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QuickSight BI capabilities limited, but big potential exists

The QuickSight BI capabilities are a good start for AWS, though far from disruptive. That all could change as Amazon fleshes out its strategy in the coming months.

Amazon QuickSight could disrupt the business intelligence market -- just don't expect enterprises to swap out their...

current provider any time soon.

Amazon made the QuickSight BI service generally available this week after over a year of beta testing with 1,500 customers. The service is intended to provide fast, easy-to-use analytics capabilities and entice users unsure of how to tap into the mass amounts of data they collect.

It also follows a familiar path for AWS: Release a minimally viable product with an expectation to add capabilities over the next 12 to 18 months.

Amazon QuickSight relies on the Super-fast, Parallel, In-Memory Calculation Engine to perform queries and provide data visualization. It runs as a service and can connect to Redshift, Relational Database Service and Simple Storage Service, data stored in on-premises MySQL, PostreSQL and SQL Server databases, as well as Microsoft Excel spreadsheets, Salesforce and other services.

There are compelling aspects to Amazon QuickSight, including price -- Amazon claims it costs one-tenth that of traditional on-premises services and starts at $9 per user, per month. It offers basic functionality around insights and dashboards from data, and it's optimized for AWS workloads. This makes it appealing to people who have a lot of data in AWS, said Rita Sallam, research vice president at Gartner.

"It's a good start, but it's not revolutionary and it's not disruptive," Sallam said.

QuickSight enters a highly competitive space with huge upside. Earlier this year, Gartner estimated the BI and analytics market would reach $16.9 billion in 2016 -- with a mix of legacy vendors trying to adjust to the cloud and newer entrants that disrupted the market over the past decade, including Domo, IBM, Oracle, Qlik, SAP and Tableau.

Amazon also trails its closest cloud competitors in this area. Microsoft took a relatively mature set of tools that were Microsoft-centric and expanded them to a broader set of capabilities when it added Power BI to Azure. Google also has entered this space with its analytics tools.

Long beta and what's yet to come

Amazon QuickSight was first announced more than a year ago, resulting in a lengthy preview by Amazon's standards. At its initial release into preview, Amazon reportedly used technology from a startup called Zoomdata to build Amazon QuickSight, but it is unclear if Amazon QuickSight, as released to general availability, is still built on that technology. Neither company has confirmed any partnership around Amazon QuickSight to date. Both companies declined to comment for this report, and Amazon didn't expand on the reasons behind the extended beta.

Regardless of what caused the delay, the bigger issue is that this is new territory for AWS, Sallam said.

It's a good start, but it's not revolutionary and it's not disruptive.
Rita Sallamresearch vice president at Gartner

"It took them longer than they wanted, but Amazon has been either in the shopping side or infrastructure business," Sallam said. "So, this is really their first foray into more business-user-oriented software."

Many features must be added before the service is truly competitive, including geospatial technology, native support for Android and iOS, better harmonization between tables from different data sources, clustering, and advanced data exploration and forecasting, Sallam said. The good news for customers is those are all on the roadmap for the next six to 12 months.

At that point, customers will have to decide whether to keep spending money on another tool, particularly if they have lots of data in AWS. "Yeah, for some people, it will be [harder to justify]. That will eat into a lot of other leaders in the market, but I can't say that's the case today," she said.

Despite the delays and limitations, there is plenty of potential for Amazon, Sallam said. The next generation of smart platforms will leverage machine learning to add more automation to analytics, and Amazon could make inroads there by taking advantage of technology it's been successful with on the retail side.

Tableau is one of the companies potentially in the crosshairs if Amazon does flesh out the Amazon QuickSight capabilities. It makes sense for Amazon to enter the market, given the explosive growth in this space, but it has been and will continue to be a major partner of Tableau, said Ashley Kramer, director of product management and head of cloud strategy at Tableau, based in Seattle.

"Companies use a variety of tools to understand their data," she said. "That doesn't change anything at all about our partnership; and when you have innovation, it helps us improve our product for customers, too."

Whether Amazon uses this to expand its reach and push others out remains to be seen, but even in its current form Amazon QuickSight hits a sweet spot and potentially opens a new class of AWS users, said Dana Gardner, president and principal analyst with Interarbor Solutions LLC, based in Gilford, N.H.

It could be a boon for lines of business that would ordinarily use desktop software for BI, representing the democratization of analytics and visualization, he added.

"It does a lot of heavy lifting in terms of accessibility to data, but it puts it in the hands of a user -- a power user, but a user nonetheless," Gardner said.

It also shouldn't create any problems for IT, which won't want to be involved in what is essentially glorified graphics and spreadsheet multimedia, he said.

"This is not where IT should be spending its cycles," Gardner said. "IT should be focused on higher-order business problems that bring a multitude of benefits, not helping power users generate graphics."

Trevor Jones is a news writer with TechTarget’s Data Center and Virtualization Media Group. Contact him at tjones@techtarget.com.

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