BUSINESS INSIGHTS

Mar 06, 2018

Power BI Report Server Hybrid Implementation

Lindsay Pinchot Posted by Lindsay Pinchot

The first post in our Power BI Report Server series spoke about acquiring Power BI Report Server via purchasing SQL Server Enterprise edition with active Software Assurance (SA). This second post in the series will focus on the other route, acquiring Power BI Report Server by purchasing Power BI Premium capacity within the Power BI Service.

How to Acquire.png

Power BI Report Server: A Hybrid Approach with Power BI Premium

When you purchase Power BI Premium, you get the best of both worlds when it comes to reporting – Power BI Service and Power BI Report Server. Power BI Service, with dedicated cloud capacity, gives you all the functionality of Power BI and cloud reporting while Report Server allows you to continue to host reports behind your firewall and develop using both Power BI Desktop and traditional SSRS.

There are many reasons for purchasing Power BI Premium. Maybe you’re already using SSRS, and would like to continue, but are ready to shift some reporting to Power BI and the cloud. Maybe there are regulations, laws, or internal policies dictating that some of your data remain on-prem. Maybe you need the dedicated cloud capacity for Power BI, and Report Server is just something that came extra with your purchase. Whatever your situation is, taking a hybrid approach to your company’s BI solution by using both Power BI Service and Report Server is a great way to account for a multitude of reporting scenarios.

PBI plus PBIRS.png

When Power BI and Report Server work together, you can host some reports behind your firewall, developing in both Power BI and SSRS, and you can push some reports to the cloud, taking advantage of all that Power BI Service has to offer such as live dashboards, app workspaces, and natural language query.

Report Server’s part in your Reporting Solution

Often overshadowed in the Power BI stack by its glossier cloud counterpart, Power BI Report Server has its strengths, especially when it comes to addressing security concerns, flexible report development, and cloud integration. Report Server is completely on-premises, giving you total control over security. This is great for organizations that are not looking to implement an entire cloud-based solution, whether that’s due to internal or external policies governing data.

Report Server can host both Power BI and SSRS reports, giving you the ability to author reports in either product. Since Report Server is built upon the SSRS framework, it’s also very easy to take existing SSRS reports and migrate them to Report Server. Because of this, any existing SSRS reports that your company relies on can continue to be used in your new solution.

As detailed in the first blog post of this series, Power BI and SSRS are unique and sometimes complementary reporting tools, with individual strengths and limitations. Each tool shines in different reporting scenarios. Power BI is great for supporting quick, at-a-glance data analysis while SSRS is great for more granular reports, with intricate levels of detail and numbers.

Interactive visualizations.png

With sleek, interactive visualizations, Power BI Desktop is an ideal choice for developing reports aimed at providing quick insights and high-level data analysis.

Internet Sales.png

With the ability to create in a freeform style with endless possibilities for customization, SSRS is ideal for reports with a focus on detail and numeric results.

Service and Server – Better Together

In a hybrid approach, the two platforms and tools work together, but this can look different from organization to organization. Listed below are some scenarios where a hybrid implementation is a great fit.

  1. Some industries have data that cannot move to the cloud, due to either internal or external regulation. For example, in a hospital setting, despite Power BI’s HIPPA compliance, reports containing identifiable patient data often need to remain on-premises, but more general, aggregated data about operations or demographics can be pushed to the cloud for use in dashboards and collaborative workspaces. In this scenario, certain data remains on-premises, and some is pushed to the cloud.
  2. Often, the finance department of an organization relies on paginated reports, complete with large amounts of fields and functionality best served by SSRS. In this scenario, finance and its data operate on Report Server, while the rest of the organization’s departments can move to Power BI Service. Finance data can still integrate with other data in the cloud for collaboration with other departments, but the reports and the detailed, large datasets that the finance department relies on remain on-premises.
  3. In a manufacturing setting, business managers often move from plant to plant, overseeing various processes and meeting with plant managers and employees to discuss production metrics. Deploying Power BI reports and datasets to the cloud allows managers to easily access them on the go, without the hassle of a VPN connection. Other data and reports that do not need to be accessed at the plants can remain on-premises and take full advantage of being able to report in both Power BI and SSRS. Of course, with a VPN connection, on-premises reports and KPIs can still be accessed remotely and on mobile devices when needed.
  4. In many organizations, upper management needs to see aggregated, cross-department data in the cloud, so that they can collaborate in app workspaces, take advantage of Q&A and quick insights, and view dashboards. In this scenario, only the datasets and reports that upper management needs are deployed to the cloud, keeping the rest on-premises. This scenario could mean your organization only needs the minimum premium capacity because the majority of your userbase will be leveraging the on-premises Report Server, thus saving you money on capacity costs.

These scenarios are just examples. Every organization is different. When thinking about your hybrid solution, keep the strengths and limitations of each reporting tool and platform in mind as you align them to your organization’s needs and requirements. Remember, too, that the Power BI reports initially developed for Report Server can easily be migrated to the Power BI Service if and when you’re ready, but paginated SRSS reports cannot be migrated to Power BI Service. SSRS does not have a PAAS (Platform as a Service) counterpart. Even with this limitation, visualizations from on-premises SSRS reports can be pinned to Power BI Service dashboards. For more information on how to do this, check out this document from Microsoft.

Power BI Premium

Power BI Premium offers a unified reporting solution, with a clear path to the cloud, and the ability to choose what remains on-premises. If you’ve ever explored Microsoft reporting solutions, you’ve probably seen the below chart before. It’s worth looking at again in the context of developing a hybrid solution, as it’s a great summary of what the offerings include:

Hybrid.png

The best reporting and BI solutions are adaptable, able to handle known reporting needs, and anticipate new ones. As you can see, Power BI Report Server and Power BI Service (available together with Power BI Premium), give you everything — on-premises and cloud, SSRS and Power BI. Business intelligence and analytics advance at a rapid pace. Having a collaborative cloud and an on-premises solution, coupled with the rapid release cycle of Power BI features, accounts for this, and sets your organization up for continued success.

Have questions about Power BI Report Server or just want to learn more? Contact us! We would be happy to help you and your team learn how to take advantage of this great technology.

7 Steps to Better Power BI Visuals
Lindsay Pinchot

About The Author

Lindsay Pinchot

Lindsay is a Solution Consultant with BlueGranite. She has experience in data analytics and report development, ETL development and design, and specializes in the Azure Data Platform. Lindsay obtained her Bachelor of Arts from John Carroll University with a focus in English and Computer Science. She is a Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate who enjoys working with data in several industries, including healthcare, finance, manufacturing, and retail.

Latest Posts

7 Steps to Better Power BI Visuals