Business Intelligence (BI) Comparison - Power BI (Part 1)

Problem

Many competing BI Platforms exist in the marketplace.  Each BI platform has advantages and disadvantages in price, functional capability, and self-service utility.  Organizations want to pick the best Business Intelligence (BI) tool for their particular business platform, to ensure appropriate return on investment in technology.

Approach

Develop a deliverable from a sample data set on each BI platform, and compare the price, capability, and self-service of each BI tool.  Evaluate one tool per blog post.

Tool #1 - Microsoft Power BI (Desktop and Online)

Advantages
+Microsoft stack integration (Excel, SQL Server, SSAS)
+Price.  Free for public use.  No developer license.  $10/month/user for Pro license.
+Fully-featured web editing of reports and dashboards
+Robust Data Modeling (PowerPivot, PowerQuery)
+Data modeling UI is fantastic for merging multiple data sources into one (CSV, Database, Web API)
+Easy to publish content for sharing (www.PowerBI.com)
+Intuitive dashboard canvas for drag and drop arrangement of visuals
+Mobile compatible out of the box with PowerBI Android/iOS application
+Auto Drill down and filter/actions between visuals on a report
+Custom viz options supported via D3.js integration - the future viz options looks bright!

Disadvantages
-Less intuitive user interface than Tableau for creating visuals
-Auto Date-Hierarchy dimension for datetime objects only supports a few chart types.
-Calculated value user interface lacks robust function and type hinting
-Microsoft proprietary non-SQL data language for calculated fields (DAX)
-Large data sets not supported to draw large numbers of objects on a canvas (compare heat maps to Tableau)
-Viz types only support specific dimension, measure, and data types - and it is unclear as to what data types are supported without trial and error.
-Auto-refresh data sources only supported in PowerBI Pro from web data sources (hourly)
-Real-time data sources only supported via 'data push' from Azure to PowerBI Online data source

Verdict
PowerBI will be extremely disruptive in the Business Intelligence market for three main reasons.  

1) Vertical Integration.  Enterprises are comfortable with Microsoft.  PowerBI lends vertical integration to the enterprise technology stack, compared Tableau, Domo, or SAP Business Objects.    
2) Low barrier to entry.  $10/month for PowerBI Pro for 'server' capability (versus SAP Bobj or Tableau), free desktop application to download, builds on well-known tools in Excel stack.
3) An extensible platform.  PowerBI visuals can be customized with d3.js, the PowerBI online tiles can be integrated with your application needs, and Microsoft will continue to support the platform as it grows.


What are your thoughts on PowerBI versus the competition?  What specific advantages and disadvantages do you see for the tool to help meet your business goals?

Data modeling view in PowerBI Desktop is extremely robust.  You can merge multiple data sources, from any data type, into one dimensional model for reporting.