AWS QuickSight – A Quick Glance


May 5, 2017
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Business intelligence (BI) plays a key role in the strategic planning process within an organization. The BI tools and systems allow a company to gather, store, access and analyze corporate data to aid in decision-making. As a result, we are seeing the market flooded with a variety of BI tools. Tools like Cognos, Tableau, Microsoft BI, Oracle BI, and Pentaho have already set the market on fire, and the list is endless and growing as we speak. Towards the end of last year, AWS broke into the BI market with AWS QuickSight. They initially launched the Standard Edition and quickly followed up with their Enterprise Edition in a month’s time. I thought this would be a right time to see how it works and compares to the competition.

About QuickSight:

In their own words, Amazon describes QuickSight as a “Fast and Easy to Use Business Intelligence for Big Data at 1/10th the cost of traditional Solutions.” It is a pretty tall claim, but we already know that Amazon have the muscle power to pull it off. With pricing starting at $9 per month per user, they have easily accomplished their claim. Does this mean it is the end for all other BI tools? Before we get into that debate, let’s see how QuickSight works.

Easy to Use:

To start with, all you need is a user ID. If you are already an AWS user, it becomes even simpler as your current user ID is good to use. Either way, the Single Sign On (SSO) allows your users to get started quickly without any fuss. If you are responsible for administering your organization’s base of QuickSight users, you can bring thousands of users on board and manage their permissions with just a few clicks. You can manage this user base using your existing toolset and with respect to your existing governance policies.

SPICE:

Now that we know it is easy to start, the next big question is how it performs on the analytical part of it. The engine that hums inside QuickSight is called SPICE. This is the acronym for “Super-fast, Parallel, In-memory Calculation Engine.” SPICE is AWS’ proud baby borne out of their own R&D labs. AWS describes SPICE as Fast, Scalable, and capable of Ad hoc analytics. SPICE uses a combination of columnar storage, in-memory technology, machine code generation, and data compression to quickly run queries on large datasets. SPICE can ingest data from a variety of data sources such as Amazon Redshift, Amazon RDS, Amazon S3, and 3rd party databases running on AWS or on the cloud.

User Experience:

From the User Experience perspective, QuickSight creates attractive visualizations and performs ad-hoc data analysis on business data. SPICE propels QuickSight to perform at a very high speed and it is very scalable as already mentioned. QuickSight also offers an app for iOS and Android devices. So, what is the catch?

Handicap:

Yes, QuickSight is the perfect answer for you if you are already on AWS or on Cloud. If you are an organization with on-premise data sources or not on Cloud yet, then unfortunately QuickSight is not for you. Not only that, QuickSight has some challenges to integrate with or embed in external applications. On the contrary, tools like Tableau and Qlik can easily and readily integrate with on-premise tools. While QuickSight is very user-friendly and simple to use, it lacks the depth and visualization of analytics that its top competitors provide.

It is early days yet. As of now, QuickSight has created its own niche as a BI tool for AWS and Cloud users with its low price and ease of use.

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