How to run Power BI Desktop for Mac Using Azure Virtual Machines

For Mac users looking to leverage the analytical capabilities of Power BI, the lack of a native Power BI Desktop version can be a hurdle. However, Azure Virtual Machines (VM) offers a viable solution, allowing us to run Power BI Desktop in a virtualized Windows environment. This approach, while ingenious, comes with its own advantages and disadvantages.

Running Power BI with Azure
Azure Virtual Machines

What is Azure Virtual Machine and How Does it Work?

Power BI with Azure VM
Azure Virtual Machines

An Azure VM (Azure Virtual Machine) is a virtual instance of a server running on Microsoft Azure’s cloud. It functions similarly to a physical computer but is hosted in Azure’s data centers. This cloud-based virtual machine allows you to run applications and services in a scalable environment managed by Microsoft Azure. You can customize its configuration and scale resources as needed for your specific workloads.

Key Points on How Azure VM Works

  1. Creation: You can create an Azure VM by selecting your desired configuration, such as the number of CPUs, RAM, operating system, and more, through the Azure portal or using automation scripts.
  2. Deployment: Once created, the VM is deployed on a hypervisor in the Azure data center. You can choose from different types of VMs depending on your needs, from general virtual machines to those optimized for specific tasks.
  3. Remote Access: After deployment, you can remotely access the VM via a remote desktop connection (RDP for Windows). This allows you to configure, manage, and run applications on the VM as you would on your Mac.
  4. Storage: VMs use persistent storage, like virtual hard drives, to store data and operating systems. Azure offers scalable and redundant storage options to ensure data availability and integrity.
  5. Networking: You can configure your VM’s network, including IP addresses, firewall rules, and VPN connections to ensure secure communication and access to the VM.
  6. Scalability: Azure VMs are scalable, meaning you can adjust resources (CPU, RAM, storage) according to the demand of your applications, allowing efficient use of resources and costs.
  7. Management: Microsoft Azure provides management tools and services, like Azure Monitor and Azure Security Center, to monitor and protect your VMs.

Pricing for Running Power BI Desktop with Azure

The total cost of Power BI Embedded depends on the type of node chosen and the number of nodes deployed. The node types differ in the amount of V cores and RAM, as described in the following table:

Node TypeVirtual CoresMemoryPrice
A3410 GB RAM$4.0242 /hour
A4825 GB RAM$8.0565 /hour

Calculating the necessary capacity for an efficient implementation of Power BI in Azure can be a complex process. This need varies depending on multiple factors, some of which may be unpredictable.

When planning the required capacity, consider the following elements:

  1. Employed Data Models: Assess the types and sizes of the data models you will be using in Power BI.
  2. Number and Complexity of Queries: Consider how many queries you will perform and how complex they will be.
  3. Hourly Usage Patterns: Analyze how and when users will interact with your application, which can vary throughout the day.
  4. Data Refresh Rates: Determine how regularly you need to update data in your models to keep them relevant and accurate.

These factors are crucial to estimate the appropriate capacity and ensure optimal performance of your integrated analysis solutions with Power BI. For capacity planning, consult Capacity planning in integrated analysis of Power BI.

Use the price calculator before creating the Azure virtual machine

You will find the price calculator on the Azure portal homepage. With it, you can check the price of any resource you host in Azure.

Pros and Cons of Using Power BI Desktop on Mac through Azure VM

Full Access to Power BI Desktop
Allows Mac users to access all the functionalities of Power BI Desktop, overcoming system compatibility barriers.
Using Azure VM to run Power BI Desktop involves Azure subscription costs, which can quickly add up depending on the VM configuration and usage.
Flexibility and Scalability
Azure VM resources can be adjusted according to the needs of the project, offering a scalable solution for projects of any size.
Technical Complexity
Configuring and maintaining a VM in Azure requires moderate technical knowledge, which can be a challenge for some users.
Secure Environment
Azure provides a secure environment, with advanced data protection and privacy measures, ensuring that data and processes are protected in the cloud.
Internet Connection Dependency
The user experience is linked to the quality of the Internet connection, which can affect the performance and fluidity of work in Power BI.

This table summarizes the positive and negative aspects of employing Azure VM to run Power BI Desktop in a Mac environment, helping users make informed decisions based on their specific needs and practical considerations.

Configuration of Power BI Desktop on Mac Using Azure VM

To install and use Power BI Desktop on a Mac via Azure VM, it’s crucial to understand that Azure provides a variety of pre-configured VM images, including options with Windows. This means you don’t need to provide your own Windows license; you can select a VM image that already includes Windows, simplifying the process.

Summary of Installation Steps

  1. Creation of the VM:
  • Go to the Azure portal and create a new VM. Select an image that includes Windows, adjusted to your data analysis needs.
  • Configure the recommended VM size for Power BI Desktop, which would generally be at least 2 CPU cores and 16 GB of RAM for basic analysis. For more intensive analysis, consider 4 CPU cores and 32 GB of RAM.
  1. Security Configuration:
  • Set security rules for your VM, allowing secure remote access via RDP (Remote Desktop Protocol).
  • Implement additional security measures as needed, such as VPNs or Azure Bastion for more secure access.
  1. Installation and Use of Power BI Desktop:

Importance of RAM and Storage

Experience suggests that RAM is a critical component for performance in Power BI. With 16 GB being adequate for most cases, but 32 GB offering considerable leeway for working with large models.

Optimization and Security of Azure VM

Maximizing performance and ensuring data protection are key aspects to make the most of Power BI on Mac with Azure VM.

  • Optimization: Regularly review and adjust your VM settings to ensure a balance between performance and cost. Use Azure tools to monitor usage and optimize resources.
  • Security Updates: Keep the operating system and Power BI Desktop updated. Use Azure’s security capabilities, like Azure Security Center, to strengthen the protection of your environment.

Common Problems When Using Power BI Through AVM

microsoft azure mac
Microsoft Azure for Mac
  1. Connectivity issues: Mac users may have problems connecting to the virtual machine due to network or firewall issues.
  2. Performance issues: The performance of Power BI Desktop may be affected due to the limitations of the Azure virtual machine and the resources allocated to it.
  3. Access issues: Mac users may not have the necessary permissions to access the Azure virtual machine or to perform certain actions within Power BI Desktop.
  4. Data source issues: Mac users may have problems connecting or accessing data sources, especially if they are not familiar with the configuration and installation of the Azure virtual machine.
  5. Security issues: Mac users may need to take additional security precautions when using Power BI through an Azure virtual machine, such as securing the network and ensuring that all data is encrypted.

Detailed Installation Process

Azure Virtual Machine - Icon

Step 1: To start, go to the Azure portal homepage

If you already have an account, log in and go to the next step.

If you don’t have an account, create one and sign up for a free Azure account that provides 30 days of access and $200 of credit. Once you click the “Start Free” button, you will see a registration page where you can create an account. You will need to provide your email address, password, and credit card details to authenticate.

Step 2: Name your virtual machine and select the location

Once you have created an account, create a virtual machine by navigating to “Virtual Machines” in the Azure portal. Click “Create” to create a new virtual machine. A window will appear where you can fill in your subscription and resource group. The resource group is a way to manage all the resources you create, so create a new one for Power BI.

Fill in the necessary information, such as the Resource Group, and name the virtual machine. Select the region, security type, availability option, and operating system. Choose the appropriate size of RAM and disk type. Keep the entry port as RDP and HTTPS. You can also keep port 80 open. Be sure to review the details before creating the virtual machine. After reviewing and creating your virtual machine, you will see a validation window.

Step 3: Use your Azure virtual machine by connecting to it from your Mac

To use Power BI Desktop, you need to connect to the Azure virtual machine. Download and install the Remote Desktop app on your Mac. Open the app and enter the username and password of the virtual machine you created and install Power BI Desktop on the virtual machine. After logging in successfully, you can use Power BI Desktop as if you were using a Windows computer from your Mac.

Power BI on MacOS Using Azure Virtual Machine (Video)

You can view the steps in the valuable video tutorial published by DataStudy on their recommended YouTube channel.


Summary of Key Aspects

Lastly, Mac users may experience difficulties with the installation process when using AVM. Ensure that your AVM is up to date and contains all the latest updates. This will ensure that Power BI Desktop runs smoothly on your machine.

In summary, by using Azure Virtual Machine, you can use Power BI Desktop on your Mac without any issues. With the Azure free trial account, you can experiment with Power BI Desktop for 30 days without incurring any cost.

VM SelectionChoose a VM image with Windows included to simplify the installation.
VM ConfigurationFor basic analysis: 2 CPU, 16 GB RAM. Recommendation for intensive analysis: 4 CPU, 32 GB RAM.
Internet ConnectionA stable and fast connection is crucial for optimal performance.
CostsMonitor usage and adjust VM resources to optimize costs.
SecurityUse Azure’s security tools and services to protect your data.
OptimizationRegularly review VM performance and adjust as needed.

Although using Power BI Desktop on Mac through Azure VM is an effective solution, it is important to weigh the additional costs and technical considerations. This approach provides full access to Power BI in a Mac environment, but it comes with its own set of challenges that users must be prepared to handle. The key is careful planning and ongoing management to ensure a powerful and secure analytical experience on Mac.

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Alternatives to Azure VM for Using Power BI on Mac