Tableau 10 to feature data mashups, more IT management tools

The company's latest product is due out of beta within weeks

Tableau Software is expected to release the next major upgrade of its popular data visualization software, Tableau 10, within a couple of weeks. Version 10 will feature better data-mashup capabilities, drag-and-drop clustering, more mobile-friendly dashboards, support for Google Sheets and additional enterprise management tools, the company has told its customers.

The version 10 beta has been the company's largest, with more than 13,000 customers involved in testing, according to Francois Ajenstat, Tableau's vice president of product management. Tableau has posted a number of blogs about the new release in advance of general availability, such as cross-database joins, one of about 30 features requested by the user community that were included in this latest version. This is aimed at allowing easy dataviz creation from multiple data sources, such as a SQL database and structured data in Hadoop.

"Cross-database joins & wildcard joins are a huge win," an IT manager at a major industrial company said by email. He asked to remain anonymous so as not to tip off competitors about tools his company uses.

"We need to analyze data that's across multiple Excel files," the IT manager explained. "In the past, we'd have to merge all files into a single spreadsheet to do the analysis. That was a real hindrance to effective analysis as sometimes one file wouldn't be merged, or maybe a file would be erroneously merged twice. Now, all we need to do is tell Tableau to use a certain set of files and away we go . . . 

"We also have to build viz's from different data sources and, in the past, we'd have to 'somehow' get them all into a single location. Not any more: we can link different data sources in the same viz to see everything together. This has the potential to take weeks off a project as we no longer need to figure out how to get x number of data sources into one place."

Corey Turner, application development analyst at the Spokane, Wash., public schools, is another Tableau 10 beta user happy about the multi-source joins. "Between Level-of-Detail calculations introduced in version 9 and cross-database joins now in version 10, it reduces the need for a lot of database prep work that you would have to do in other products to structure your data properly," he said by e-mail. (Level-of-Detail expressions allow the combination of overall data with grouped data in one statement, such as comparing a single store's sales with an overall average.)

"I just recently was able to build a visualization (using cross-database joins) which allowed me to skip the step of bringing SQL and Oracle data together in our data warehouse," Turner added. "And the best part is, it's a live connection, so there is no need to monitor an ETL [extract, transform & load] process to migrate data before connecting it to Tableau."

In addition to using Tableau to analyze student information such as attendance, test results and dropout indicators, he noted, "I also use Tableau to quickly find data-quality issues in our disparate systems, automate data exports and curate data sets that are shared with our organization, which enables a really good solution for data governance."

Both beta customer names were provided by Tableau.

Tableau 10's new automated clustering capability allows users to create groups that are statistically significant, according to Ajenstat at Tableau. The software uses a method called k-means clustering to find the groups, determining the optimum number of groups for the data (users can override the default group number).

Other additions include:

  • A device designer that lets users see how dashboards will display on tablets and mobile phones as well as desktop PCs;
  • More ways for corporate administrators to understand platform usage;
  • Mobile device management support with AirWatch and MobileIron;
  • An Android app;
  • New default settings aimed at guiding users toward dataviz best practices.

Likely not included in Version 10: "Viz in a Viz," Turner said, which was previewed at a recent user conference. "It will allow you to show another visualization in a tooltip as you hover over a bar in a bar chart for example. This is going to be a secret weapon giving more context to users in a really elegant fashion. It didn't make it into version 10, so I'm looking forward to when it gets announced."

The industrial company IT manager said he'd also like to someday see a native data connector into ADP systems as well as making "user restrictions a little more… understandable, as they can be confusing now. For example, some restrictions are inherited from the work book whilst others are not; we're unable to restrict which Dashboard tabs users can see; we can't test restrictions without logging on as each user. Saying that, I think the fact that my biggest two requests are so quirky shows the quality of the product. . . . v10 is a huge jump on from v9. The additions to the product have the potential to change our business."

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