October 7, 2015

Amazon Debuts Fast, Cheap BI with QuickSight

Alex Woodie

Amazon today rolled out QuickSight, a new cloud-based business intelligence tool that can be used to build visualizations and perform ad-hoc analysis. The Web giant says QuickSight is both cheap (pricing starts at $9 per user per month) and fast, thanks to a parallel, in-memory engine dubbed SPICE.

QuickSight isn’t the first cloud-hosted BI and analytics tool on the market, but because it’s backed by Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN), it may soon become one of the most prominent. The new offering—which is only available in preview at the moment—looks to deliver many of the features of full-blown analytics tools at one-tenth of the cost, the vendor says.

According to Amazon’s QuickSight Web page, customers can start visualizing their data within a minute of hooking up data sources or loading a file. Currently, the services features connectors for Amazon data services (like EMR and Redshift), relational data stores (like Oracle, SQL Server, MySQL, and PostgreSQL), individual files (CSVs and spreadsheets) and one enterprise app (Salesforce), but you can expect the list to grow.

Amazon says there’s no need to “design complex data models” with QuickSight, because the software will do it for you. QuickSight “automatically infers data types and relationships and provides suggestions for the best possible visualizations, optimized for your data, to help you get quick, actionable business insights,” the company says.

QuickSightOnce a customer is set up with QuickSight, they can start chewing through vast sums of data thanks to the SPICE (Super-fast, Parallel, In-memory, Calculation Engine) engine. Amazon says SPICE uses a mix of columnar storage and in-memory technologies to deliver fast analysis of data.

You don’t need to be a visualization guru to use QuickSight either. “As users explore their data, Amazon QuickSight infers data types and relationships, issues optimal queries to extract relevant data, aggregates the results in the SPICE engine, and provides suggestions for the best possible visualizations of the data,” the company says. The service includes a mix of bar charts, histograms, line graphs, scatter plots, heat maps, pie graphis, maps, pivot tables, and other assorted visualizations.

The new service also includes storyboarding capabilities to help customers tell stories with their data. Users can share these stories with other people or groups, via Web browsers or native apps for iOS and Android devices.

But don’t think that BI leaders like Tableau Software (NYSE: DATA), Qlik (NASDAQ: QLIK), and TIBCO‘s Jaspersoft have been left out of the Amazon party: The SPICE technology provides a simple SQL-like interface “so you can continue to use familiar AWS Partner BI tools and get faster performance while still being able to scale your data,” the company says.

Users can sign up for the preview here. QuickSight will be available free of charge during the preview. After that, pricing will range from $9 per user per month for the standard edition or $18 per user per month for the enterprise edition (which adds things like Active Directory integration, encryption at rest, fine-grained user access control, audit logs via AWS CloudTrail, custom domain, branded site, and up to twice the query throughput of the Standard Edition). Customers of both editions get 10 GB of SPICE capacity to start, and can buy additional capacity for a fee.

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