At TDWI this month in my Cool BI class, Tableau Software previewed its just-released 6.0 version. This may prove to be one of the company’s biggest releases and one that heightens the competition with QlikTech, TIBCO Spotfire, and Microsoft PowerPivot.
As I wrote in a recent in-depth review of Tableau, this visual discovery tool is one of the easiest to use. For customers with a well-designed data warehouse or data mart, Tableau Software nicely leverages the power of the underlying database, whether relational, OLAP, or columnar. This approach was in stark contrast to QlikTech QlikView’s and Tibco Spotfire’s approach of bringing all the data into memory. Replicating the data can has its advantages and disadvantages. With Tableau 6.0, customers seem to now get the best of both worlds with the new Data Engine. Tableau’s Data Engine promises to leverage the source database when necessary or to bring portions of the data into memory when that offers the better performance. New support for Windows 64-bit improves the product’s scalability.
The other major improvement is in the ability to handle multiple data sources, a capability referred to as Data Blending. This was one of the oft-cited reasons why customers would choose other products over Tableau. With Data Blending, an end user can drag and drop new data sources onto a visualization. As long as the dimension names are conformed, the tool will automatically create the joins.
In the Cool BI class, it was interesting to see so many users who have heard of Tableau but only a few who actually used it. I suspect these latest enhancements will change that.
At the end of the class, I once again asked the 50 or so attendees to vote on their top 3 innovations out of the 8 we reviewed. Dashboards and advanced visualization once again topped the list of priorities for innovations attendees most want to pursue. But here’s the rub: BI users would like these capabilities to be in one tool and currently, it’s a fragmented market. Some advanced visualization products can be used to create dashboards but not all; and not all dashboards support visual discovery.
Predictive analytics came out second. In discussing the integration of BI with predictive analytics, SAS demoed its new Rapid Predictive Modeler. The third highest priority was a split between BI Search, with Endeca demoing its solution, and in-memory analytics, a capability gaining momentum across the industry.
I wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving this week and safe travels! I’m thankful for having an amazing job that connects me to so many wonderful customers, readers, colleagues, and vendors with cool products! To my family and friends, thank you … for everything.
Cindi Howson, BI Scorecard