Comparing Power BI Report Server and the Power BI service

Power BI Report Server and the Power BI service have many similarities and some key differences. This table explains which is which.

Features of Power BI Report Server and the Power BI service

Features Power BI Report Server Power BI Service Notes
Analyze in Excel No Yes Analyze in Excel
Deployment On-premises or hosted cloud Cloud Power BI Report Server can be deployed in Azure VMs (hosted cloud) if licensed through Power BI Premium or SQL Server Enterprise with Software Assurance
Data sources Cloud and/or on-premises Cloud and/or on-premises
License Power BI Premium or SQL Server EE with Software Assurance (SA) Power BI Pro and/or Power BI Premium
Lifecycle Modern lifecycle policy Fully managed service
Release cycle Three times a year (January, May, September) Once a month Latest features and fixes come to the Power BI service first. A rollup of features from Power BI Desktop releases for the service comes to Power BI Report Server in each release; most other features are only meant for the Power BI service.
Composite models No Yes
Connect to services like Salesforce Yes Yes Connect to the services you use with template apps in the Power BI service. In Power BI Report Server, use certified connectors to connect to services. See Power BI report data sources in Power BI Report Server for details.
Create Power BI reports in Power BI Desktop Yes Yes
Create Power BI reports in the browser No Yes
Dashboards No Yes Dashboards in the Power BI service
Distribute group of reports using apps No Yes Create and publish apps with dashboards and reports
Gateway required No Yes for on-premises data sources
Host and connect to Power BI shared datasets No Yes Intro to datasets across workspaces
Organizational content packs No Yes Organizational content packs are being deprecated, and replaced by template apps.
Q&A No Yes Q&A in the Power BI service and Power BI Desktop
Quick insights No Yes Automatically generate data insights with Power BI
Paginated reports Yes Yes Paginated reports are available in the Power BI service in a Premium capacity
Power BI mobile apps Yes Yes Power BI mobile apps overview
Real-time streaming No Yes Real-time streaming in Power BI
Automatic page refresh for DirectQuery models No Yes Automatic page refresh
ArcGIS for Power BI Yes Yes ArcGIS for Power BI
Email subscriptions for Power BI reports No Yes Subscribe yourself or others to a report or dashboard in the Power BI service
Email subscriptions for paginated reports Yes Yes Subscribe yourself and others to paginated reports in the Power BI service

Email delivery in Reporting Services
Data alerts No Yes Data alerts in the Power BI service
Row-level security (RLS) Yes Yes Available in both DirectQuery (data source) & Import mode

Row-level security in the Power BI service

Row-level security in Power BI Report Server
Many-to-many relationships No Yes Apply many-to-many relationships in Power BI Desktop
Cross-report drillthrough No Yes Use cross-report drillthrough
Full-screen mode No Yes Full-screen mode in the Power BI service
Advanced Microsoft 365 collaboration No Yes Collaborate in a workspace with Microsoft 365
R scripts and visuals No Yes Create R visuals and run R scripts in Power BI Desktop and publish them to the Power BI service. You can't save Power BI reports with R scripts or visuals to Power BI Report Server.
Python scripts and visuals No Yes Create Python scripts and visuals in Power BI Desktop and publish them to the Power BI service. You can't save Power BI reports with Python scripts or visuals to Power BI Report Server.
Preview features No Yes Opt in for Power BI service preview features
Power BI visuals Yes Yes Power BI visuals
Power BI Desktop Version optimized for Report Server, available for download with Report Server Version optimized for Power BI Service, available from the Windows Store Power BI Desktop for the report server

Power BI Desktop for the Power BI service
Template apps No Yes Install and distribute template apps in your organization

Next steps

Install Power BI Report Server