Embedded Analytics with Power BI – Part 1

by Samuel Ward-Riggs, Principal Consultant- Altis UK

 

Data visualisation tools like Power BI, Qlik, and Tableau help us to visualise data to support decision making, but can we provide those same capabilities to our customers? Embedded visualisations place best-in-class analytics seamlessly within your application or website. Analysts within your organisation, rather than software engineers, can create visuals, shortening development times and increasing agility and flexibility. Offering embedded analytics to your customers is a significant differentiator, so let’s examine how one such technology – Power BI Embedded – can help.

Part 1 of this blog introduces embedding with Power BI Embedded and differentiates it from the Power BI Service. Part 2, coming soon, is a step-by-step deep-dive to embed your first report with Power BI.

Figure 1: An example report embedded directly within a web app

What is Power BI Embedded?

Power BI Embedded is an Azure-based Platform as a Service (PaaS) offering which allows you to control the authentication of users, meaning that end-users don’t need a Power BI licence to view embedded reports.

Power BI Embedded uses Capacities which are purchased through the Azure Portal. Capacities provide organisations with enterprise features of Power BI as well as dedicated hardware resources for serving up visuals, rather than sharing pooled resources on the public Power BI Service. Capacities are also available through Office 365 (where they are referred to as Premium Capacities) but differ slightly in functionality.

How does Power BI Embedded differ from the Power BI Service?

The Power BI Service is a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) portal where users can share reports within their own organisation. The Service contains published visuals and the datasets that supply them, accessed via a web browser. Users must first authenticate with the Power BI Service and must have a licence. With Power BI Embedded, users log in to your app or website as usual and can then see and interact with data visualisations seamlessly embedded in your corporate look and feel without the need for a Power BI licence.

The Power BI Service allows users to publish reports and dashboards, re-use previously published datasets, collaborate on analysis, and access augmented analytics to find insights they might have missed.

While the Power BI Service is utilised by Power BI Embedded to source datasets and reports, Power BI Embedded is designed specifically for organisations to embed data visualisations into their applications. Embedding gives full control over what users can see and do, including restricting data downloads, hiding filters and report tabs, and showing visuals with bookmarks applied.

Can I embed Power BI without Power BI Embedded?

Actually, yes! There are three main ways to embed Power BI visualisations, two of which don’t require Power BI Embedded:

1. Embed for your organisation

2. Embed for your customers

3. Embed for everyone

Embed for your organisation enables Power BI reports and dashboards to be embedded within a portal, like a secure website or intranet, or to SharePoint Online. In this scenario, the Power BI Service handles the report authorisation and authentication, and users must have a Power BI Pro licence (or a Free licence if the Workspace containing the report has Premium Capacity). Your organisation could use this option to embed the Sales dashboard securely within the Sales team’s portal.

Embed for your customers is what Power BI Embedded is all about: your existing app handles authentication and authorisation, and your users don’t need to have a Power BI licence or log in anywhere else to view and interact with secure embedded dashboards. For example, your customers could access a report of their service usage from within your app.

Embed for everyone, also called “Publish to Web,” gives anyone with access to the website’s URL access to the embedded content. It may be suitable for content in public blog posts or websites, but anyone can view and download granular data, even if it’s aggregated when displayed on the visual. Publish to Web provides no authentication or authorisation and isn’t suitable for data that may be personally or commercially sensitive. A government might use this option to show interactive reports about population statistics over time on their website.

What about security in Power BI Embedded?

With Power BI Embedded, authentication and authorisation are no longer handled by the Power BI Service (referred to as “User owns data”) but rather by your application (called “App owns data”).

Datasets can be dynamically attached to a report at run-time depending on the user making the embedding request. Datasets can belong to different Workspaces in Power BI, providing data separation, and Workspaces can be created (and data published) programmatically, so you don’t have to manually create objects in the Power BI Service if you serve multiple clients. This means that whether your application is single-tenant (with each customer’s data stored separately) or multi-tenant (many customers’ data stored together), Power BI Embedded can serve the data appropriately.

Within each client’s dataset, row-level security (RLS) enables further restrictions via roles (e.g. the “UK Management” role might see all UK transactions, and “Head of Sales” can see the global sales records). More granular, per-user permissions are also possible (e.g. Ally from Finance can see data for Australian customers only, but Scotty from Marketing can see data for Australian, German, and UK customers).

Conclusion

We demand modern visualisation tools that help tell data stories and glean business insights, and so do our customers. Embedded analytics fulfils a compelling use-case, enabling eye-catching, interactive data visualisations in the apps we provide to our customers. In Part 2 of this blog,  we’ll dive into embedding a report with Power BI, step-by-step.

Connect with us if you’d like to discuss embedded analytics within your organisation, or to see a demonstration of Power BI Embedded.

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