Power BI Desktop is a great tool, but it has few aspects that are frustrating:
- It’s a memory hog.
- Refreshing data can take a while.
- Syncing large .pbix files to and from the cloud can take a while.
- It’s not compatible with MacOS.
Introducing Windows 365 Cloud PC
Microsoft recently announced a new virtual machine offering called Windows 365 Cloud PC. It’s like an Azure VMs, but simpler to configure and deploy. I recently had our resident expert Michael Luehr spin up a Windows 365 machine for me to try out to see if it was a good fit. For reference, I currently run MacOS and a local Windows VM.
I found the connectivity experience and Power BI performance excellent on the Windows 365 machine. Windows 365 tied right into my Azure AD account and made it easy to use my sa.global login. I tried a data refresh on an existing Power BI Desktop file, and it felt snappy.
Windows 365 is a great option for end users who want to run Power BI Desktop as it solves:
- Up to 32 GB memory.
- Refreshing data may be faster. Azure data centers have blazing fast Internet which should be faster than your home or work connection. Data already stored in Azure (e.g. Azure SQL, Dataverse) will be faster because Azure datacenters have optimized connectivity.
- Syncing files with OneDrive will be faster.
- Works on your Mac.
A Fatal Flaw for Consultants
Power BI has a complexity for consultants – we must manage different Azure AD accounts for every client because of some Publishing limitations. For the past year, I’ve been using a Windows VM with a different Windows user account for each of my customers. Having multiple Windows accounts simplifies logging into the required tools (Power BI Desktop, Teams, PowerBI.com, OneDrive Sync Client) for the various AD accounts.
Unfortunately, the Windows 365 service only allows for one user account per “machine”, and that user is tied to your corporate AD account. Therefore, for the consulting scenario, I think an Azure or local VM remains the best path.
Windows 365 Final Thoughts
I thought the Windows 365 announcement was interesting. It is a bit pricey, so the most common use case will probably be for shared computers – such as those in a call center or “Bring Your Own Device” users. I think it’s also a great option for users who need blazing fast Internet and performance without procuring new hardware.