Tableau Breaks Out With Advanced Visualization

When I last spoke to business analytics vendor Tableau Software in April 2009, the company had run off a string of uninterrupted growth. In a  challenging 2009, Tableau continued to grow, and in our most recent conversation the team was upbeat. Q1 was looking very good, and the company has over 4000 named accounts now. Its revenue  growth was about 50% overall at the end of the year, and direct sales are growing faster than indirect as its sales model shifts with increased visibility. Tableau is among the leaders of the new advanced visualization players, and the battle is heating up.Release 5.0 came at midyear 2009, delivering more visualizations, improved dashboard interactivity, and scalability and performance features. In July, a user conference in Seattle drew a record crowd, and over the remainder of the year, the marketing team kept up a steady stream of press releases about awards and customer success. Tableau’s marketing has executed better than many larger firms it competes with, establishing its visibility with focused, aggressive communications. At yearend, the Enterprise Irregulars featured advanced visualization in Nenshad Barodiwalla’s piece on key BI trends for 2010, calling Tableau out as one of several visionary vendors.

Gartner Magic Quadrant

Continuing its steady release cadence, Tableau’s Feb 2010 5.1 version added still more, including Tableau Public, a new free service for visualizing and publishing data via the web.  Redmonk’s Sean O’Grady, who got an early look, published a well-illustrated appreciation of the product here. Press coverage of the new offering has been very broad – Tableau has now established itself as a clear force in advanced visualization, getting recognition from the Inc 500 and Deloitte 500. The 5.1 release added “reference bands” for richer context, “intelligent data labels” to help highlight key points, and bullet charts. As if to anchor their new status, Gartner’s Magic Quadrant report (seen here) now elevates Tableau to “challenger” status in the broader BI market.

In my recent conversation with VP of Marketing Elissa Fink, there was a clear realization that advanced visualization is emerging as a battleground market sector – and the large, now no longer independent former leaders are not on the shortlists. “We see ourselves as BI challengers with Qlikview and [Tibco] Spotfire” driving these new use cases, she said.

Tableau is doing very well with its OEM versions, and has used its partner ecosystem very effectively. Oracle has been a good partner, and the two firms are planning future releases at this point. Tableau has also moved into a deeper relationship with Teradata – “Visualization is a very powerful tool for their large data warehouse customers,” Fink said.  It enjoys a good relationship with Vertica and expects to broaden relationships with Sybase IQ and others. And the already successful Microsoft play will be enhanced by the next version’s ability to connect to PowerPivot and its underlying VertiPaq in-memory store.

As the base grows, Tableau sees more growth within the base; “We have a ‘land and expand’ strategy – people buy a few copies and start growing as soon as they see the value,” Fink says. The configuration options were expanded to include core-based pricing for enterprises on the server side, which makes management easier as more users come aboard. Fink says the new option had an impact in 2009 as customer deployments grew. Tableau has been architected for localization and 2010 will be the beginning of an international push as well. A 6.0 release is planned, and I believe we’ll see that become available in the fall.

Tableau has clearly established itself as one to watch; along with its closest competitors, it’s making advanced visualization a hotspot. The future? I’d be surprised if we don’t see some acquisitions in the space before much longer. The prices are only going to go up – watch for moves sooner than later.

Disclosures: Tableau is not a client of IT Market Strategy

About Merv Adrian
Gartner Research VP, technology analyst and consultant, 30 years of industry experience, covering software mostly, hardware sometimes.

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