Dataflows in Power BI: Considerations

Licensing has direct impact on the value of dataflows in Power BI for your organization

Dataflows in Power BI sound great – and they are – but who truly benefits from this new element in the BI process?

Functional illustration of dataflows in the Power BI Service compared to the Power BI Desktop experience

First, as a quick recap:

With dataflows, ETL logic is elevated to a first-class artifact within Power BI and includes dedicated authoring and management experiences.


Business analysts and BI professionals can use dataflows to handle the most complex data preparation challenges and build on each other’s work, thanks to a revolutionary model-driven calculation engine, which takes care of all the transformation and dependency logic—cutting time, cost, and expertise to a fraction of what’s traditionally been required for those tasks.


Better yet, analysts can now easily create dataflows using familiar self-service tools, such as the well known Power Query data preparation experience.


Dataflows are created and easily managed in app workspaces, enjoying all the capabilities that the Power BI service has to offer, such as permission management, scheduled refreshes, and more.


Advanced Analytics and AI with Azure – Power BI dataflows store data in Azure Data Lake Storage Gen2 – which means that data ingested through a Power BI dataflow is now available to data engineers and data scientists to leverage the full power of Azure Data Services such as Azure Machine Learning, Azure Databricks, and Azure SQL Datawarehouse for advanced analytics and AI.


This allows business analysts, data engineers, and data scientists to collaborate on the same data within their organization.

“Dataflows in Power BI” White Paper by Amir Netz, Technical Fellow, Nov. 2018

It sounds great. It is great… but wait, a caveat: the true benefits of dataflows in Power BI are unleashed if you have a Power BI Premium license, not as a Pro license holder (not yet, at least.)

Side-by-side: The dataflows in Power BI license comparison

As of right now, the main components that drive the value of dataflows is not available without the Premium license capability.

These benefits are namely:

Computed entities: only for Premium
Incremental refresh: only for Premium
Capacity and parallel executions of transforms: only for Premium
Dataflow linked entities: only for Premium

There’s more to come, I am sure, but as of right now it’s best to contain your excitement, unless you’re a Premium license holder…