Buyer's Guide

A buyer's guide to choosing the right BI analytics tool

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Exploring Tableau visualization and analytics products

Tableau helps users of all technical skill levels quickly analyze, visualize and share data with colleagues so they can make data-driven decisions.

Tableau visualization and analytics products aim to help business managers, analysts and executives see the relationships between different data points, regardless of users' technical skill levels.

Tableau provides reporting, dashboarding and scorecards, BI search, ad hoc analysis and queries, online analytical processing, data discovery, spreadsheet integration, and other data analytics and analysis functions. This ad hoc analysis and data visualization make up the core of Tableau's products.

The company's VizQL technology translates drag-and-drop gestures into queries sent to the underlying database; results are provided in Tableau as visualizations. A built-in recommendation engine called Show Me recommends various types of visualizations to the user based on the types and shapes of data analyzed.

Spreadsheet integration enables users to combine different spreadsheets to create connections between disparate data sources. Statistical functions, integration with R and native connectors to statistical packages (i.e., IBM SPSS, SAS, etc.) enable users to perform analytics, including predictive analytics.

Tableau offers native connectors to vendors providing Hadoop, NoSQL and cloud data. These include Amazon Redshift, Google BigQuery, Cloudera, Hortonworks, Amazon EMR, MapR, MarkLogic and DataStax. Tableau connects to more than 45 data sources, including flat files, Excel, relational databases, analytical databases, cloud data, Web applications and big data.

Tableau visualization and analytics product offerings include:

  • Tableau Desktop, which is used to connect to data, explore data, do analytics, and create reports, dashboards and story boards (i.e., PowerPoint-like presentations with embedded, interactive dashboards).
  • Tableau Server, a platform that lets enterprises share reports, dashboards and data sources across the enterprise. It's either hosted on premises or customers can host through Amazon Web Services. Tableau Server provides governance, security, scalability and performance required to support large enterprises.
  • Tableau Online, an enterprise software as a service offering. It's hosted by Tableau on its servers and offers the same functionality as the on-premises version.
  • Tableau Public, a free platform that can be accessed by anyone and is commonly used by journalists, bloggers and data enthusiasts to analyze public and private data.
  • Tableau Reader, which is free to use for publishing dashboards to Reader via Tableau's Desktop product.
  • Tableau Mobile, a free app for iPad, iPhone, Android tablet and mobile browsers. It enables users to to author a dashboard once, then view or edit it anywhere, on any device.
  • Vizable, a free app for the iPad. It enables users to analyze personal or business data, and share the results with colleagues through email, instant message or social media.

Desktop (Tableau Desktop for Mac and Windows) versions of its products can be accessed via iOS and Android devices. Tableau doesn't support private cloud deployments. On-premises versions run on Windows Server.

Licensing and pricing for Tableau visualization and analytics products

Tableau Server can be purchased by either number of seats or number of cores. Tableau doesn't publish pricing information for Server or Desktop. Tableau Online is priced at $500 per user, per year. Volume-based pricing is available for Tableau Online.

User-based licenses are offered for Desktop, Server and Tableau Online. For Tableau Server, Tableau uses named and concurrent (unlimited number of users) models. Tableau Desktop comes with a perpetual software license plus annual maintenance in two tiers: Personal and Professional. Professional connects to more data sources than the Personal Edition. There's no minimum number of user licenses required or separate administrator or designated licenses.

All products are sold direct or through partners and resellers. A full-version 14-day free trial is available for Tableau Desktop, Server and Online.

Free support and training are available through Tableau's Community Forum and email. Additional support, training and consulting are also offered at an extra cost.

Next Steps

Learn more about Tableau's new mobile BI app

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This was last published in November 2015

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Buyer's Guide

A buyer's guide to choosing the right BI analytics tool

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Who in your organization will be using the Tableau visualization and analytics products?
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At our size, I can't see using these tools yet. We don't do enough business that a complex analysis tool is a viable solution to direct our actions moving forward. When we get bigger, we'll revisit this option.
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