Microsoft's Power BI Embedded Is Generally Available

Software-as-a-service developers can now add Microsoft Power BI visuals and reporting features to their business applications.

business intelligence

Power BI's visuals and data exploration capabilities are poised to start showing up in third-party apps.

Power BI Embedded, an Azure cloud services suite that enables developers to incorporate Power BI's data visualization and reporting capabilities into their own software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications is now generally available, Microsoft announced this week. Since unveiling Power BI Embedded during the company's Build developer conference this past spring, Microsoft has switched on the service in nine Azure regions, including parts of the United States, Southeast Asia, Australia and Brazil.

"We wanted to take the core building blocks of Power BI, like reports and datasets, and allow developers to easily fit them within their applications without any major re-architecture," Josh Caplan, a Microsoft senior program manager, said in a July 11 announcement. "Power BI Embedded also supports app tokens so developers can continue to use their existing mechanisms to authenticate and authorize users."

Coinciding with Power BI Embedded's official release, the company has rolled out a simplified, less resource-intensive app token process for the service.

Microsoft has winnowed down the use of app tokens to authenticate embedding requests, leaving room for other client-side requests that may be potentially added in the future. Calls to the service's REST application programming interfaces (APIs) are directly authenticated using Microsoft's API keys, an approach that disposes of the need to create app tokens each time an API call is made, said Caplan.

To assuage security concerns that arise in multi-tenant applications, Microsoft has enabled row-level security (RLS) in Power BI Embedded. "Row-level security (RLS) can be used to restrict user access to particular data within a report or dataset, allowing for multiple different users to use the same report while all seeing different data," explains an online support document regarding the security feature. With RLS, developers can develop their applications once and still deliver tailored experiences that take users and their roles into consideration.

The service's billing scheme is also getting overhauled. Beginning Sept. 1, instead of being charged on a per-visual-render basis, customers will be charged per report session. Each report session kicks off when a user loads a report in an iframe and it lasts 60 minutes.

In the weeks and months ahead, Microsoft plans to release enhancements and new capabilities that will help developers better integrate Power BI Embedded into their applications. Among them is a new client-side API that will enable applications to interact with the data within the iframes used to display Power BI information.

The API will allow apps to subscribe and listen to events like page changes and or selecting specific data points in a Power BI visual, said Caplan. "The event will include enough information for your application to know what was clicked so that it can take some action. This new client-side API will open up all kinds of new scenarios for Power BI Embedded."

Power BI Embedded will also support more data sources. Microsoft is working on connectors to on-premises data sources and additional DirectQuery sources, Caplan said.