Comparing Tableau and Microsoft

Gartner, the world’s leading information technology research and advisory company, annually publishes its Magic Quadrant for Business Intelligence and Analytics Platform. Of the 24 companies assessed, only three vendors achieved Leader status. To place in the Leader quadrant, a company must demonstrate both completeness of vision and the ability to execute the vision.

This paper examines two of the three Business Intelligence Leaders: Tableau and Microsoft.

Tableau Software is a market-leading data visualization upstart with an annual revenue of $650 million and market capitalization of $4 billion. The company focuses solely on the business intelligence and visualization market.

Microsoft, with an annual revenue of $85 billion and market capitalization of $450 billion, competes in nearly all desktop and enterprise IT segments.

Tableau BI Background

The foundation of Tableau’s software is VizQL which is a visual query language that simultaneously describes how to query data and how to present it visually. Stanford University professor Pat Hanrahan, now Tableau’s chief scientist, and graduate student Chris Stolte, Tableau’s chief development officer started initial development in 1999. Stanford granted an exclusive VizQL license to Tableau, and the company commenced operations in October 2003.

Tableau’s Live Query Engine is the first technology to allow people to natively query databases, cubes, warehouses, cloud sources, and Hadoop without programming or advanced development. It enables people to query diverse data sources with a user-friendly point-and-click interface that anyone can use without IT department involvement.

Since the company launched in 2003, it has rolled out nine product releases in rapid succession. Release 10 is currently in beta trials and getting favorable reviews. This beta is the company’s largest at 13,000 people – twice the size of the previous one. The upgraded software is expected to reach the market by the end of August. Many upgrades, including improved data management, will improve its ability to compete in the large enterprise market. According to Tableau, the company had 39,000 customer accounts at the end of 2015.

Microsoft BI Background

Prior to the release of Power BI, Microsoft’s BI offerings consisted of a series of tools and components added to core products such as Excel, SharePoint, SQL Server and Office 365. The brands Power Pivot and Power View designate BI tools associated with Microsoft core products.

Microsoft plotted a new BI course at its 2013 Worldwide Partner Conference. CEO Satya Nadella announced Power BI, characterizing the move as a giant leap in self-service BI. Microsoft describes Power BI as a suite of business analytics tools that analyze data and share insights. It allows business monitoring and quick access to answers via dashboards on every device. The first iteration of Power BI was released February 10, 2014. Release 2 was made available to the market on July 24, 2015. According to Microsoft, 90,000 organizations are using Power BI (February 2016).

Tableau Software BI Offer

Tableau’s platform embeds many best practices that address the human psychology of visual perception to produce the most intuitive visualizations.

Tableau Desktop is positioned as “analytics that anyone can use.” It has drag and drop capability and leverages a natural ability to quickly spot visual patterns. It’s an analytics solution built for speed and ease of use. Tableau Desktop can connect to any data anywhere—in a spreadsheet, SQL database, Hadoop, or the cloud. It features the ability to combine disparate data sources without writing code. The Web Data Connector SDK enables access to data that’s available on the web.

Tableau Server is positioned as an enterprise-ready and enterprise-proven server. It provides secure interactive insight from anywhere and in real time. Users can publish shared data models to the data server for team access. Flexible design allows the definition of data sources, the addition of metadata, and the publication of new calculations and data fields for coworkers to use.

Tableau Online is a hosted version of Tableau Server. It lets users publish dashboards with Tableau Desktop and share them with colleagues. Tableau Online allows the maintenance of live connections to data warehouse solutions such as Amazon Redshift and Google BigQuery. The service connects to other cloud-hosted data sources such as Salesforce and Google Analytics with scheduled refreshes.

Tableau Embedded Analytics can be access through a Tableau OEM Partner. These partners can embed Tableau’s visual data analysis tools into customer applications.

Tableau Mobile allows the user to author and publish a dashboard on his or her mobile device and view and edit it anywhere. There are mobile native apps for iPhone, IPad, and Android. Users can select, filter and drill down with the tap of a finger. Data controls are automatically optimized for touch. 

Tableau Reader is a free desktop application that you can use to open and interact with data visualizations built in Tableau Desktop. Filter, drill down and discover options are included.

Tableau Public allows public service employees free access to Tableau Desktop. Users can create and share interactive charts and graphs, stunning maps, and then publish them anywhere on the web. 

Microsoft BI Offer

Power BI and Power BI Pro are cloud-based business analytics services that are intended to provide a single view of critical business data.  Source data can include Excel spreadsheets, cloud services, streaming data, and on-premises databases. This solution is integrated with Publish to Web, allowing posts to blogs and websites.

Power BI Desktop provides a visual analytics and intuitive report authoring tool. With its drag-and-drop capabilities, users can place content on a flexible, fluid canvas. Data can be sourced from disparate databases, files and web services with tools that identify and fix data quality and formatting issues. Its query mode is a code-free, self-service data preparation mode. The program allows a single, unified view of linked, interactive visualizations for rapid pattern discovery.

Power BI Embedded is an Azure service that allows ISVs and developers to embed interactive reports and dashboards directly into existing applications without writing code. Build reports from scratch or use out-of-the-box visualizations.

Power BI Mobile features native apps for Windows, iOS, and Android. Personalized dashboards and reports can be accessed anywhere. Power BI Mobile allows data-driven alerts for real-time, mobile response.

Power BI Publish to Web allows users to take data visualizations they’ve created inside Power BI and share publicly accessible versions with dedicated URLs and HTML snippets that can be incorporated into other websites.

Power BI Gateway enables centralized and IT-managed access to on-premises data sources for organizations and departments.  With Power BI gateways, IT managers can connect SQL Server databases, Analysis Services models, and many other data sources to dashboards in Power BI. Administrators can deploy multiple on-premises data connections across Power BI, PowerApps, Microsoft Flow and Azure Logic Apps with the same gateway.

Cost Factors

Tableau Desktop

  •       -Personal Edition – $999 – Connect up to six data sources, including Excel and CSV files. One year of updates and support included
  •       -Professional Edition – $1,999 – Compatible with Tableau Server and Tableau Online. One year of updates and support included
  •       -Tableau Server – $10,000 for 10 users. Annual upgrades and support are 25% per year
  •       -Tableau Online – $500 per user
  •       -Microsoft Cost Factors
  •       -Microsoft Power BI – No charge
  •       -Microsoft Power BI Pro – $9.99 per user/month
  •       -Pro comes with increased storage and more frequent, higher volume refresh thresholds. It also allows collaboration with colleagues

Microsoft Power BI Desktop (No Charge)

Although the Power BI license pricing is favorable, many industry analysts highlight the professional services costs that are still necessary. Companies need to factor in the investment for installation and deployment, setup and configuration of dashboards and reports, and maintenance, which will require attention when new versions, new network configuration, new data sources, and infrastructure changes occur.

Microsoft Power BI Embedded General Availability Pricing (takes effect September 1, 2016) – Free – 100 sessions/month Standard – $0.05/session In the Microsoft Power BI Embedded usage model, licensing for Power BI is not the responsibility of the end-user. Instead, renders are purchased by the developer of the app that is consuming the visuals and are charged to the subscription that owns those resources.

Tableau Cost of Ownership

Tech advisory firm Gartner publishes a three-year Business Intelligence Platform Ownership Cost study. Gartner surveys purchasers and IT managers to derive estimated ownership costs for major vendors. According to the study published in August 2015, the average price per user was $2,128 for the 42 vendors analyzed. This cost included implementation and maintenance. According to Gartner’s study, Tableau did well with an annual license cost per user of $953.

Microsoft Total Cost of Ownership

Microsoft’s cost per user was $2,286. One thing to note is that the first release of Power BI was not available until February 2014. The study was released in August of 2015.