Power BI Free Is The Problem

Matt Allington shares his thoughts on the recent Power BI licensing changes:

I think the existence of the Power BI Free product has been the root of the problem here.  The fact that you could do so much for free (including some sharing) really muddied the waters and has taken the focus away from acknowledging that there needs to be a two tier pricing model for users (free is not a pricing tier). Microsoft is addressing one part of the problem by making it clear that Power BI Free is for personal (non sharing) use. However it has not addressed the second part of the problem being the need for a lower priced offering for users that just consume data in a way I would describe as “low involvement”. Microsoft has taken away the “proxy for a low priced sharing tier” without providing a genuine low priced replacement – this had just made the situation worse, not better and it has upset a lot of people.  Power BI Free has been a great product to “try before you buy” but unfortunately its existence prevented Microsoft from realising it was missing a price tier for 2 years!  Power BI Free for personal use (no sharing) is an incredibly generous offering from Microsoft.  It is a shame that it will need a backlash to fill the real gap – a lower priced tier.

Check out the comments as well.  I think Matt has a good point, and my guess is that the Power BI team will make it easier for small to medium sized businesses to use Power BI, but they first wanted to focus on the problem with big customers.

No More Sharing With Power BI Free

Ginger Grant explains an important ramification of the recent Power BI licensing changes:

Included in the recent list of announcements Microsoft made about Power BI Local and Power BI Premium are a series of changes to the Power BI Free version which will go into effect on June 1. The free edition of Power BI will no longer be able to share reports. Currently free users could create reports and share them with others, which will be discontinued.  Only Power BI Pro Editions will be able to share reports.  Currently Power BI Pro users can create reports which can be shared with Free versions as long as no Pro features are used.  This means that if a Power BI report is set to automatically refresh the data, that report cannot be shared as Free versions do not have the ability to create reports which have data refreshed automatically. If the report was recreated to remove the automatic updates and instead refreshed manually, then the report could be shared with Free versions.  Starting June 1, the sharing feature will be removed. No longer can Power BI Pro users share anything to Power BI Free users.  If you have a Power BI Free account, there is no way to share information in the service. The Power BI Desktop will continue to be free but since you cannot print the content within it and sharing a PBIX file means that you will always be sharing the entire data model, this is of limited value.

Read the whole thing.

Cores Visible Offline

John Morehouse enlists some assistance to figure out why his SQL Server instance is ignoring 24 cores:

Hidden schedulers are used to process requests that are internal to the engine itself.  Visible schedulers are used to handle end-user requests.  When you run the casual SELECT * query, it will utilize a visible scheduler to process the query.  With this information, if I have a 64 core server and all is well, I should have 64 visible schedulers online to process requests.

However, I discovered that some of the schedulers were set to “VISIBLE OFFLINE”.  This essentially means that those particular schedulers are unavailable to SQL Server for some reason.   How many offline schedulers do I have? A quick query resulted in 24 schedulers currently offline.  24 logical cores means that 12 physical cores are offline.

But why would a scheduler be set to “VISIBLE OFFLINE”?

Read on for the answer, and check the comments for a helpful plug for sp_Blitz.

Database Throughput Units

Randolph West looks at the Azure Database Throughput Unit Calculator:

The DTU Calculator, a third-party service created by Justin Henriksen (a Microsoft employee), will calculate the DTU requirements for our on-premises database that we want to migrate to Azure, by firstly capturing a few performance monitor counters, and then performing a calculation on those results, to provide the recommended service tier for our database.

Justin provides a command-line application or PowerShell script to capture these performance counters:

  • Processor – % Processor Time

  • Logical Disk – Disk Reads/sec

  • Logical Disk – Disk Writes/sec

  • Database – Log Bytes Flushed/sec

For more details on DTUs, John Sterrett looks at the math.

Windows Server 2016 Licensing

Brent Ozar looks at an ugly aspect of Windows Server 2016 licensing:

Windows Server 2016 is now licensed by the core, but that’s not really the big problem. The bigger problem is buried in the licensing guide (PDF):

  • “A minimum of 16 core licenses is required for each server.”
  • “A minimum of 8 core licenses is required for each physical processor.”

When most sysadmins see that, they’ll think, “Okay, so I shouldn’t bother buying a server smaller than 2 8-core processors.”

There are plenty of scenarios in which this doesn’t hurt (much):  mainly when you need a hefty server with more than 16 cores, or when you are running in a virtualized environment and can split that hardware across a number of logical servers.

As for me, this is one reason why I’m looking forward to SQL Server on Linux.

Finding Your SQL Server License Key

Richie Lee reproduces a Powershell script to get the license key used for installing SQL Server:

Copied from somewhere else on the internet, this PowerShell script will return the product key used for a SQL instance Install. Super useful when changing licenses on temporary VM’s I spin up and play around with to SQL Developer whose instances have passed the Enterprise evaluation use-by date. Putting this here for my own benefit. I claim no kudos!

Click through for the code.

In Other News, Oracle Is Still Expensive

Joey D’Antoni compares licensing costs of SQL Server versus Oracle for one particular customer:

When I see those numbers in Microsoft marketing slides, I sometimes wonder if they can be real, but then I put these numbers together myself. Granted you would get some discounts, but the fact that all of these features are built into SQL Server, should convince you of the value SQL Server offers. Pricing discounts are generally similar between vendors, so that is not really a point of argument. If you are doing a really big Oracle deal you may see a larger upfront discount, but you will still be paying your 23% support fees on that very large list price. (Software Assurance from Microsoft will be around 20%, but from a much lower base) Additionally, several of these features ae available in SQL Server Standard Edition. None of these features are in Oracle’s Standard Edition.

In a follow-up post, Joey discusses Postgres:

Postgres is a really good database engine, with a rich ecosystem of developers writing code for it. SQL Server on the other hand, is a mature product that has had a large push to support analytic performance and scale.

Additionally, this customer is leveraging the Azure ecosystem as part of their process, and that is only possible via SQL Server’s tight integration with the platform.

This isn’t a direct comparison to help determine in some absolute sense which product is better, but rather looking at a use case from a customer which takes advantage of many of the features in SQL Server.

Power BI Costs

Adam Saxton looks at pricing in Power BI:

You can get a quick look at the differences between free and Pro by looking at the Power BI Pricing page. You can also look at the official documentation for what is Pro content.

So, that’s it! Right?

No so fast! There are other factors that may come into play, or you may be wondering about. You may think they are part of Power BI, but they may be separate.

What I like about this post is that Adam goes into detail on some of the other potential costs involved aside from product licensing.

Licensing Hyper-Converged Architectures

David Klee discusses SQL Server licensing on a unique (but growing in popularity) hardware architecture:

Now, look at the hyper-converged architectures. The CPUs used for I/O handling are the same as those that your VMs use to power your applications. A substantial portion of the host’s CPU power is now needed for I/O handling, and this activity comes first in the CPU scheduling queues.

This fact, by itself, is not necessarily a problem. Most virtualization host CPUs are relatively lightly utilized, and this amount of CPU needed for I/O handling is readily absorbed without causing a performance problem.

But, larger scale SQL Servers can read and write exceptionally large amounts of data around the clock. The I/O handling at the host layer can start to drain resources from the host. The additional activity scheduling time inside the hypervisor could be slowing down these SQL Servers without you knowing it.

As always, work out how your licensing would look under different alternatives or you could end up wasting a pretty penny.

More Licensing Notes

Joey D’Antoni has additional information on licensing for SQL Server 2016:

SQL Server 2016 launched last week to great reviews and with a ton of great new features. I have been working with this version for well over a year now and extremely happy to see it hit RTM and be broadly adopted. So as DBAs it always sucks when you get excited about new features, only to find out the price changed, or vendor “O” made that feature a cost option. So what’s new with SQL Server 2016 licensing? (you won’t this as a session title at any upcoming SQL Server events).  Well first the good news—SQL Server 2016 is the same price and 2012 and 2014 (roughly $6800 core for Enterprise Edition). That’s definitely good news—Microsoft gave us a bunch of new functionality and didn’t raise the price. Additionally, if you see my below post on what is in Standard Edition, they added a lot of functionality there, too.

But we know finance and marketing employees have jobs to do as well, and there is no way they were letting a major version release happen without some changes. So let’s take a look at the one’s Denny Cherry (b|t) and I could glean out of the licensing guide. Please download and read for yourself.

There are a couple of interesting nuances that you’ll want to read up on.

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