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Data prep in browser highlights Tableau BI platform update

New data preparation capabilities highlight the release of Tableau 2020.4, which was unveiled on Dec. 15 and includes a version of Tableau Prep Builder for the browser.

New data preparation capabilities highlight the latest Tableau BI platform update.

Tableau 2020.4, which the vendor unveiled on Tuesday and is now generally available, marks the final Tableau update before 2021 and makes Tableau Prep Builder, the vendor's suite of data preparation capabilities, available in the web browser in Tableau Server and Tableau Online.

Previously, Tableau Prep Builder was only available in Tableau Desktop.

Tableau Prep Builder uses a drag-and-drop interface and is designed to enable users to easily combine, shape and clean their data in preparation for analysis. By making it available in the browser, Tableau aims to simplify the data preparation process by giving users the ability to build and edit their data flows without having to toggle between environments and enables users to work with their data no matter where they're located or what device they're using.

In addition, with Tableau Prep Builder available in the browser, IT administrators can centrally manage deployment and version control without having to manually update every one of their organization's machines.

While it does not introduce a host of new tools or any further integrations with Salesforce after revealing the first joint venture between the organizations in October, analysts said the latest Tableau BI platform update nevertheless has significant benefits for users, particularly those whose analytics operations live in the cloud. Salesforce acquired Tableau in June 2019.

A sample Tableau Prep Builder dashboard.
A user's data preparation work is displayed on a sample dashboard in Tableau Prep Builder.

"Tableau has had a longstanding push to enable all of its functionality through browsers, which is essential to cloud-enabling Tableau," said Doug Henschen, principal analyst at Constellation Research. "Whether customers are deployed on premises, private-cloud style or on public clouds, this browser-based advance simplifies and lowers the cost of deployments and updates as no client software rollouts are required."

Meanwhile, Mike Leone, senior analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group, said adding Tableau Prep Builder to the browser enables users to more easily work with their data.

"This announcement follows in line with where many in the space are focused on right now, and that's enabling better accessibility to data and tooling at earlier phases of the analytics lifecycle," said Mike Leone, senior analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group.

This announcement follows in line with where many in the space are focused on right now, and that's enabling better accessibility to data and tooling at earlier phases of the analytics lifecycle.
Mike LeoneSenior analyst, Enterprise Strategy Group

He noted that about 25% of the BI users ESG has surveyed cite data preparation as the aspect of the analytics process that poses the greatest challenge, and having Tableau Prep Builder in the browser will help ease that for Tableau users.

"Tableau Prep Builder can help address that challenge head-on by offering a robust suite of data prep tools directly in a browser, enabling end users to complete data preparation work on their terms faster than ever before," he said.

In addition to making its data preparation capabilities available in the browser, the latest Tableau BI platform update includes new capabilities for working with geospatial data, the addition of Tableau's Resource Monitoring Tool (RMT) on Linux, enhanced predictive modeling capabilities and updated connectors.

The new capabilities for working with geospatial data include the ability to add unlimited layers to maps, enabling users to get a deeper understanding of their location data. Also, a connector allows customers to connect directly to spatial data tables in Amazon Redshift, and other capabilities enable users to prepare spatial data in Tableau Prep Builder and create maps while offline with Tableau Server.

The RMT on Linux, meanwhile, enables customers that deploy Linux in their IT environments but don't want to maintain their Tableau deployment in Windows to monitor the health of their deployment and take preventive action when necessary. The RMT was previously available only on Windows-based deployments, and is designed to help customers identify issues that cause such problems as slow load times and extract failures.

Enhanced predictive modeling capabilities include the addition of regularized linear regression and Gaussian process regression to the list of predictive models available in the Tableau BI platform.

Finally, Tableau 2020.4 includes an updated Salesforce Connector API, a new connector to Datorama and a new COVID-19 web data connector that enables users to access the most up-to-date COVID-19 testing data.

Of particular note, according to Henschen, is the RMT on Linux, which like making Tableau Prep Builder available in the browser is a sign of Tableau's cloud acceleration.

"Support for deployment on Linux, added by Tableau several years ago, is as crucial to cloud deployment as is parity of thick-client and browser-based functionality," he said. "Linux is the preferred operating system in the cloud because it is the most cost-effective deployment choice. The Resource Monitoring Tool is crucial to managing performance, particularly as deployment get larger and more complex.

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