we wrap our Table with a Filter() statement. Our first argument in the filter statement is the ‘PBI Guy Pictures’ table. Our second argument is the filter condition which should point the ID field from Power BI to the ID field of SharePoint. Therefore we use the PowerBIIntegration object to grab the necessary data. Unfortunately this is a Table Data Type and we can’t match Table with a single Number Data Type. To get a single value I extract just the first value of the whole table with the First() statement followed with the column I’m looking for (ID in this case). Our whole function looks now as following: Filter(‘PBI Guy Pictures’, First([@PowerBIIntegration].Data).Id = ID) And I immediately see that it works! Previously I selected Baby Yoda and now only this picture is showing up.

As a last step I want to make sure the first Gallery is not visible in my app. So I select the first Gallery and set the Visible property to false.

Of course you can now modify your app and make it more shiny but just for the demo purpose I save it as it is now through File, Save. Once done the App is ready to be used in Power BI as well and the cross-filter works!

If you wish to share the report make sure all users have also access to the Power Apps app and the SharePoint Library. Otherwise people won’t be able to see the pictures in their report.

Please let me know if this post was helpful and give me some feedback. Also feel free to contact me if you have any questions.

If you’re interested in the files used in this blog check out my GitHub repo https://github.com/PBI-Guy/blog

Power BI Licensing

One of the most discussed topics with my customers and partners is Power BI licensing. Typical questions are

  • I want to create a report for my own use do I need a Power BI Pro license?
  • Does a report viewer also need a Power BI Pro license?
  • What if we have like 1000 Users does everybody need a Pro license?
  • What are the costs?

In this post I try to explain the different licensing options for Power BI. Further I’ll discuss some various scenarios and what kind of license would fit best.

First things first. We need to understand what kind of products Power BI has in his portfolio.

Power BI Products

Power BI Desktop

The Power BI Desktop is a client application in which you can author modern and interactive reports. You can save those files as a PBIX format. I’ll highly recommend to install and use it as you have the full flexibility to create your report and data model, and modify it as needed. For more information please visit https://powerbi.microsoft.com/en-us/desktop

Power BI Service

The Power BI Service is a cloud-based modern business analytics solution in which you can publish (PBIX files) or even create reports. Creating reports in the service is – as of today – limited comparing it to Power BI Desktop. For example you can’t use DAX to enhance your model in the browser. You can find more information on https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/power-bi/service-get-started

Power BI Premium

Power BI Premium is a dedicated capacity for your organization. It has the same functionality as the Power BI Service but it gives you more consistent performance, larger data volumes, and the flexibility you need. See also https://powerbi.microsoft.com/en-us/power-bi-premium

Power BI Report Server

Instead of going to the cloud Power BI offers a on-premises Report Server on which you can publish and distribute your Power BI reports in-house. It does not have all services & features like the Power BI Service – like the natural Q&A – but most of it. Further information can be found here https://powerbi.microsoft.com/en-us/report-server

Power BI Embedded

If you would like to embed Power BI Reports in your own application then Power BI Embedded is the right choice. It’s designed for Independent Software Vendors (ISVs) and developers. More information can be found here https://powerbi.microsoft.com/en-us/power-bi-embedded

Power BI Mobile

Power BI Mobile offers you to connect to your data and see your reports on the go for any device. You can download the app from Microsoft, on the App Store, or Google Play. For more information please visit https://powerbi.microsoft.com/en-us/mobile

After we have clarified what kind of products are available let’s deep-dive into the different licensing options.

Power BI Licenses

Power BI Free

Power BI Desktop and Power BI Mobile are free for all users! Regardless of what other product (Power BI Service, Power BI Report Server, etc.) you are using those two are totally free. Further there is a limited Power BI Service free edition in which you can use following features: All Connectors, Publish to Web, and Export to PowerPoint, Excel, CSV. This means if I would like to create a report for myself I can download the Power BI Desktop, create a report, publish it to Power BI Service and use e.g. a Dashboard to combine different Reports. Further I can connect with my mobile device to Power BI Service and see my dashboard on the go. Awesome! The Power BI Free license is still required so an user can log in into the service. With the Power BI Free license Microsoft makes sure that the org admin has allowed access to Power BI Service in general for the specific user.

Power BI Pro

As mentioned Power BI Desktop and Power BI Mobile are free for all users but the Power BI Service free edition does not have all features covered. One of the most asked one is the “Peer-to-peer sharing” feature which allows me to share my Dashboards, Reports, and Datasets with other users. To be able to do so I, the author, have to have a Power BI Pro license regardless if my organization uses Power BI Service, Power BI Premium, Power BI Embedded, or Power BI Report Server. For the viewer of the report it depends what the company has decided to use. If Power BI Service is the chosen one then the viewer has to have a Power BI Pro License as well. If Power BI Premium or Power BI Report Server is in use than a consumer needs a Power BI Free License. Even if the License itself is free an administrator has to assign it to the user. For more information and a comparison between Free and Pro please visit https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/power-bi/service-free-vs-pro

Power BI Premium

Power BI Premium is a capacity pricing variant. There are different sizes (cores) available. The Whitepaper can be downloaded here. Capacity pricing means that not all users need a License. Only the author has to have a Power BI Pro License. All viewers / consumers do not need a Pro License but the admin has still to assign a Free License to all needed users.

Power BI Premium per User

Power BI Premium Per User allows organizations to license Premium features on a per-user basis. Premium Per User (PPU) includes all Power BI Pro license capabilities, and also adds features such as paginated reports, AI, and other capabilities that are only available to Premium subscribers. More information can be found here: https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/power-bi/admin/service-premium-per-user-faq

Power BI Report Server

An organization can purchase Power BI Report Server in two different ways: By using Power BI Premium you are also allowed to use Power BI Report Server or you have a SQL Server Enterprise Edition incl. Software Assurance. In both cases an author still needs a Power BI Pro License to share Power BI Reports. Viewers don’t need a license at all.

Power BI Embedded

With Power BI Embedded you are allowed to embed Power BI Reports into your own application. Depending on which License type (A, EM or P SKU) you are using viewers need a Power BI Free License assigned (EM or P SKU) or you have to manage authentication within your application (A SKU). In both cases an author still needs a Power BI Pro License to share reports. For more information please visit https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/power-bi/developer/embedded-faq

Phu! That has been a lof of information! Let’s discuss now some various scenarios and see which Product would fit best and which License is needed.

Scenarios

Luke testing for himself

Let’s imagine Luke would like to build some Reports for himself. He would like to connect to different data sources like Excel, CSV, SQL Database and Google Analytics. Further he would like to build a Dashboard and connect to it with his tablet and mobile device.

In this case he will use Power BI Desktop to create and publish reports, Power BI Service to build Dashboards and Power BI Mobile to connect with his mobile device or tablet to his Dashboards. Everything is possible with the Power BI Free License.

Obi-Wan would like to see Luke’s Dashboard

Luke is so excited about Power BI and his Dashboard he would like to show it to Obi-Wan. Obi-Wan shouldn’t be able to change anything in the report therefore Luke wants to share it within the Power BI Service with him.

Luke and Obi-Wan will both use the Power BI Service and both need a Power BI Pro License to share and view the Dashboard.

Luke would like to leverage some Premium features and share it with Obi-Wan

Luke would like to enhance his report with some out-of-the-box AI capabilities that Power BI Premium offers. But just for the two of them it doesn’t make sense to purchase Power BI Premium. Therefore Luke decided to leverage the Power BI Premium per User license to get the Premium features like AI, paginated reports, and other capabilities.

Because Luke would like to leverage Premium features he need a Power BI Premium per User (PPU) license. Because he wishes to share it with Obi-Wan, he also needs a PPU license due to the fact that Premium features are used and a Pro license is not sufficient. The matrix below will clarify which license type can view / access what kind of content.

Chart of which users can see content based on license types

The Rebels are interested in Luke’s Dashboard

Luke and Obi-Wan are both so excited about the possibilities of Power BI that they are telling everybody about it. Therefore the interest is growing and nearly every Rebel would like to see Luke’s Dashboard. Because of the growing interest, the huge number of viewers, and the more and more complex Dashboards Luke thinks a dedicated capacity would make sense.

In this scenario Luke would go for Power BI Premium. This means he has to republish his report from Power BI Desktop to the Premium capacity (or assign the existing workspace to a Premium node) and make it available for all Rebels incl. Obi-Wan. Because the Rebels are now using a Premium capacity non viewer needs a Power BI Pro License but Luke has still to assign a Free License to each user. Instead of doing it for each user separately he decides that every user can sign up individually for Power BI (Settings in Power BI admin portal). This reduces the burden for Luke.

The Senators pass a new galaxy data protection regulation (GDPR)

The Galactic Senators pass a new law which strictly forbid to use and show personal data without the approval of the person itself. Luke doesn’t want to take any risks and decides to go on-premises instead of the cloud until the Rebels clarify if they are allowed to use all personal data.

Luke installs a Power BI Report Server on which he publish his Report from Power BI Desktop. Further he added all users to the Report Server, shares his Report, and deletes the Dashboard, Report and Datasets in Power BI Service and Power BI Premium to make sure everything is by law. In this case Luke needs a Power BI Pro License to share his report while all other users as viewers need only a Power BI Free License. Further because they already purchased Power BI Premium the Rebels are allowed to use the Power BI Report Server as well.

R2D2 should show Power BI Dashboards

Luke would like to enable R2D2 to show his Dashboard. To do so he goes for Power BI Embedded.

Because Luke would like to show his Dashboard on his own application (or android 🙂 ) he needs to have Power BI Embedded. Further he doesn’t need any Power BI Service graphic user interface (GUI) therefore the A SKU is enough. But Luke still needs a Power BI Pro License to be able to share his Dashboard with others while all viewers do not need any License at all this time.

Now that we clarified what kind of products and Service Power BI offers as well as how to license them properly let’s have a look at the cost. I’ll use list prices publicly available from the Power BI website. Keep in mind that the prices can change.

Power BI License Cost

Power BI Desktop

As mentioned during the post Power BI Desktop is absolutely free and can be used without any cost.

Power BI Mobile

The Power BI App for your mobile device is also free.

Power BI Free License

The Power BI Free license is, as the name says, as well free and has no costs.

Power BI Pro License

The Power BI Pro License costs $9.99/User/Month. This means if you have for example five users and everyone will require a Pro license your monthly cost will be $49.95$ for the five users.

The Pro license can be purchased as stand alone or through E5 as Power BI Pro is included in E5.

Power BI Premium per User

The PPU License costs $20/User/Month. If you already have a Pro License you just need the add-on which is $10/User/Month. Imagine having seven users with a Pro License and ten users with a Free License and all of them require now a PPU. In this case you would need to purchase the add-on for seven users (7x$10) and ten PPU stand alone Licenses (10x$20) which means you’ll have a total cost of $339.93 (7x$9.99 Pro License + 7x$10 Add-on + 10x$20)

Power BI Premium

If you’re interested in Power BI Premium the smallest SKU (P1 with 8 v-cores) costs $4’995.- per month. From a purely cost perspective this makes sense if you have 500 or more users. This 500 users break-even-point can be easily calculated by dividing the Premium costs by the Pro License costs: 4995 / 9.99 = 500. Keep in mind that there are more reasons to go for Premium than just cost!

Imagine if you have to share a report with 600 users. In such a scenario every user would require a Pro License if you share it through Power BI Service. Therefore the total cost for these 600 users would be $5’994.- per month (600x$9.99). As we see it would make more sense to purchase Power BI Premium and assign a Pro License just to the developers of the report (let’s say 10 developers). In this case the total cost would be $5’094.90 (10x$9.99 + $4’995) and we saved roughly $900 per month!

Power BI Report Server

Power BI Report Server is included in Power BI Premium or through SQL Server Enterprise Edition with SA. In the first case, included in Premium, the minimal cost is therefore $4’995.- per month (P1 SKU with 8 v-cores). Just to point out that if you purchase Power BI Premium P1 you can use Premium and install a Power BI Report Server on top of it 8 cores in-house and use in total 16 cores!

If you’re interested in SQL Server Enterprise Edition with SA best would be to contact your Microsoft representative.

Power BI Embedded

Power BI Embedded is a Microsoft Azure Service and will charge you as long as it runs. Once you stop the Service there are no costs at all. The smallest SKU A1 is roughly $740 per month if it runs 24/7. A detailed price list can be found at https://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/pricing/details/power-bi-embedded/

Conclusion

I think the most important information is regardless of which product you are using (Power BI Service, Premium, Report Server or Embedded) as soon as you would like to share a Report you will need a Power BI Pro License. For the viewer it depends on which product the report is published. In Power BI Service a viewer also needs a Power BI Pro License, in Premium and Report Server a Free License is enough. For an embedded scenario a Free (A SKU) or non License (EM or P SKU) is required. Lastly, if Power BI Premium per User license is used by the author all viewers will also require the PPU license.

To get a better overview of the estimated cost I created a Power BI Report which you can use to calculate your cost based on the number of Power BI Developers and Viewers. Keep in mind Power BI Premium offers more features and could be useful not only to save cost! Check it out here.

Please let me know if this post was helpful and give me some feedback. Also feel free to contact me if you have any questions.

If you’re interested in the files used in this blog check out my GitHub repo https://github.com/PBI-Guy/blog

Power BI RLS configuration in Service

In my last two posts (see here and here) I wrote about Row-Level-Security (RLS) and how to configure it in Power BI Desktop. This time I would like to show how easy it is to publish a report to the Power BI Service and use the defined roles for specific users or security groups.

In this post I am going to use my last Power BI file with the RLS organizational hierarchy. As you guessed it right I am a big Star Wars fan and will use those characters for my demo. The picture below shows the current hierarchy.

Of course this hierarchy is not representative for the characters strenghts, popularity or similar. 🙂

The Power BI Report itself didn’t change a lot. Let’s imagine Obi-Wan is the author and creates a report with a table including all employees (Name and ID) and their salary, a card with the salary information and the current user ID. By pressing the Publish button in the Home Ribbon he can publish the report directly to his workspace in Power BI.

In this case Obi-Wan would like to publish it to the “PBI Guy” workspace. The publishing process will take a few seconds. Afterwards a success message will appear similar to the one below. With a click on the hyperlink the Power BI Report automatically opens in Power BI Services.

Once Power BI Services has loaded in Obi-Wan’s default browser he can extend the PBI Guy Workspace, hit the three dots of the Dataset and choose Security.

Now all in Power BI Desktop created roles are available and Obi-Wan can add users our groups to it. Because he created just one (Hierarchy) only one is available. Thanks to Azure Active Directory (AAD) suggestions are made while typing. For now he adds Luke and Yoda to the Hierarchy role. You can also add Security, Distribution, and Mail-enabled Groups. Once members are added they will be listed below.

Keep in mind that RLS works only for Viewers and users who has build permission on the dataset. Admin, Member, and Contributor of a workspace are not affected from RLS!

After saving one final step is required – test if RLS works as expected. To do so hit the three dots of her Hierarchy role and choose Test as role.

Choose the little arrow at the top and select on which behalf you would like to test the report. In my case I choose Luke and hit Apply afterwards. I do not select the Hierarchy role as it would test it than on my current logged in user.

As we can see RLS works perfectly fine!

One last test as Yoda confirms that RLS is working.

Now I can share the report with all users and only those who has the right permission will see what they are allowed to see – fantastic!

Please let me know if this post was helpful and give me some feedback. Also feel free to contact me if you have any questions.

If you’re interested in the PBIX and Excel file used in this blog post check out my GitHub repo https://github.com/PBI-Guy/blog