In business intelligence (BI), household names like Power BI and Looker may spring to mind. Using the same tool for both internal BI and embedded analytics can be convenient, yet it comes with drawbacks.
Originally designed for internal reporting and analytics, Power BI and Looker can now embed these dashboards into your app in just a couple of weeks or months. However, the embedded versions of these tools often lack customization and rely on iframes, which limits your design control and hits performance.
In this article, we’ll dive into a Power BI Embedded vs Looker Embedded comparison and review key aspects of each tool. We’ll include factors like customization and control, security, time to load, and cost.
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What to consider when choosing your embedded analytics tool
When choosing an embedded analytics tool, key features like performance, speed, security, and customization are essential. In a moment, we'll delve into each of these aspects for both Power BI Embedded and Looker Embedded.
Beyond these crucial factors, other considerations include licensing costs and development and maintenance expenses. Understanding the pricing structure is vital, especially since many tools have a complex model. Additionally, the time and resources your team needs to onboard and maintain the tool, as well as potential downtime, are significant hidden costs.
User experience is another critical aspect. It's important to evaluate how well a BI tool integrates with your UI/UX, including the use of brand assets and user interaction capabilities. Power BI and Looker, originally designed for internal use, often lack in areas like data freshness, customization freedom, and scalability—and come at a high price.
Despite their limitations, using Power BI or Looker for both internal and embedded BI might be convenient if you're already familiar with them. Our comparison will help you decide which is better for embedding purposes.
Power BI Embedded: Best for internal business applications
Power BI Embedded is a Microsoft product that lets you add analytics to your internal or external apps. It’s a white-label solution that gives you a few customization options like adding your logo and changing the colors. Power BI Embedded also comes with developer docs to help you with things like embedding your dashboard once you’ve built it.
Key aspects of Power BI Embedded
Power BI is a great ally for data-driven businesses that consult the information before making decisions, launching campaigns, or changing behaviors. When it comes to its embedded product, here’s how we rate its main characteristics:
- Security: 10/10. This is powered by Azure, which makes this a very secure product as Microsoft invests $1 billion in security every year. It also supports row-level security (RLS).
- Performance: 6/10. Power BI can be slow to load and process big volumes of data, while this is getting better and you can preload the embedded dashboards, it’s built on the same architecture as the dashboards for internal use, which has a different set of requirements to embed analytics.
- Cost: 5/10. Power BI Embedded makes it unpredictable for growing businesses. It charges a license price per user and also bills you for storage usage, so if you don’t have a steady user base or are growing, you might find it hard to budget correctly and ultimately you may spend more money than allocated. Many users also report that the pricing model is confusing, and we don’t disagree.
Power BI Embedded offers usage- and user-based paid plans. These start at $735.91 per month for an A1 node with 3GB of RAM capacity and one virtual core. If you need anything over 3 GB or RAM, the prices go up to $1,465.91 per month until reaching $23,542.94 per month (just for the storage and RAM). You can pay for usage by month or hour, or as you go. In addition to usage, you also have to pay for the Power BI Pro license which is $10 per user per month.
While at first glance, this pricing seems designed to scale based on the value you get from your embedded analytics, many businesses find it hard to know how much RAM or virtual cores they need. In addition, the number of analytics users may hold a different value for businesses of different sizes and natures—B2C businesses, approach with caution!
👉 Learn more about Power BI Embedded pricing
Benefits of Power BI Embedded
- Easy to embed with an iframe. Making a dashboard available in your app is as easy as copying a code snippet into your source code.
- Tech consistency. If you’re already using Power BI internally, it’ll be easy for your team to familiarize, set up, and push the dashboard live fast. This also applies if you’re used to the Office suite.
- Integrates with multiple data sources. Power BI is one of the most popular BI tools, so it integrates seamlessly with almost every data source and SQL and NoSQL databases.
- It’s always up to date. Power BI has a huge community and Microsoft listens to its users' concerns and releases monthly updates to improve the product’s functionality and performance.
- Ability to make reports interactive. You can add filters and drill-downs, and allow people to make selections in your embedded dashboards.
Limitations of Power BI Embedded
- Very costly and expensive to scale. Paying for a user-based license, plus usage, can make Power BI Embedded a very expensive solution. Plus, when you pay per user, you pay the same price for dashboard views and internal Power BI users. Also, you can only scale in storage tiers which makes it steep for small businesses to keep up with the costs.
- Lack of customization. While you can use the SDK for adding rules to the designs, this is still very limited and the pre-set visualizations are all very standard. You can change the background and graph colors, layout, and interactivity levels, but the options are still limited for embedded analytics.
- You don’t have control over your analytics experience. Since you embed the dashboard using an iframe, you lose control of what happens with it or how it performs. Also, while iframes are easy to use internally, they tend to feel clunky for the end-user as you need to load the entire Power BI application into a window in your application before the SQL can be run in the background—this compounds any loading speed issues that you experience in the non-embedded version of Power BI.
- It can be steep to create the dashboards. While Power BI comes with an extensive design library, users still find it difficult to make them, especially if they don’t have programming experience.
- It’s slow to load and lacks data freshness. Users complain about Power BI taking time to load visualizations, to solve this issue, Microsoft suggests you preload the dashboards. However, preloading the visualizations could potentially compromise data freshness (which means you can’t show real-time analytics).
TL;DR: Power BI Embedded
Power BI is a very powerful tool. However, while its embedded product is getting better, it’s still pretty much a business tool for internal use or businesses with a steady user base. Additionally, embedding a Power BI analytics dashboard into your customer-facing applications can cause you to lose control of the user experience, have performance issues, and leave you unable to accurately budget for the costs.
Looker Embedded: Best for businesses with a large user base and a high AOV (average order value)
Looker Embedded is a Google Cloud tool for internal self-service business intelligence and can be embedded into business applications. It’s mostly suited for enterprise-grade businesses that want to use an internal BI solution with embedded functionality and the ability to build interconnected workflows. This is also one of the most popular BI tools in the market due to its use of LookML which makes it very powerful. However, it can require a LOT of investment internally to manage it.
Key aspects of Looker Embedded
Looker Embedded can be cloud-based or hosted on-premise and allows teams to come up with interactive dashboards in a couple of weeks or months. Here’s how we rate the key aspects of Looker Embedded:
- Customization and control: 6/10. Similar to Power BI, Looker comes with a big library of out-of-the-box graphs and visualizations. It enables you to edit the visualizations, but this is limited. One of the issues with Looker is that it’s so complex that it affects customization because users don’t know where to find the options. Plus, since it embeds through an iframe, there is no interactivity between your application and Looker’s, and you don’t have full control over the UX.
- Security: 10/10. Looker is part of Google’s Cloud Core which makes it very secure. Since it embeds through an iframe, and it’s read-only by design, it makes your data safe. Looker Embed also allows you to set up row-level security and SSO to protect your data.
- Performance: 6/10. Looker is primarily an internal BI platform, and in that sense, it’s okay if it doesn’t load as fast as you’d expect. However, when it comes to embedded analytics, users need fast responses (almost in real-time). While Looker says it loads in real-time, users share the contrary. There are ways to reduce Looker’s loading time, for example by using a faster underlying database, but there are also other providers who can do it faster. Ultimately you’ll need to load the entire Looker application in the iframe before it can try to retrieve the underlying data.
- Cost: 3/10. This is a tricky rating because the price might be just right for some businesses. However, Looker Embedded is known for being one of the most expensive tools in the market and its pricing strategy is confusing and hard to predict for many users.
Looker doesn’t publicly share its complete pricing online, but it says that it’s composed of three main parts:
- Platform cost. The price of using and running Looker. This includes administrative costs, integrations, and its semantic modeling capabilities
- User licenses. Looker charges a fixed price per platform user (views and writes)
- Management. The price per user changes depending on their role, so managers and admins are more expensive than regular users
Looker Embedded plan allows for 10 standard users (access folders, dashboards, charts), 2 developer users (can write code within the tool), and up to 500,000 query-based API calls per month (usually from the end user).
Looker customizes packages for each partnership, but we found retail prices for Looker in the AWS Marketplace that hint the tool starts at $66,600 per year for 10 users. Every view user costs around $400 per year, making it a very expensive solution for most businesses. If you’re new to Looker, you’ll also need to consider factoring in the cost of hiring expertise, or the time your team will have to spend on the learning curve for their proprietary modeling language: LookML.
👉 Learn more about Power BI Embedded pricing
Benefits of Looker Embedded
- Embed with a simple iframe. Looker embeds easily into your tool just by copying and pasting a code snippet, which makes it secure and allows end users to interact with the data.
- Build intertwined workflows. Looker Embed easily integrates with your tech stack and lets you automate tasks by sending and writing back data with apps like Slack and Twilio.
- LookML. One of the reasons Looker came to fame is due to its powerful proprietary semantic model-building language: LookML. While there’s a learning curve, and headless BI options now exist, this is still a powerful tool.
- Powerful SQL runner. This feature lets you build information groups without needing to get technical team members to extract the data. With Looker, you can browse your table and run and share prewritten queries.
- Simplifies calculations. Looker has a developer’s feature called Looker Blocks that offers pre-built data models for the most used analytical patterns and data sources. This feeds off of other’s work so you can reuse the blocks from others or build your own to do great data modeling.
Limitations of Looker Embedded
- The price is very high. Looker is a great BI and Extract, Transform, and Load (ETL) tool, but it’s probably not the best option for embedding because it’s very expensive for something not built from the ground up for that purpose. You’d need to have a very high AOV to accommodate a large user base.
- You lose control over your analytics experience. Just like Power BI, using an iframe to embed your dashboard takes away control and requires you to load the entire application before running the underlying queries. You can of course allow users to interact with it, but it’s tough to create seamless interactivity with the rest of your platform through an iframe, and you don’t have complete control over the UX of that part of your application.
- Offers limited customization. Looker’s data visualization options are limited (there are a couple of subreddit threads about it). While you can edit your component designs to some degree, the given options are still limited and some users report being stuck with Looker’s colors and branding.
- It has a steep learning curve. You can do a lot on Looker and that makes it a complicated tool. Customers complain about how steep it feels to edit filters, drill downs, or the layout, as well as add context to KPIs, customize cross-filters, and add tabs within dashboards. As it’s not very user-friendly, businesses end up needing more people to work on the dashboard which adds to the final quote and your developers’ workload.
TL;DR: Looker Embedded
Looker is one of the most popular ETL tools in the market, especially in enterprise-level businesses. However, while its embedded solution will partially solve your needs, it wasn’t built with that intent in mind, so it’s not customizable enough, it’s complex to use, and loading times are a tad slow. But, we think, Looker’s biggest downside is its pricing model, which can become prohibitive for many businesses.
Structural limitations of embedded BI tools
Using the same tool for internal and external BI is convenient, but you should be aware of the trade-offs that come with using the same tech for two completely different use cases. Let’s take a look at them in this quick summarized chart:
If you’re using Looker Embedded or Power BI Embedded for internal use and embedding your dashboards into internal websites, presentations, and applications, either tool will do the work. However, if you’re planning to embed your data analytics dashboards into external applications, these two options fall short—especially when there’s a better-priced, more performant, and highly customizable alternative.
The dream solution: Embeddable
Embeddable is a toolkit for developing custom analytics and embedding them into your app, offering the best of both worlds vs. an expensive in-house build or compromising on the limitations of BI tools.
Embeddable combines the customization of tailored solutions with the simplicity and speed of embedded BI tools, enabling rapid, cost-effective development of highly performant and fully bespoke customer analytics.
This three-part developer toolkit comes with a:
- Front-end toolkit for building fully bespoke charting components
- Backend engine that handles everything else for you
- No-code builder for easy dashboard curation by non-technical team members
Embeddable provides a competitive, flat price—including unlimited access for builders, designers, and viewers. It streamlines the creation of user-facing analytics, managing complex features like security and caching which means you can deploy fully custom, highly performant analytics fast (often even faster than you can deploy with the likes of Looker). It also comes with access to a developer’s community, documentation, and dedicated account management for seamless adoption.
Embeddable was designed from the ground up to score very, very highly vs. other embedded analytics options on the market:
- Customization and control: 10/10. You get full design freedom and complete control over your UX. You own the frontend code and the data models—it sits in your code repo, not ours. Embeddables can be added to any application or website using an HTML snippet, enabling you to pass values between your Embeddable and your main application and create next-level interactivity.
- Security: 10/10. Built-in row-level security and secure read-only database transactions to ensure data is only available to the right people. You can even configure access at the database level, or opt for a fully self-hosted setup.
- Performance: 10/10. Unlike Looker and PowerBI, Embeddable is built from the ground up for customer-facing analytics, so it loads fast. It provides two layers of configurable cache and it doesn’t require you to load a whole separate application before retrieving the data. If you need real-time analytics, you can connect to the best databases for delivering real-time analytics.
- Cost: 9/10. Fixed, annual, or multi-annual pricing with unlimited users and usage. This allows you to budget accurately and use Embeddable flexibly. You’re only buying the embedding tool, so it’s priced favorably vs. paying for the full suite of Looker or PowerBI. True, there are cheaper options for embedded analytics on the market, but no other option can be chosen without compromise.
We understand the struggles when it comes to embedding a BI dashboard. The Embeddable team are experts in analytics, having built and managed our BI tool: Trevor.io since 2016. We’re very proud of that product but we know it’s far better for internal BI than for embedding dashboards into public applications.
That’s why we built Embeddable. We wanted to build the dream solution for customer-facing analytics—and only by taking a ‘from the ground up’ approach could we achieve that.
Embeddable is a completely new way of approaching customer-facing analytics that’s designed for any business that is unwilling to compromise on the performance, customizability, or management cost of existing options available to them.
Build fully bespoke embedded analytics in a fraction of the time with Embeddable. Let’s talk
Frequently asked questions about Power BI Embedded vs Looker Embedded
What’s the difference between Power BI Embedded and Embeddable?
The main differences between Power BI Embedded and Embeddable are performance, price, and customizability. Embeddable gives you full control over your charting components and data models. It’s also built from the ground up to enable companies to deliver fully bespoke, highly-performant analytics experiences to their customers, without requiring an expensive in-house build. Power BI is an internal BI platform that offers an embedding option, whereas Embeddable is a purpose-built tool expressly for creating remarkable customer-facing embedded analytics experiences.
What are the differences between Looker Embedded and Embeddable?
The main difference between Looker Embedded and Embeddable is that Looker is an ETL platform, whereas Embeddable is a toolkit for developing fully bespoke, highly-performant customer-facing analytics. Looker embeds using an iframe whereas embeddable sits directly into the code of your website or application and provides 2 layers of configurable cache, making it much faster. Looker is known to be complex and has a steep learning curve, whereas Embeddable is much easier to learn.
Is Power BI better than Looker for embedded analytics?
Power BI and Looker are both great BI solutions, but neither was built from the ground up for embedded analytics. This makes them fall short on customizability and performance, which ultimately degrade your end-user experience. If you’re looking to provide an excellent user experience, consider exploring a tool that was designed specifically for embedding analytics, like Embeddable.