Tableau set for BI feast
BI front-end remake supercharges deployment, purchase modelFollow @infoworld
The dream of effortless BI deployment has always been sweeter than the reality. Some of the most significant barriers arise during acquisition. Combing through the components to figure out which ones you must buy to get the features you’re looking for can feel like rummaging through a really expensive, very high-tech flea market.
Newly surfaced Tableau Software aims to revolutionize the acquisition and deployment process with its product suite, Tableau Professional and Standard Editions. To a significant degree, it has succeeded, especially on the acquisitions side.
The currently dominant acquisition model, vertical integration, is based on the idea that data distribution and analysis tools should come from the vendors who store, compile, or organize the data. In its own way, vertical integration makes good sense for buyers already committed to a single vendor’s data warehouse or integrated BI suite.
But acquisition through vertical integration is not as simple as it looks. It becomes dicey when the back-end data vendor you’ve standardized on doesn’t have a BI client that matches your analysts’ needs — or doesn’t have one at all. Further, the elegant vertical integration concept tends to be inelegant in execution: Sometimes acquiring a BI client for analysts requires multiple component purchases — such as additional services or connectors — beyond the client. Those components frequently connect easily only to data from their specific vendor. Prices usually are built around site licenses and tend to run in the tens of thousands of dollars to more than $100,000.
In contrast, Tableau’s three versions are shrink-wrapped, top out at about $1,800, and connect to a wide range of back-end data sources. The client is a what-you-get-is-what-you-get model; there’s no long parts lists or complex interconnected components to pick from. I tested the Standard Edition and, for the most part, found it well-suited to enterprises’ need for better, smarter BI applications.
Making the grade
Late last year, I reviewed Hyperion’s Essbase 7X and focused on the new Hyperion Visual Explorer client. As it turns out, the HVE client I appreciated for its appropriateness and ease of use is actually a licensed version of Tableau’s client, refined to work optimally (and exclusively) with Essbase source data. Now, Tableau is offering that client for use with any source data.
Tableau presents an Excel-like interface that’s designed for a user who’s an analyst with business knowledge; it supports viewing and exploration of data absorbed from data warehouses, databases, and preprocessed data cubes. As with the HVE version, the design gives analysts a method of interacting with a vast selection of possible data “dimensions” without having to know about back-end data’s structure.
I found connection extremely simple for this category, guided by the product’s well-constructed dialog boxes. Installation took less than 15 minutes and configuration on an analyst’s workstation less than 30 minutes to connect to a dozen unitary and linked data sources.