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Understanding the Power BI Capacity Based SKUs

Last updated on June 4, 2018

Power BI licensing has changed again. This week at Microsoft Ignite, Microsoft introduced a new capacity based SKU for Power BI Embedded, intended for ISVs and developers: The A SKU. This brings the number of capacity based SKUs to 3, with each category having numerous sub categories. This means that there are a number of ways to embed content by using Power BI Pro, Power BI Embedded, or Power BI Premium. The trick is to know what will be needed for what circumstances. This post will attempt to help with the distinctions.

The SKUs are additive in nature, with A (Power BI Embedded) providing a set of APIs for developers, EM (Power BI Premium) additional ad-hoc embedding features for organizations, and P (Power BI Premium)providing a SaaS application that contains everything that the Power BI service offers. For some background, the EM SKU was initially introduced to serve the needs of both Independent Software Vendors (ISVs) and of organizations that needed to do some simple sharing within the organization, and give them access to the latest Power BI features. However, ISVs have a different business model than enterprises, which is why the A series was introduced.

Power BI Embedded A SKUs

The A SKU (A is for Azure) is a Platform-as-a-Service and set of APIs for those ISVs who are developing an application to take to market. These ISVs choose to use Power BI as the data visualization layer of that application to add value to their own application. As such, Power BI assets contained in Power BI Embedded capacities cannot be accessed by a licensed Power BI user, but are only accessed by customers of the ISV’s application.

Power BI Embedded capacity is billed hourly, can be purchased hourly, and can be paused – meaning no long-term commitments to a specific capacity. This pausing capability is critical for small ISVs that don’t yet have the revenue stream to support monthly commitments, and it addressed one of my largest concerns over moving Power BI Embedded over to the Premium model. Power BI Embedded is purchased through Microsoft Azure. Additionally, Power BI Embedded can scale up and down as needed to accommodate the requirements of the ISV business model as the vendor’s application grows.

Running the entry level A1 capacity for a full month equates to approximately $750/month, so while the capacity of the Power BI Embedded A1 SKU is equivalent to the Power BI Premium EM SKU, ISVs pay a slightly higher effective monthly price for the flexibility mentioned above.

There are 6 sizes of Power BI Embedded available, each capacity mapping to an existing Power BI Premium capacity so ISVs can grow their business as needed. Pricing starts at about $1/hour:

Name Virtual cores Memory (GB) Peak renders/hour Cost/hour
A1 1 3 300 ~$1
A2 2 5 600 ~$2
A3 4 10 1,200 ~$4
A4 8 25 2,400 ~$8
A5 16 50 4,800 ~$16
A6 32 100 9,600 ~$32

Power BI Premium EM SKUs

The EM SKU (EM is for embedding – NOT Embedded) covers off everything contained in the Power BI Embedded A SKU, but also offers the ability to share Power BI reports within an organization through content embedding. Currently, this can be accomplished through the use of the SharePoint Power BI web part for modern pages, or the through tabs using Microsoft Teams.

There are three EM SKUs, and while the largest, EM3, can be purchased through Office 365 monthly, the smaller 2 (EM1 and EM2) must be purchased through Volume Licensing. Volume licensing represents an annual commitment, and may be an incentive for ISVs to remain on the A SKU even if they are not pausing their service. EM SKUs cannot be paused – a month is the smallest available billing unit. Additionally, scaling on EM SKUs requires that you retain your monthly or annual commitment to the initial SKU purchased until the end of the contract term.

Details on the EM SKUs are below:

Name Virtual cores Memory (GB) Peak renders/hr Cost
EM1 1 3 1-300 $625/mo
EM2 2 5 301-600 $1,245/mo
EM3 4 10 601-1,200 $2,495/mo

Power BI Premium P SKUs

The P SKU (P is for Premium, but it helps to think of it as “Power BI Service”) is the “all in” version of Power BI licensed through capacity. It offers everything that is available with Power BI, which includes everything available in the A and EM SKUs. It also offers the ability to share Power BI assets in the Power BI service through apps, or if personal workspaces are in a Premium capacity, through dashboard sharing.

The entry point of the P SKU is significantly higher than EM as well, but you’re getting a business application vs a set of APIs. It also comes with significantly more resources attached to it. For example, P1 comes with 8 virtual cores and 25 GB of RAM, whereas the largest EM offering is EM3, with 4 cores and 10 GB RAM.

All the P SKUs can be purchased through the Office 365 administration center, and can be billed monthly. Details are below:

Name Virtual cores Memory (GB) Peak renders/hr Cost
P1 8 25 2400 $4,995/mo
P2 16 50 4800 $9,995/mo
P3 32 100 9600 $19,995/mo

What to use when

Sharing capabilities:

PBI Embedded A PBI Premium EM PBI Premium P
Embed PBI Reports in your own application Embed PBI Reports in your own application Embed PBI Reports in your own application
  Embed PBI Reports in SaaS applications (SharePoint, Teams) Embed PBI Reports in SaaS applications (SharePoint, Teams)
  Share Power Reports, dashboards and datasets through Power BI Apps (workspaces)
 Ad hoc dashboard sharing from personal workspaces

With the addition of the Power BI Embedded capacity based SKUs, many of the concerns around Premium pricing have been addressed. I would still like to see all EM SKUs available monthly, and to see a “P0” premium SKU, but it’s fairly clear as to which scenarios call out for which licenses.

An ISV that is embarking on the use of Power BI embedded will at the very least need a Power BI Pro license. When development gets to the point where sharing with a team is necessary, a Power BI Embedded A SKU can be purchased from Azure. Once 24/7 availability is required, the ISV may wish to switch to an Premium EM capacity. An ISV should never require a P SKU unless capacity demands it, or they have additional requirements.

An organization that has a few data analysts or Power Users that need to share reports with a broader audience would likely be well served with one of the EM SKUs. This scenario assumes that the organization is also using SharePoint Online, Microsoft Teams, or both. This approach will allow the power users (who will require a Pro license as well) to embed Power BI content within a SharePoint page or a Microsoft Teams tab where it can be accessed by users without a Pro license. This organization would need to include more than 63 users accessing the reports to be financially viable.

Finally, larger organizations with a significant investment in Power BI, or organizations that don’t currently utilize SharePoint Online or Microsoft Teams would benefit from a Premium P capacity. With this, the Power BI interface could be utilized by end users to access shared content without a Pro license. Given it’s monthly cost, compared to the monthly cost of Pro, the organization would need to have at least 500 active report consumers for this approach to practically considered.


  1. Excellent article that clearly explains the difference between A, EM and P SKUs — thank you very much!

  2. Uldis Uldis

    Thanks for the information.

    Though I do not agree that 750$/monthly price addresses ISV segment. In workspace collection mode my rate was (luckily still is) up to 20-50 euros, jumping to 750 is very, very huge leap. I think there is an option to embed and connect with a separate power bi account for each user (which would be a lot less than 750$/month), but then I need to create a dedicated accounts (now users can use their own Microsoft accounts which I can register as external users in my Azure AD) for each user – added management on my side +users need to remember additional password etc.

  3. John, great article and ahead of Microsoft’s own pricing announcement! Really clarifies the new arrangements. I have 100 clients on my application with Power BI Embedded at its core, and was nervous about converting to EM1 – but the flexibility and pricing for A1 and A2 is now much better.

    Still the two fundamental flaws are there:
    1. I can’t convert ‘peak renders per hour’ rates into something my customers understand and so I bear all the risks of price conversion. Microsoft needs to have a clear end-to-end vision of pricing instead of saying – here it is, on our terms, like it or lump it. That’s no good from a dev’s point of view. If I’m going to invest say $100k in creating an information system with Power BI at its core, then I need to be able to price it up before I start work on it. I see this as a big barrier to adoption.
    2. Pricing is based on levels of interactivity (as far as I can tell) – the more you use it, the higher the price. Flat, passive, non-interactive dashboards are best priced – but they’re just pretty pictures to look at. Lots of drill down analysis and slicing are worse priced. So, on the one hand, their tech devs are saying – look at all this stuff you can do as a user – on the other, their marketing guys are going – if you’re going to use it like that, we’re going to take a blowtorch to your wallet.

    I still think they are not at the right place yet, but this is definitely a step in the right direction, and it’s fair to say they are listening to their community. Good stuff.

  4. Just Blindbæk Just Blindbæk

    Hi John. Super overview! Regarding the EM SKU’s. Is content embedding within an organization limited to SharePoint and Teams? Or can we create our own custom embedding in other SaaS applications?

  5. Given that EM works for both SaaS and custom applications, it should be fine for that purpose.

  6. Wade Wade

    @Uldis Yes, I’m thinking the same thing, however, AAD B2B is not yet available for Power BI Apps. It was mentioned in the roadmap, but my guess is the reason you cannot give an external Azure AAD user access to Power BI Content is because Microsoft wants to make sure we have to pay up before accessing that feature.

  7. John John

    You said here, “There are three EM SKUs, and while the largest, EM3, can be purchased through Office 365 monthly, the smaller 2 (EM1 and EM2) must be purchased through Volume Licensing.”

    Where do I purchase EM1 or EM2 on the Azure Portal. When I go to Power BI Embedded on the Azure Portal it just shows A1 – A6. EM1 and EM2 was listed in the Premium Documentation but now the latest article ( ) just shows EM3, and P1-3 under premium. Then A1-A6 as separate volume licensing with no mention of EM1 and EM2.

  8. Leonardo Karpinski Leonardo Karpinski

    Very good John, thanks! One question: do I need the A capacity during development and testing? I could make it work only with a PBI Pro license only. So what are the limitations of not purchasing it?


  9. John – You can’t purchase any of the EM SKUs through Azure, only through a Volume license provider (and I don’t know how that works). You can only get A SKUs through Azure.

  10. Leonardo – you should be able to use a Pro license during development, it’s when you start distributing that you’ll need to go with capacity based.

  11. John John

    Thanks. They are only showing EM3 for purchase on O365 but not EM1 and EM2. However, i did run across a video showing that if you purchase premium, you can downgrade a node dynamically to EM1. It could be that if you have to have a minimum of one P1 node and then other nodes can be adjusted down to EM1. It would be very good to know if you could purchase EM1 or EM2 outright as those are the pricing tiers we need for our organization. I wish microsoft would provide more clarity on how to purchase the cheaper EM nodes. I’m concerned that they are getting rid of them and replacing with the A volume licensing now that you can access those on Azure.

  12. Petro Petro

    Microsoft did everything to feel emberrassed. First they anouunce they are deprecating Power BI Embedded and that it will be replaced with Power BI Premium(
    Then they offer smaller versions of Power BI Premium with a name Power BI Embedded to trick the people who are not following all the drama. I hate these Microsoft merketers and documentation speciallists who delivering these confusing messages.
    Thank you for the explanations.

  13. Alison Hughes Alison Hughes

    How is the ‘per hour’ charge calculated ? Is it activity time or when the instance is available ? I am looking at embedding a small number of reports for a small number of users but these to be available when the users want them and trying to work out a pricing model ? Is the per month charge of £500 ish the minimum charge for the group of reports to be available ?

  14. Sam Trexler Sam Trexler

    John, this is very helpful. But for us, even the A1 SKU seems pretty pricey and is meeting with management resistance. We develop and sell a custom version of our application to each of our clients to meet their specific regulatory requirements. Power BI Embedded looks like a great way to distribute analytics within our app to all of the users.

    However, licensing an A1 SKU in Azure for each client, at almost $9,000 per year, is unacceptable. Can you tell me if it is possible to create multiple workspaces – one for each client – within the A1 capacity? It would be a nightmare to place all of Client A’s, Client B’s and ClientC’s reports and dashboards into one A1 capacity, and have each of their applications sort out what belongs to each client and should be displayed to their users. And this would be ever-changing as we gain new clients.

    Each client application needs to have its own workspace that it can login to. It’s okay if we need a single Pro license for the “master” account of each client. But it’s not okay to mix the reports and dashboards. And it’s not okay to require a bunch of individual licenses.

    Can you provide some direction here? Thanks.

  15. Olu Olu

    So now that I can get embedded features in PBI Premium, does this mean there is no longer a need for the PBI Embedded Service in Azure?

  16. sm sm

    Does this work the same way for on -prem CRM ? Do we still need pro licenses it seems pricey for small user base <100

  17. Rogério Leal Rogério Leal

    Hello John, great post! On Leonardo’s question: “One question: do I need the A capacity during development and testing? I could make it work only with PBI Pro license only. So what are the limitations of not buying it?”.

    What do you mean: “when you start distributing that you will need to go with capacity based”?

    I did not understand the difference, could you help me?

  18. Hello John. Nice article

    Following is my business case. My customer asks to deploy different dashboard for them (less than 500users). They do not have Azure account nor sharepoint. Powerbi will access a datasource with the API.
    I will embed the dashbaord in their internal website so that each user could access.

    Do you have some recommendation for me?

    Thank you very much

  19. What I don’t understand is that if you are embedding the report in your own application, you still need a user account that will be used to talk to azure and generate the token. For our use case, this will be a simple service account that we use when calling the Azure API’s. This service account requires a license, does it not? Do we thus purchase a Pro license for the service account, and then purchase an A SKU for the actual usage? The documentation indicates that this use case requires a premium license, but that doesn’t make any sense. How can you embed the report under a different use case?

  20. Pankaj Surti Pankaj Surti

    Thank you! for this article with to the point explanation.

  21. Pankaj Surti Pankaj Surti

    Very good article. Thank you for inside information.

  22. Anonymous Anonymous

    Thanks…very helpful in understanding different price options for sharing Power Bi.

  23. Jeff Jeff

    Hi there,
    Pricing aside, my understanding is that Power BI embedded has limited functionality compared to Power BI Service (Pro/Premium) and I cannot find anything that explains this. e.g. No subscriptions or alerts in embedded.

    Any tips or resources that compares functionality?

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