Tableau Says Cloud Software Push Provides Flexibility

Tableau Software, the Seattle data visualization company that successfully debuted as a public company in May, is rolling out a software-as-a-service version of its main product.

Tableau Online has the same functions as Tableau Server, allowing non-experts to analyze large datasets and create charts, maps, and other visualizations, says Ellie Fields, the company’s director of product marketing. But it has been modified to be delivered as a service.

Tableau is relying on the architectural and operational expertise it has gained in the last three years of running Tableau Public, a mostly free cloud-based service for journalists, bloggers, and others who would make data visualizations using publicly available datasets, she says.

Tableau Online has much stronger security than Tableau Public, however, and is running on a completely separate computer cluster in a U.S. datacenter.

Fields acknowledges that that some customers in countries outside the U.S.—Tableau is in 16 countries now—could experience some drop-off in speed, a selling point for the company’s software, because of the distance. But she says “most of the customers have been pretty happy” with the speed of Tableau Online.

Tableau Online costs $500 per user per year, and Fields emphasizes there are no hidden charges or separate fees for bandwidth and storage, which are common in cloud-based software.

The company says the total cost of ownership would be the same for the on-premises version of Tableau Server after about three years, depending on the number of users. That’s not including an organization’s hardware, maintenance, and other IT costs for running the on-premises version.

Fields wouldn’t discuss what share of customers Tableau (NYSE: DATA) expects to shift to the online version. “We basically just want to offer options to customers,” she says.

Tableau competes with the business intelligence products of traditional software giants IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, and SAP; business analytics companies such as Qlik Technologies and Spotfire; and open-source software.

About 185 customers are using Tableau Online currently, compared to some 12,000 customers overall. The company has been selling Tableau Online since March, but is only beginning to market it now.

The company says it will report its second quarter financials—its first as a public company—on Aug. 8.

Fields says Tableau Online has appealed primarily to companies looking for “fast and flexible” IT; those that want to run business analytics outside of their corporate firewalls to enable field salespeople to share data visualizations with customers, for example; and to those that just prefer cloud applications.

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