I got this question often: which is the best Data Visualization product? Lets compare some DV platforms such as Spotfire, Qlikview, Tableau Software and the Microsoft BI platform (PowerPivot, Excel 2010, SQL Server with its VertiPaq, SSAS, SSRS and SSIS). 2 key factors for tool selection are
- which makes it easy to comprehend the data,
Because modern datasets are huge (or growing very fast!), they are usually best comprehended using Data Visualization (DV) with an ability to interact with data through visual drill-down capabilities and dashboards. There is NO a single best visualization product. Each has its place. For example, Spotfire has best web client and analytical functionality. On the other hand, Qliktech may be the best visualization product for interactive drill-down capabilities. The Microsoft BI platform provides better price-performance ratio and good as a backend for DV (especially with release of SQL Server 2012) or for people who wish to build own (that will be a mistake) DV. Tableau has the best ability to interact with OLAP cubes etc. We put into a summary table the comparison of 4 Platforms to help you to evaluate DV products, based on your needs.
|Criteria||Spotfire||Qlikview||Tableau||MS BI Stack||Comment|
|Business Criteria||======= ======= ======= =======||Speed, Scalability, Price|
|Implementation Speed||Good||High||Good||Average||Qlikview is fastest to implement|
|Scalability||Unlimited||Limited by RAM||Very Good||Good||Need the expert in scalable SaaS|
|Pricing||High||Above Average||High||Average||Microsoft is the price leader|
|Licensing/support cost||High||High||High||Average||Smart Client is the best way to save|
|Enterprise Readiness||Excellent||Good for SMB||Good for SMB||Excellent||Partners are the key to SMB market|
|Long-term viability||Good||1 product||Average||Excellent||Microsoft are 35+ years in business|
|Mindshare||Analytics Market||Growing fast||Growing fast||3rd attempt to win BI||Qlikview is a DV Leader, Successful IPO|
|Technical Criteria||======= ======= ======= =======||Drilldown, Analytics, UI|
|Clients for End Users||ZFC, Spotfire Silver||RIA, ZFC, Mobile||Windows, ZFC||Excel, .NET||Free Qlikview Personal Edition is a big plus|
|Interactive Visualization||Very Good||Excellent||Very Good||As good as Excel||Most users value Visualization over Modeling|
|Data Integration||Good||Good||Excellent||Good||Need for Data Integration expert|
|Visual Drill-Down||Very Good||Excellent||Good||Average||Qlikview is fastest thanks to in-memory database|
|Dashboard Support||Very Good||Excellent||Good||Below Average||Spotfire and Qlikview are best for Dashboards|
|Integration with GIS||Excellent||Good||Good||Average||Spotfire has the best GIS integration|
|Modeling and Analytics||Excellent||Weak||Excellent OLAP||Good with SSAS||Spotfire is the best, Excel is the most popular|
|UI & set of Visual Controls||Very Good||Best||Very Good||Good||Need for UI expert to integrate DV components|
|Development Environment||Rich API, S+||Scripting, Rich API||Average||Excellent||Tableau requires less consulting than competitors|
|64-bit In-Memory Columnar DB||Very Good||Excellent||In-memory Data Engine||Very Good||64-bit RAM allows huge datasets in memory|
|Summary – Best for:||Visual Analytics||DV, Drilldown||Visual OLAP||Backend for DV
||Good Visualization requires a customization!|
We also suggest for you to take a look on other comparisons: Altheon comparing Qlikview, Tableau and Omniscope and others (please ping me if you will find good comparison of DV tools).
- TIBCO is a vendor of the balanced Spotfire Platform: Spotfire Professional, Server, Enterprise and Web Players, S-Plus, DecisionSite, Metrics, Data Automation and Miner technologies, combining in-memory database with interactive Data Visualization, advanced analytics (S+), data mining and multi-filtering functionality. Spotfire 3.2.1 provides best web client and supports iPad
- Qliktech is a vendor of Qlikview DV Platform: Qlikview Developer, Qlikview Server, Publisher and Access Point tools with a leading in-memory columnar database combined with advanced Visual Drill-Down, Interactive Dashboards and comprehensive set of client software, running even on SmartPhones.
- Microsoft is a vendor of the most comprehensive set of BI and DV components, including SQL Server, Analytical, Reporting and Integration Services (SSAS, SSRS, SSIS), Sharepoint, Excel 2010 with PowerPivot add-in (Excel is the most popular BI tool, regardless) and VertiPaq engine. I did not include PerformancePoint Server: it was discontinued in April 2009 and PerformancePoint Services from SharePoint I cannot recommend, because I CAN NOT recommend SharePoint.
- DV expert can be a cost-effective customizer of all of the above with the ability to customize DV with development components from leading technological vendors like Dundas, DevExpress etc.
- I did not include Oracle, because it does not have own DV tool; however Oracle is an OEM partner with Tableau and resell it as a part of OBIEE toolset.
DV expert can help to select the appropriate DV approach for your specific application. Additional services include the following:
- Professional gathering of business requirements, system analysis of workflow and dataflow, and functional specifications;
- The custom software development for Extract, Transform and Load (ETL) processing from large Client Databases into in-memory superfast columnar DB and interactive OLAP Cubes;
- Design of Custom Data Visualization and dashboards deployed over the Internet through smart client and RIA technologies.
Custom DV applications enable the user to perform visual drill-down, fast searches for outliers in large datasets, easy-to-use root-cause and business logic analysis, interactive data search, and visual and predictive analytics. Some factors and/or features are very important and some I did not mention because they will be mentioned on other pages and posts of this blog (e,g, see “in-memory” page and DV Tools pages. I perceive that DV area has 4 super-leaders in this area: Qlikview 10, Spotfire 3.3, Tableau 6.1 and PowerPivot, but for completeness (because the real function is to be a “Data Visualizers”), I wish to add Visokio’s Omniscope. I do not include vendors who are 1-2 generation behind: SAP, SAS, IBM, Oracle, Microstrategy and I can add to this list a dozen more of mis-leaders. Many vendors working on some in-memory technology. Tableau 6.X has now in-memory data engine (64-bit).
Additional factors to consider when comparing DV tools (table above overlaps with list below):
- - memory optimization [Qlikview is the leader in in-memory columnar database technology];
- - load time [I tested all products above and PowerPivot is the fastest];
- - memory swapping [Spotfire is only who can use a disk as a virtual memory, while Qlikview limited by RAM only];
- - incremental updates [Qlikview probably the best in this area];
- - thin clients [Spotfire has the the best thin client, especially with their recent release of Spotfire 3.2 and Spotfire Silver];
- - thick clients [Qlikview has the best THICK client, Tableau has free Desktop Reader, Visokio has Java-based Omniscope Desktop Viewer] ,
- - access by 3rd party tools [PowerPivot's integration with Excel 2010, SQL Server 2008 R2 Analysis Services and SharePoint 2010 is a big attraction];
- - interface with SSAS cubes [PowerPivot has it, Tableau has it, Omniscope will have it very soon, Qlikview and Spotfire do not have it],
- - GUI [3-way tie, it is heavily depends on personal preferences, but Qlikview is more easy to use than others];
- - advanced analytics [Spotfire 3.2 is the leader here with its integration with S-PLUS and support for IronPython and other add-ons]
- - the productivity of developers involved with tools mentioned above. In my experience Qlikview is much more productive tool in this regard.